California farmworkers begin 335-mile pilgrimage urging Newsom to sign labor rights bill

CALEXICO, CA - JANUARY 22: Farmworkers pick bok choy in a field on January 22, 2021 in Calexico, California. President Joe Biden has unveiled an immigration reform proposal offering an eight-year path to citizenship for some 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally as well as green cards to upwards of a million DACA recipients and temporary protected status to farmworkers already in the United States.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)


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UFW said in its announcement that the march would began “at the farm workers’ historic ‘Forty Acres’ complex in Delano, where the union began 60 years ago in September 1962. It ends at the state Capitol on August 26, which Governor Newsom proclaimed as ‘Farm Worker Appreciation Day.’” Throughout the 335-mile journey, two dozen towns have volunteered to help feed and shelter weary marchers. “The march route traces the path of the historic Cesar Chavez-led 1966 peregrinacion that first brought the farm workers’ grievances before the nation’s conscience,” UFW continued.

As previously noted, the legislation would give farmworkers more choices in how they can vote in their union elections, including through mail, similar to the state’s popular vote-by-mail system. “Today, they must nearly always vote on grower property, amidst cynical voter suppression through abuse and intimidation by foremen, supervisors, and labor contractors,” UFW said. 

In vetoing a version of the bill las year, Newsom cited “various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards,” The Sacramento Bee previously reported. But the bill has the strong support of the labor movement, “because it should be easier, not harder, to vote for a union free from intimidation,” UFW continued. The organization said that among the marchers is Roberto Bustos, who was captain of the historic 1966 march. Carpenters Local 661 shared one image with Dolores Huerta, legendary labor leader and UFW co-founder.

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Among those kicking off the UFW’s 24-day, 335-mile “March for the Governor’s Signature” on Wednesday in Delano was Roberto Bustos, captain of the historic 1966 Cesar Chavez-led march along the same Delano-to-Sacramento route. #AB2183 pic.twitter.com/YcS329q75V

— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) August 4, 2022

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We’re standing in solidarity with the @ufwupdates farm workers on this historic “March for the @CAgovernor’s Signature,” kicking off today in Delano.

Farm workers are marching through the Central Valley in support of #AB2183, The Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. pic.twitter.com/iGXAms9Z1B

— California Nurses (@CalNurses) August 3, 2022

“The bill is still making its way through Sacramento,” The Fresno Bee reported. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez, the former assembly member who co-authored the bill last year, told the outlet that “[s]he believes this year’s bill, with its amendments, addresses the governor’s previous concerns.” She said employers “utilize a lot of power and coercion against these workers to keep them from organizing and this will just help make it safer, and provide more appropriate ways for them to organize.” The bill passed the assembly in late May.

Manuel Gonzalez, a farmworkers of more than two decades, told Vallejo Times-Herald in March that the act is important to him because he’s already faced retribution from his previous employer for union organizing.

“If I vote in front of the supervisor, I’m sure that they’re going to retaliate against me,” he told the outlet. “We would like to have the same system as the politicians in California, like last year, when Gov. Gavin Newsom faced the recall and people voted via mail. We’re asking for the exact same thing.” UFW said that while it asked to meet with Newsom on Chávez’s holiday, he declined.

“Farm workers feed the nation, but we are denied basic rights other workers have,” vineyard worker Vianey Enriquez said in March. “We deserve to vote where we don’t have supervisors and labor contractors there pressuring us. It’s impossible to have a free choice when you have the supervisor who threatened to fire anyone who voted for the union staring at you.”

Click here to send a message asking Gov. Newsom to support the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. ¡Si, se puede!

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