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- Asusena Viramontes, a daughter of Gallo farm worker
Asusena Viramontes, a daughter of Gallo farm worker shares, “I am very grateful for the UFW scholarship. Thanks to my father, Manuel Viramontes, who has been a dedicated farm worker for more than twenty years and a member of UFW, I was to able to apply the scholarship. His hard work and dedication is my motivation to strive for a better future. Growing up my father always told me, “Echale ganas al estudio, Si Se Puede.” He was right, I recieved the scholarship and now I am at Sonoma State University studying biology, one step closer in achieving my dreams of becoming a dentist. Once again, I am very grateful, Si Se Puede!”/Asusena Viramontes, hija de un trabajador de Gallo Farm nos compartió lo siguiente, “Estoy muy agradecida por la beca de La Unión de Campesinos (UFW por sus siglas en inglés). Gracias a mi padre Manuel Viramontes, que ha sido un trabajador campesino dedicado desde hace más de veinte años y un miembro de la UFW, pude solicitar la beca. Su arduo trabajo y dedicación es mi motivación para luchar por un mejor futuro. Al crecer mi padre siempre me decía, “Échale ganas al estudio, Si Se Puede”. Él tenia la razón, recibí la beca y ahora estoy en la universidad Sonoma State University estudiando biología, a un paso más de lograr mi sueño de convertirme en dentista. Nuevamente, estoy muy agradecida, ¡Si Se Puede!”.
- Grape harvester, Severiano Salas, 34
Since last year when I worked for piece rate, they’ve paid for my break(s). They paid me $3.50 for each break and I earned $7 more each day. I earned between $21 and $42 more each week in my checks. I use this money for gas or to pay for child care for my nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.” Grape harvester, Severiano Salas, 34/ “Desde el año pasado cuando trabaje por pieza me pagaron por mis descanso(s). Me dieron $3.50 por cada descanso y gano $7 cada día mas. Gano $21 o $42 mas a la semana en mis cheques. Yo uso ese dinero para gasolina o el cuidado de niño a mi hija de 9 anos y hijo de 4 años.” Pizcador de uva, Severiano Salas, 34. #fightfor15
- Eduardo Velazco, Oxnard, CA Muranaka Farms.
I’m very grateful to the UFW because they have been fighting for this law and for farm worker rights. Since June, Muranaka Farms has been paying $3 for my time of no production and I earn $9 or $12 more every day. With this extra money I can send more money to my mother and save for times when there’s less work.” Eduardo Velazco, Oxnard, CA Muranaka Farms.
- Maria Rivera, Gerawan worker
As we get celebrate Mother’s Day we ask you to take a moment and read the story of women who labor picking fruit at Gerawan by reading the Mother’s Day blog that Cesar’s widow Helen Chavez published inMomsRising.org @ http://bit.ly/1bDupxE or read about Maria Rivera, whose story was shared in Helen’s blog here: “Gerawan sprayed the grape fields with chemicals at 5:40 a.m. We went to work at 6 a.m. At 7 a.m. I felt a burning on my neck. Then I felt sulfur all over my body. My eyes were very red and watery. When we left work I went to pick up my daughter who was 11 months old. I took her to the doctor that evening because she got bumps and rashes on her body. The doctor told me it was because of the chemicals that someone brought home.”
- Concepcion Lopez, tomato worker
I’ve seen many changes there since the union has been there. The foreman treat us better, they don’t yell at us, the bathrooms are clean and there is shade. Everything has changed for the better now that the union is there
–Concepcion Lopez, tomato worker
- –Miguel Diaz, table grape worker, 15+ years
“Working in the fields is very dangerous for all the farm workers and their families, because of all the pesticides that get sprayed in the fields every day. Now with the new pesticide rules from the EPA that the United Farm Workers won we feel more secure. I’m very grateful to the United Farm Workers because they are always fighting for the farm workers, their families and the communities nationwide.”
–Miguel Diaz, table grape worker, 15+ years
- Farm worker Jose Zapien,
“Pesticides are a dangerous reality in US agriculture. I am thankful that farm workers will enjoy the same protections as workers in other industries. We need to join with the United Farm Workers to ensure that there is equal treatment, under the law, of farm workers.” — Farm worker Jose Zapien, reacting to EPA’s new pesticide rules.
- Tranquilino Ruiz, Papagni Winery vineyard worker
- Blanca Cruz Vasquez, Gerawan worker
I’m happy to work where there’s a union contract. I’ve previously worked at companies that don’t have a union contract and there wasn’t any respect, we didn’t know our rights and there was a lot of humiliations. I felt sad, I have 4 children and I don’t want them to experience what I’ve experienced.Now that I work where there is a union contract, I know my rights as a farm worker and now feel assured. — Tranquilino Ruiz, Papagni Winery vineyard worker
- Ana Garcia Aparicio, Gerawan worker
As we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day we ask you to take a moment and read the story of women who labor picking fruit at Gerawan by reading the Mother’s Day blog that Cesar’s widow Helen Chavez published in MomsRising.org @ http://bit.ly/1bDupxE or read about Blanca Cruz Vasquez whose story was shared in Helen’s blog here: “We were working very fast in the grapevines and didn’t have time to look down. I fell into a gopher hole, fell to the ground. They notified the foreman. He did not pay me any attention. He did not ask about my foot or my hand. My hand swelled up. A coworker tied a handkerchief around my hand and that is how I worked all day, with one hand.”
