Saturday, May 10, 2008
An action alert from the UFW reminds us of the plight of farmworkers in modern American agriculture:
"Yesterday more than 100 migrant farm workers were living in an orchard. Tonight they have no place to go. Why, you ask? These Washington state cherry pickers came to Shafter, California after being told by company representatives to come to Califronia for a job in the cherries. Consequently workers and their families traveled from Washington State to work at the Kyle Mathison Orchards. Kyle Mathison is part of the Wenatchee, Washington based Stemilt Growers Company—which, according to its web site, is the largest shipper of fresh-market sweet cherries in the world. When these farm workers reached California, things were not as expected. A number of the workers were hired, but other workers were told to just wait and see if jobs were available. According to KERO 23 news, a farm worker said, "I came from Washington state. We came here to work, but they haven't treated us like they should and we're a little worried because we may not have enough money to go back to Washington." While in Washington, some of the workers were informed that housing would be available to them when they got to California. However, when they got here there was no housing. They had no choice but to sleep in the fields. Some stayed in tents, others in cars and still others slept on cardboard or simply the dirt. Workers complained of rashes from having to bathe in irrigation water. The KERO 23 news report quoted another worker as saying, "I asked where do we shower? And he said 'There's the water hole.' ... and there's ducks and fish! I asked, 'We shower there?! Where do the women shower?!' He said the same place." When workers went public about being left out in the cold, things only got worse. Last night Bakersfield area television stations showed the workers’ bleak situation. Today, Stemilt company representatives' called the sheriffs to have the 100 plus workers and their property evicted from the orchard. The workers who are currently working were told they would still be allowed on Monday—however they now have no place to live. The others have no place to live and no job—the company told them to still wait and see. Stemilt says their core values include treating workers, growers and customers fairly. How is this fair? Take action now. Tell Stemilt to provide housing for these out of state workers tonight, pay reasonable travel expenses and immediately hire the rest of the Washington workers instead of forcing them to wait and see."