Farm Workers Rights and Human Rights Embraced; Farm Workers and
Farmers Champion the Strawberry Industry
03:38 p.m Jul 10, 1997 Eastern
WATSONVILLE, Calif., July 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Hundreds of strawberry farm workers and farmers gathered today in Watsonville, CA to restate their support of workers rights and to call on the public to endorse their pledge. They were joined by Bishop Sylvester Ryan, Monterey Catholic Archdiocese; Reverend Donnel McLane of the Assembly of God, and Buddhist Reverend Jerry Sakamoto. The lunch hour event was sponsored by the Strawberry Workers & Farmers Alliance (SW&FA), a coalition formed in 1996 to protect open markets for strawberries in markets around the world, and the jobs of workers and the businesses of farmers.
Gigantic posters with copies of the signatures of eight thousand farm workers and farmers who support SW&FA served as a back drop while another gigantic poster incorporated a pledge supporting active, equal enforcement of laws that protect employees in the work place and in making collective bargaining choices. "Today we seek to remove any confusion that might exist regarding the intentions and commitments of farm workers and farmers to seek full, fair and active enforcement of laws that regulate the workplace." Stated Gary Caloroso, SW&FA spokesman, "We are at a loss to understand why millions of dollars are being spent in a campaign that attacks our industry and impinges on the rights of workers and farmers alike. Allegations suggest wide spread human rights abuses in farming and that is not at all true."
Participants at the event signed a pledge that has been the basis of SW&FA's mission since its formation. "Let there be no question. Farmers and farm workers can and do work side-by-side in these fields to produce quality, affordable food in an environment of mutual respect," stated Samuel Ybarra, a farm worker for over ten years producing strawberries.
Cesario Ramirez, a farmer who started as a field worker forty years ago and now farms more than 100 acres of strawberries, employing over 100 farm workers stated, "There are laws that protect workers' rights to join or not join unions. What we do not understand is why some people keep trying to force the workers into one specific group. They put an organization ahead of the workers. That is not justice. Farmers respect the workers rights. Now we ask that everyone else do the same thing."
Supermarkets came under pressure beginning last year to support a proposed sweetheart contract between a single union and the entire strawberry industry. In some instances threats of boycotts were made. That pledge excluded workers rights of self-determination and has been rejected in all but a few instances. SW&FA's pledge offers an alternative that fully supports farm worker rights. The pledge has been circulated to supermarkets throughout the United States and Canada as a voluntary alternative to the one that excludes workers rights. Hundreds of outlets have signed the SW&FA pledge.
SW&FA is an organization that advocates open markets for strawberries. SW&FA is supportive of legal collective bargaining rights. SW&FA and its supporters have advocated full and equal enforcement of all work place laws and supports full compliance with the California Agriculture Labor Relations Act. Over twelve thousand individuals and organizations, to date, have endorsed SW&FA and its mission. SOURCE Strawberry Workers and Farmers Alliance
Copyright 1997, PR Newswire