MT. VERNON, WASHINGTON, March 28—Tulips and daffodils symbolize the arrival of spring, but the fields are bitterly cold when workers’ labors begin. Snow still covers the ground when workers go into the tulip rows to plant bulbs in northwest Washington state, near the Canadian border.
Once harvesting starts, so do other problems. When a worker cuts a daffodil, for instance, she or he has to avoid the liquid that oozes from the stem—a source of painful skin rashes.
Yes, the fields of flowers are so beautiful they can take your breath away, but the conditions under which they’re cultivated and harvested can be just as bad as they are for any other crop. “Tulips have always been a hard job, but it’s a job during a time of the year when work is hard to find,” says farmworker Tomas Ramon. “This year we just stopped enduring the problems. We decided things had to change.”
The article that follows was previously published in Truthout.
Washington State today is ground zero in the effort to hold back the massive use of agricultural guest workers by U.S. growers, and to ensure that farmworkers, both those living here and those coming under the H-2A visa program, have their rights respected. For a second year, on August 4 workers and their supporters marched 14 miles in 90-degree heat through berry fields just below the Canadian border, protesting what they charge is widespread abuse of agricultural labor.
The family of Lorenzo Sanchez and Felipa Lopez, in front of the broken-down trailer the grower rents them for $800 a month. | David Bacon
Surrounded by blueberry and alfalfa fields near Sumas, Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border, a group of workers last week stood in a circle behind a trailer, itemizing a long list of complaints about the grower they work for. Lorenzo Sanchez, the oldest, pointed to the trailer his family rents for $800 a month. On one side, the wooden steps and porch have rotted through. “The toilet backs up,” he said. “Water leaks in when it rains. The stove doesn’t work.”
RALEIGH, N.C—In a win for North Carolina’s unionized farm workers, a federal judge reinstated the right of their union, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, to negotiate for a dues checkoff in contracts it signs with state tobacco growers and other farmers.
In a ruling which U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs upheld in late September against screams from the North Carolina Farm Bureau, Magistrate Judge Patrick Auld said the state Republicans’ Farm Law, a ban on such negotiations and dues checkoff, violated the U.S. Constitution. The two judges, combined, threw it out.Read More »
What could Hollywood’s brightest stars learn from farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields? When it comes to creating a workplace where women are empowered to report sexual harassment—and receive justice rather than retaliation when they do so—the farmworkers of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) offer a proven model. That the group created this solution in a town known less than a decade ago as “ground zero for modern slavery” makes it all the more remarkable and promising for other industries.Read More »
Mural in old town Delano, California. All photos by Alexa Strabuk.
On a dusty Thursday evening, a couple hundred yards across the railroad tracks from old town Delano, California, Roger Gadiano ambles out of his one-story house to conduct his usual tour.
The gray-haired Filipino man grew up in Delano and can tell you not only his own story but also the story of a small, seemingly prosaic agricultural town. He hops into his aging pickup and points out passing landmarks that any outsider might consider bleak and forgotten: a rundown grocery store, a vacant lot, the second story of an old motel.