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Why Working In the Fields Is No Laughing Matter and the UFWA
Date 13/03/14/15:00

Why Working In the Fields Is No Laughing Matter and the UFWA

My family and many others spent well over 25 years organizing and eventually founding the original United Farm Workers Independent Union, IBT based in San Jose California. Led by Oscar Gonzalez, from 1961 to 1983 we were able to organize committees throughout California, specifically in the coastal areas from Northern California down to the Mexican border. It was during that time, in 1966, that the UFW,IBTmerged with the National Farm Workers association (NFWA) led by César E. Chávez and others and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee AFL-CIO (AWOC),thereafter becoming the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA).

Since having worked alongside braceros in the vegetable industry in Oxnard, California in the early 1960's, I was able to understand the issues involved in foreign contract labor then embodied in the Bracero Program (Public Law 78). At that time people like the Hon. Dr. Ernesto Galarza, César E. Chávez, Gilbert Padilla, John Soria, and others opposed this inhumane system of indentured servitude, which did not allow workers protections, the right to decent wages, or the right to decide whether to have a union of their choosing represent their interests. Although the Bracero Program was abolished through the efforts of Galarza, Chávez, Padilla and others, it has now resurfaced as the guest worker program.

Recently, Arturo Rodriquez, president of the United Farm Workers (UFW), was invited to appear on Comedy Central’s Steven Colbert Report to encourage U.S. Workers to take jobs in agriculture. With UFW's “Take Our Jobs” Campaign, the Union comes out in support of the the UFW's proposed federal legislation Ag-Jobs. In essence, Ag-Jobs would allow the recruitment of foreign workers from countries like Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam to labor in U.S. fields as "guest workers". In coming out in support of Ag-Jobs, ironically the UFW is taking on a contradictory role, being a union in defense of farm workers’ rights and now acting as agents in the recruitment of foreign agricultural workers for the U.S.Corporate Agri-business-industry. Interestingly enough, while Mr. Rodriquez is asking Americans to take agricultural jobs, he has never been a farm worker himself. Is Mr. Rodriguez prepared to reduce his $90,000 per year salary for a farm worker’s $8.00 per hour wage?

Ag-Jobs which the UFW is pushing, is heavily supported by the National Farm Bureau, California Nisei League, Western Growers Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party and President Obama. The need for an overhaul of our immigration laws is not in question here; the issue is that at a time when unemployment is estimated at between 18 to 21% in California's Central Valley and there are over 10 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. it is a complete farce to mislead the public by promoting and pushing for importing cheap foreign labor through a guest worker (Ag-Jobs) program. What we need are decent wages and working conditions and humane immigration reform. A great example is the recently introduced state bill 1121 by State Sen. Dean Florez, which would allow agricultural workers to earn overtime for more than 8 hours worked in a day and 40 hours in the work week. However, the same corporate growers who are in favor of guest workers testified in opposition to this bill, while continuing to work farm workers overtime at 10 hours per day and over 60 hours per work week. Corporate growers have testified and argued that "agriculture is very unique", in other words, agricultural workers, who are majority Mexicans and other people of color, can be treated with indifference.

The real issue is organizing and representing workers and the workers’ right to negotiate a union contract. The real issue is legalization for all immigrants who are here to work because their home economies are being devastated by free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA.

The real issue is the millions of American workers who are unemployed and struggling to feed their families while the White House bails out Wall Street to the tune of billions of dollars.

We believe that the UFW as a Union, needs to concentrate on organizing and representing workers. The real issue is decent wages, benefits, safety protections, and the right to unionize, NOT more guest worker programs that exploit workers who are not free to unionize and who are completely in the hands of the employer who is free to hire and fire at will. If agricultural growers paid a decent wage, U.S. workers would apply for those jobs and there would be no need for guest workers.

Al Rojas
(916) 712-4251



"Obamas" "Bipartisanship on "Immigration Reform" of Of "Corporate America",this legislation is to "Punish & Penalize",will exclude & is an Un Democratic legislation by cruel & harsh means that are extreme & of all things that the "Labor Leaders" in this Country have FAILED & fallen to their knees to the Democrats & now the Republicans ? & failed to have called on "Obama" in his FAILED efforts to live up to "Labors demands !" as he promised 4 years ago & to this very day "Zero !' moved to move on passing the "American Public Works Jobs Act",when we have well over 27 million workers who have no Jobs,Free Choice Act,Reform NAFTA,reform the "National Labor Relations Act" & not forgetting "Obamas" National efforts in Supporting his attack against "Public Education" with the Charter Schools now taking its toll against the Privatization of our "Public Education",which is an attack against the Union Teachers Union nationally, now what seems to look like is in his policies with the Republican Right wing,is push for the Complete Elimination of Unions in this country with the massive Expansion of the "Slave Guest Worker Bracero "Ag-Jobs" legislation,when labor is now down to a measly 8% & loosing,but for the only state,California to have done very well in Organizing 400,000 workers in the California ,we have seen the Biggest losses to the "Right to Work win's in the States of "Wisconsin & Michigan"& others that are slipping fast, that have gone "Non-Union" ,with the exception of the "United Farm Workers",Non-Farm Workers Leadership ? with a puny 4,000 Membership (In according to the U.S Labor Report),& now Obama is Pushing the "SLAVE GUEST WORKER BRACERO UFW AG-JOBS LEGISLATION" THAT WILL SEVERELY IMPACT LABORS ABILITY TO "ORGANIZE" WORKERS FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR CORPORATE INTERESTS TO BUST UNIONS, it is NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Al Rojas


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