Castillo: The Struggle for Farmworkers Continues| Staff Compensation Information

By Michael Castillo

Friday, March 26, 2021 | 199 | 0 | min read

National Farmworkers Awareness Week takes place in late March each year and is celebrated from March 25th to 31st this year. While some victories have been won recently to provide better protection for workers in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, other challenges remain.

Michael Castillo

The United States Supreme Court hears arguments on a case threatening to deny union organizers access to jobs.

In 1975, after a hard-fought battle led by Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement, California became the first state in the nation to grant farm workers collective bargaining rights. Organizers have been given access to jobs to encourage their colleagues to better associate pay and working conditions.

In 2015, two producers in Fresno and Dorris struggled with United Farm Worker organizers entering their property to speak to workers, and in 2016 they sued the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board on the grounds that the access rule was unconstitutional and private property will be taken over.

The case has now made its way to the US Supreme Court after a group of mostly conservative judges on the 9th Circuit Court encouraged the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Mario Martinez, General Counsel of United Farm Workers, as saying the access rule is needed now more than ever to protect farm workers, many of whom are undocumented and afraid to speak to someone for fear to lose their job. Farm worker activists now fear that the access rule could be abolished.

The hearing comes as the US House of Representatives passed a law that creates a path for the citizenship of millions of farm workers and “dreamers”, though it has great chances of making it through an evenly divided and filibuster-controlled Senate. Still, it is a sign of hope for the future of many families who live in uncertainty and continue to put food on the table of families across the country.

Farm workers continue to risk their lives in the face of the ongoing pandemic, working in overcrowded conditions while dealing with the usual threat of dangerous pesticides.

To protect the health and safety of these workers, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is again running its National Long Sleeve Shirt Drive. While the pandemic has severely reduced the ability to donate shirts to local drop-off points, including CAAA, the organization is offsetting that obstacle by running the “One Shirt for $ 1” campaign and donating a new long-sleeved shirt to a farm worker for everyone donated dollars.

While farm workers were vital to our food supplies and economy long before the pandemic put them in the spotlight, the struggle for their safety and wellbeing continues. We hope the Supreme Court and Senate end up on the right side of history.

Michael Castillo is the communications director for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association. This statement is republished with permission from the CAAA website.

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