- Alejandrina Leonides, grape worker
Yesterday we celebrated Mother’s Day. Today we ask you to take a moment and read the story of women who labor picking fruit at Gerawan by reading the Mother’s Day blog that Cesar’s widow Helen Chavez published in MomsRising.org @ http://bit.ly/1bDupxE or read it in spanish on MamásConPoder.org @ http://bit.ly/1KWf5Zy. You can read Ana Garcia Aparicio, whose story was shared in Helen’s blog here: “I’ve worked at the company la Prima for 10 years picking peaches and grape. I’m a mother of 4 children and my work helps with my household costs. At this company we’ve had many issues and injustices. We receive warnings for one rotten grape and even get suspended for 1 or 2 days. This is the reason it is so important for us that our contract be implemented.”
- Marina Cruz, Gerawan Grape worker
I work in the fields doing all the seasonal vineyard and citrus work. During the tying of the vines I was working in a grape company in behalf of a Farm Labor Contractor. My experience working for this FLC was very bad. The foreman would always hurry us and yell at us and say we are too expensive for the grower. In one occasion the FLC did not want to pay us one week of our salary. I would call her to ask for our salaries and she would tell me I’m not going to pay you or anybody else.
My co-workers and I decided to call the United Farm Workers to ask for help. The organizer from the United Farm Workers Immediately called the FLC and demanded that we all get paid our salaries and the FLC paid us the same day. I’m very happy that we can count on the UFW and they always defend our labor rights. — Alejandrina Leonides, grape worker
- Antonio Garcia, Wine Grape Worker
My name is Antonio Garcia and I have worked for Balletto Vineyards Inc. for 22 years and 15 of those years under a Union contract.”I have seen the difference it makes working under a Union contract that has been rewarding and beneficial to all workers. I am retiring at 57 years of age with a Union Pension and want to say to other fellow Farm Workers to always remain united. In the words of our leader Cesar Chavez, “Si Se Puede!”/Mi nombre es Antonio García y he trabajador para Balletto Vineyards Inc. por 22 años de los cuales 15 años he estado bajo un contrato sindical. “He observado la diferencia que tenemos al trabajar bajo un contrato sindical gratificante y benéfico para todos los trabajadores. Me estoy jubilando a los 57 años de edad con una pensión sindical, y quiero decirles a otros compañeros campesinos que siempre permanezcan unidos. En las palabras de nuestro líder Cesar Chávez, “Si Se Puede!”
- Inez Garcia, Gerawan worker
Sunday we celebrated Mother’s Day. Today we ask you to take a moment and read the story of women who labor picking fruit at Gerawan by reading the Mother’s Day blog that Cesar’s widow Helen Chavez published in MomsRising.org @ http://bit.ly/1bDupxE or read it in spanish on MamásConPoder.org @ http://bit.ly/1KWf5Zy. You can read about Inez Garcia, whose story was shared in Helen’s blog here: “During the picking of the peach we used very large ladders and we had to move them in the rows, go up and down the ladder while carrying two buckets full of fruit. The worst part of this was the men that were like two rows away from me were picking at $11.00 dollars an hour and I was doing the same work and getting paid $9.00 dollars an hour…. As a woman and a single mother I’ve felt my life has been very hard what else can I do, but continue suffering and working because if I don’t who will support me? I’m making this information public because Mother’s Day is near and I want the world to know how much a woman suffers and also a farm worker mother here in the San Joaquin Valley.”
- Regino Navarrete, Strawberry worker
I have worked as a strawberry picker for over 15 years. Everyone knows that strawberry work is physically demanding. What many people don’t realize is the high level of multi tasking that is involved with picking berries. At every plant several job functions are happening at the same time: 1) Visual individual berry quality inspection, 2) Identification of damaged or rotting berries, 3) Selecting the right Size, 4) Ensuring appropriate color 5) Cleaning of the berry plant and 6) Packing and display.
To be a good strawberry picker one performs these functions at a high rate of speed. Our eyes and good vision are vital to our jobs. Unfortunately Pterygium runs in our family. This is a condition where a growth covers the cornea and obstructs vision. I recently had pterygium growths in both my eyes removed and this surgery was covered by the RFK medical plan. I am very thankful for having good medical benefits. I can continue to work in the Oxnard Strawberry fields and support my family.
