About the United Farm Workers:
The United Farm Workers, founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, is the largest farm worker union in the United States. Through nonviolent tactics such as boycotts, pickets, and strikes, the UFW brings the struggles of farm workers out of the fields and into cities and towns across the country. This movement of farm workers organizing for better pay and safer working conditions has been growing since 1962. Currently, the UFW organizes in major agricultural industries nationwide and continues to win contracts for worker protections.
Historical Importance of the UFW:
The UFW has been the driving force behind the farm worker movement, inspiring farm workers across the United States to organize, mobilize allies in the struggle, and spread the “¡Sí se puede!” (yes it can be done) message.
In 1962, Cesar Chavez, who came from a family of very poor farm workers, began traveling through the Central Valley of California meeting with groups of farm workers in their homes. In 1965, when grape workers in the Delano, CA area walked out on strike, Cesar along with the workers he had been organizing joined them. The Delano Grape Strike would last for 5 years and end in historic contracts for the UFW and unprecedented visibility for the farm worker movement.
In 1966, Chavez and a group of strikers set out on a 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento to draw attention to plight of farm workers. Thousands of supporters joined the marchers.
In 1967, the UFW began a boycott against all California table grapes, igniting faith-based groups, unions, and community organizations to publicize and join the boycott. The Civil Rights Movement during this era was making America aware of its vast social inequalities, which undoubtedly helped millions of consumers to see the importance of joining the boycott (a nationwide poll in 1975 estimated 17 million Americans were boycotting table grapes).
Throughout the struggle, Cesar Chavez remained dedicated to principles of nonviolence, reaffirming his commitment by fasting for 25 days in 1968.
In 1975, the UFW won the passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, a landmark agreement recognizing the rights of farm workers in California to organize. Today, the UFW continues to grow and to win important victories for farm workers in agricultural industries across the nation.
YAYA supports the UFW in their current campaigns with Gerawan Farming (Prima brand fruits) and with Darigold Inc.
About the Gerawan Farming (Prima brand fruits) Campaign:
In 1990 the workers at Gerawan Farming (producer of Prima brand fruits) voted to be represented by the United Farm Workers union. In 2014, Gerawan workers are still not working under a union contract.
After the workers voted for the union, Gerawan appealed the election results. It took two years for the state of California to dismiss the appeal and during this time Gerawan retaliated against UFW supporters by illegally firing workers (as they had done in a previous attempt to sway election results) and closing down labor camps.
Throughout the 1990’s the UFW submitted proposals to Gerawan, but to no avail. The company never followed up with counter proposals. In one meeting, Mike Gerawan even went so far as to declare “I don’t want the union. I don’t need the union.”
Throughout the 2000’s the UFW continued organizing Gerawan workers who, along with members statewide, advocated and won important legislation that protects all farm workers in the state of California. The Mandatory Mediation bill was one such amendment that allowed for a third party entity to hammer out a union contract when one could not be reached by two negotiating parties.
In 2013, after years of intimidation, firings, anti-union propaganda, and an illegal company instigated desertification petition, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) finalized a union contract. But Gerawan is refusing to implement it. Many workers claim they have been fired for their support of the union and other who have worked for the company for years say have not been rehired this season.
Gerawan sells Prima brand fruits to many large retailers across the United States, including Wal-Mart and Target. Workers are urging Wal-Mart and Target to take action and ensure that their suppliers live up to their code of ethics. They are urging the state of California to take Gerawan to court to ensure that their contract is implemented. Learn more about how you can help bring about long overdue justice for the workers who bring you Prima brand fruit.
About the Darigold Campaign:
Workers at various dairies across the state of Washington have exposed grim instances of unsanitary and cruel treatment of animals. The treatment of these animals is indicative of the overall environment and of the treatment of workers.
Workers have reported being understaffed and over worked, having no other option but to milk multiple cows, some with bloody lesions, swollen udders, missing eyes. They have reported these injuries to their foremen only to be told that the cows should be milked this way.
The brave workers who have reported these abuses have mostly remained anonymous for fear of losing their jobs. The UFW has contacted Darigold to inform them of these intolerable conditions, but the company refuses to take responsibility.
Darigold products are sold in many retailers in the Northwest. Fred Meyer is one of the largest companies to carry their products, send them a letter to let them know that you don’t want to drink milk that comes from sick or injured cows.
The UFW continues to work to address the pessimistic conditions in these dairies and to make sure that safe and secure working conditions are in place for both the animals and the workers. Click here to learn more about this campaign.
About the Campaign for a Cesar Chavez National Holiday:
YAYA supports the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation campaign for a Cesar Chavez National Day of Service.
Cesar Chavez was the founder of the United Farm Workers. He led the historic non-violent movement for farm worker rights and dedicated himself to building a movement of poor working people. He also inspired millions of people who had never worked on a farm to commit themselves to social, economic, and civil rights activism. Cesar’s legacy, like the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continues to educate, inspire and empower people from all walks of life. He is a role model for all Americans for generations to come.
Please help us ensure all Americans learn about Cesar’s life and work. Ask Congress to designate March 31, Cesar’s birthday and the day UFW was founded, as the Cesar Chavez National Day of Service.
What YAYAs are doing:
• Organizing speaking events with members of the UFW
• Hosting film screenings about the history of Cesar Chavez and the farm worker movement
• Educating their communities about UFW campaigns and the issues faced by its members
• Collecting and circulating petitions, and more.
Learn more about past actions in our YAYAs in Action blog.
Join YAYA in our continued support of the United Farm Workers and their campaigns.
• Sign up to receive our Action Alerts and newsletter to be notified of opportunities to take action near you.
• Contact us to set up a presentation or movie screening in your community.
• Make a donation to support our work.
• Visit the UFW website to learn more.