On March 17, 2015, some 50,000, farm workers in San Quintín, Baja California Norte, walked out on strike for higher wages, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. They are represented by Alliance of National, State and Municipal Organizations for Social Justice (“Alliance”). Among the things denied these workers by some companies are fresh drinking water, portable restrooms and the wherewithal to wash their hands before returning to harvest the crops. Allegations of sexual harassment by foremen are rampant and at times the work force is compelled to work up to 12-hour days. To this day the companies have refused to negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement to guarantee against such abuses. The majority of workers makes less than $10 per day and is striving for $13.
Where once the workforce was divided along ethnic lines, the strike has united the Mixteco, Triqui, and Zapoteca in their common struggle. One of the strike leaders, Fidel Sanchez (44), credits UFW co-founder Cesar Chávez with the lesson that one should never live “submissively.” Sanchez and others of the union’s leadership learned the tactics and negotiation techniques they are employing in Baja from when they worked and organized while in the United States and the UFW has supported Alliance by gathering more than 20,000 signatures to a petition that is still circulating. (Go to: www.ufw.org)
The agricultural conglomerate, Driscoll’s, is the world’s largest berry distributor. It began importing produce from Baja California’s San Quintín Valley more than 20 years ago, and, while as compared to the other companies it is in the “high end” as far as employers go, it too has refused to negotiate with the workers in good faith. It is for this reason that Driscoll’s is being targeted by Alliance. The other company targeted is Berry-Mex.
It is clear to us that this is not only a “labor” issue, but a health issue as well. It also is clear to us that by ones continuing to buy Baja California Norte produce one not only is contributing to the industry’s unfair labor practices but also putting at risk ones own health. We therefore ask you to please: (1) sign the UFW’s petition in support at the link given above; (2) ask your local produce person how he/she plans to protect their customers; (3) ask them too what actions they will take to urge the agricultural employers in San Quintín to immediately sit down with Alliance and hammer out a thorough and just collective bargaining agreement, and (4) boycott all Driscoll’s and Berry-Mex produce until the labor dispute is resolved.
This is the fair and healthy thing to do.