Hundreds of delegates, alternates and guests will receive reports about progress improving farm worker lives through both proactive union work and exciting new global initiatives across state and national boundaries during the United Farm Workers’ 20th Constitutional Convention May 21 and 22 at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Convention Center. They will hear about recent UFW organizing and union contract gains boosting farm worker pay and benefits at some of the nation’s largest vegetable, strawberry, mushroom, wine grape, tomato and dairy companies. A delegation of coffee workers from Nicaragua will highlight a UFW pilot project to train and stabilize the workforce and boost employee earnings.
A fundraising dinner with Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, and Tejano music star Little Joe Hernandez kicked off events on Thursday and was followed on Friday by private delegate workshops, election of union officers and a dinner address by immigration reform champion U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. The convention centerpieces on Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22 focused on important gains farm workers have scored through UFW organizing and negotiating; legislative, regulatory and legal victories; and exciting new international initiatives to protect workers outside the U.S. as globalization transforms agriculture.
Convention highlights included:
Thursday, May 19—7 p.m. Fundraising dinner
Kerry Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s daughter and president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the international human rights organization, keynotes the pre-convention dinner - See: http://rfkcenter.org/who-we-are/staff/kerry-kennedy/ and http ://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op ed/soapbox/article36354471.html
Friday, May 20 convention session—dinner address by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez
** La Paz event is for UFW contract members only. Event is not open to the public.
The first day of the convention at Rabobank Convention Center saw delegates and alternates break into private workshops to discuss new UFW international initiatives and later gather to elect union officers. Then delegates, alternates and family members boarded buses for the 30-mile drive to Cesar Chavez’s home and gravesite at the National Chavez Center at La Paz in the Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene.
They toured the 187-acre grounds where Chavez lived and worked his last quarter century and where he is buried, a portion of which is now the Cesar Chavez National Monument—at 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Rd., Keene, CA 93531. See http://www.chavezfoundation.org/_page.php?code=007001000000000 and https ://www.nps.gov/cech/index.htm
6 p.m.: Dinner address by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois), a national leader in the battle for comprehensive immigration reform, at the Villa La Paz Conferencing and Education Center on the north side of the Keene property. See: http://gutierrez.house.gov/about-me/full-biography.
Saturday, May 21 convention session
All day: UFW Foundation Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited representatives will provide free consultation about immigration benefits and screening for eligibility for naturalization, DACA, DAPA/DACA+ and other relief. A free naturalization workshop is scheduled for 50 people who have signed up.
10 a.m.: Honoring UFW veterans of the historic 1965 grape strike, 1966 Delano-to-Sacramento march and the 1966 Rio Grande Valley, Texas melon strike and march. Farm labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta speaks.
10:40 a.m.: “Internal Organizing” report on recent union negotiating gains significantly boosting pay and benefits for farm workers, including new or re-negotiated pacts with some of the nation’s largest vegetable, strawberry, mushroom, wine grape, tomato and dairy companies. These contracts bring important wage hikes—from highs averaging $45,000 to $48,000 a year for mushroom pickers and pay of $23.84 an hour for the average fresh tomato picker to an average of $1 above what MIT calculates families need to decently live given the cost of living in local communities. Many UFW contracts feature full family medical coverage and dental and vision benefits. Union health and pension programs over the years have paid out about $500 million. See: http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=16_news&b_no=18266&page=1&field=&key=&n=5
1 p.m.: Address by California state Treasurer John Chiang.
1:30 p.m.: President’s Report from UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez.
2 p.m.: Address by California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris.
4:15 p.m.: Legal report on how the UFW is making gains for farm workers outside of union contracts by helping them file major wage and hour litigation to recover pay when they are cheated and by helping them bring gender discrimination lawsuits. Federal class-action litigation includes: Wage-and-hour suits covering tens of thousands of farm workers underway against Delano Farms and Gerawan Farming Inc.; a lawsuit filed for roughly 10,000 workers at Giumarra Vineyards who didn’t get paid for meal periods and had to buy their own tools; another suit over wage theft involving about 5,000 grape workers at Sunview Vineyards being settled for $4.5 million; and a lawsuit settled for $1.6 million in 2008 against Kovacevich Farms over the grower’s refusal to hire women.
5 p.m.: Address by California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D- San Diego) on AB 2757, “The Phase-in Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016,” her bill to provide state farm workers with the same overtime pay after eight hours a day that nearly all other American workers have received since the 1930s.
Sunday, May 22 convention session
7:45 a.m.: Catholic Mass with Bishop Richard Garcia from the Diocese of Monterey, Calif. honoring the five UFW martyrs, four men and one woman killed during strikes.
10 a.m.: Address by California state Senate leader Kevin De Leon.
10:30 a.m.: “External Organizing” Report on the last four years of UFW organizing: See: http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=16_news&b_no=18266&page=1&field=&key=&n=5
—Four new UFW contracts, mostly in tomatoes, resulting from union organizing: Pacific Triple E, 450 workers, Stockton and Merced; Gargiulo Tomatoes, after 350 workers in Firebaugh walked out on strike and voted for the UFW; Amaral Ranches, after 200 Salinas Valley vegetable workers struck and voted for the UFW; San Joaquin Tomato Co., 350 workers in Madera.
—UFW-organized strikes in 2015: Stellar Distributing, 400 fig workers, and Specialty Crop, 200 fig workers, both in Madera (workers won pay hikes); O.P. Murphy Tomato Co., 150 workers in Hollister (pursuing negotiations); Cedar Point Nursery, 350 workers in Doris, Calif. near the Oregon border.
—A total of 240 Ventura County workers at Hiji Bros. celery company and Seaview Growers nursery voted for the UFW in April 2016.
—Fighting to implement a state-ordered mediator’s contract for 5,000 tree fruit workers at Gerawan Farming Inc. while re-negotiating a second union contract.
11: 15 a.m.: “Alternative Representation Models” Report on UFW global initiatives to protect farm workers in other states plus Mexico, Central and South America.
—As globalization is transforming agriculture, the UFW is organizing to remedy miserable farm worker pay and conditions and produce safer, higher quality food while meaningfully improving wages and other protections. Under the UFW co-founded Equitable Food Initiative, major retailers will only purchase from growers observing basic labor, safety and environmental standards.
—Working with partner organizations in Mexico since the mid-2000s, the UFW founded the CIERTO program to remedy abuses of guest workers. CIERTO works with farm employees and employers on both sides of the border to ensure no worker has to pay for the right to work, to stabilize the workforce and eliminate intimidation in the process.
—The UFW partnered with a coffee farm in Nicaragua and two specialty coffee roasters in a pilot program embracing worker and management training, improved quality and stability, and higher worker earnings.
—The UFW-launched Forced Labor Program tackles labor trafficking, debt peonage and slavery in U.S. agriculture. It uses education, outreach and collaboration with law enforcement to boost reporting, investigation and prosecution of labor and human rights violations. It also connects victims with social services and helps them obtain T visas (for human trafficking victims). The “Reportalo” element of the program raises awareness through social media, PSAs, a toll free number and a mobile app, all to report violations.
As the convention marks progress for today’s farm workers through contemporary UFW achievements they are also linked to historic 50-year milestones the union is celebrating around the movement and Cesar Chavez during 2016. For details, see: http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=16_news&b_no=18264&page=1&field=&key=&n=3