- Jose Mateo, Tomato worker
I work at the company Gargiulo and I have the UFW’s Juan de La Cruz pension plan. I’m very content because when I retire I will have my retirement plan. I’m really young now, but it saddens me when I see people that are much older and don’t have a pension plan. They didn’t attain a pension plan and don’t have enough to support themselves. Now that it has been explained to me what the pension plan is about, I’m extremely happy because I will have some money when I get to that age. I thank the United Farm Workers for always thinking of us farm workers and let’s keep fighting so we may continue improving our future. — Jose Mateo
- Jesus Ceja, Tomato worker
“I have worked as a tomato picker from a very young age and I have seen many injustices towards many of my fellow co-workers over the years. Today, with the UFW, I can say that our work in the fields is more respected and I also feel that we are much more appreciated. For me it is an honor to be part of the United Farm Workers union. With our union contract our working conditions are more favorable. This year I will join with my co-workers and help with negotiations, we have the opportunity to continue to improve our work at Pacific Triple E! Si Se Puede!”
- Vianey Enriquez, Wine worker
The St. Supery Vineyard negotiating committee & worker board are excited about their new UFW contract they negotiated for the 80 workers covered by their contract. Committee Secretario General Vianey Enriquez tells us, “The most beneficial part is the new medical plan that is equally good for all workers who previously had a plan with lesser coverage. Also, the wages have increased and are better–especially for new workers. We are hopeful that as farm labor contractor employees are now represented within the contract it will benefit all of us. The new members will make us stronger and give us the ability to make future contracts better.”
- Ericka Treja, Strawberry worker under contract
Benefits of a union contract!
- Silvia Medina, Pacifc Triple E (Tomato)
“We are really excited to participate in our contract negotiations at Pacific Triple E. We have worked in the tomato transplanting at Pacifc Triple E for many years and we have seen many good changes at our work since we’ve joined the United Farm Workers union in 2012. Our Union contract makes our work in the fields much more enjoyable. Our union makes us stronger!” — Silvia Medina, tomato worker under UFW contract
- Margarito Martinez, Ruby Ridge Worker
Margarito Martinez believes he was fired from Ruby Ridge for supporting the union and fighting for his rights. “When workers and supporters tried to reach out to the bank to intervene in this matter [illegal actions by the company], they turned us down, saying they did not want to be involved.”
- Rosa Escalona, Chile, fruit for “Nature’s Partner”
Rosa Escalona is a Chilean farm worker who harvests and packs some of the fruit going to Nature’s Partner. She believes the chemicals used to make the fruit more marketable are also making her sick.
She describes the following:
“When the time comes to apply the pesticides they do not allow us to leave the room. They apply many liquids, some are specific, like to enhance the color of the fruit, without regards to the fact that there are many young women who someday may have little children and may suffer risks due to the chemicals. The same fruit that is produced is not normal; for example to the cherries they try to give it a redder color and one time they put something too strong that we were choking.”
- Magaly Luna, Chile, fruit for “Nature’s Partner”
The first thing they tell you when you arrive at the company is that you can’t complain… they say is that “if you fall from the ladder this year you are of no use to me to thin the vine. You are nothing because if you limp, then what use are you? You will climb the vine, it will hurt, then you will get down. If before you made 100 vines, now you will only make 60 vines and will be of no use to me.”
Another thing is when final paychecks are issued, we are left being owed money. We’re not paid for all of our work. We’re told the accountant will look into it, but nothing ever happens, they just keep our money.
- Rafael Vega, citrus worker
Rafael Vega has worked for various labor contractors for about 20 years, so he knows what he’s talking about when he notes the ways that contractors cheat workers. “This contractor paid us in cash and one day me and my coworker asked her to pay us with a check so that we could report to social security, and she became upset and fired us all, the entire crew.”
- Narcizo Peralta, citrus worker
Narcizo Peralta has worked for a labor contractor in the citrus orchards for nine years. When asked about his employer, he begins a liltany of abuses that bother him deeply. “…I work in the citrus and they do not provide water for us. We have to take our own water. They do not provide us with equipment nor do they pay us the minimum wage. When someone gets hurt on the job, the crew boss cusses us out.“
- Javier Cantor, citrus worker
“I know my legal rights are being violated by this contractor, but I do not complain because my other coworkers do not complain and I am afraid to speak up for myself.”
- Pule Vargas, citrus worker
“I do not file a claim against my boss for fear of retaliation. I’m afraid he will no longer give me work.”
- Marcelino Tepec, citrus worker
“I have not complained because I have my family to support and I’m afraid to lose my job.”
- Erika Contreras, Farm Labor Contractor Worker
I would work all day without taking a break or going for water because I was afraid of getting fired.
–Erika Contreras, farm labor contractor worker
- Pedro Zapien, Vegetables
They give us the water they use to irrigate the fields.
–Pedro Zapien, vegetable worker
- Juan Martinez Vasquez, Peas
We have to pitch in money to have clean drinking water.
–Juan Martinez Vasquez, pea worker
- Ramon Mendoza, Irrigation Installer
Our water has a mossy smell and bitter taste.
–Ramon Mendoza, irrigation installer
- Francisco Villasaña, Cotton
The foreman drinks the water we bring ourselves.
–Francisco Villasaña, cotton worker
- Juan Negrete, Cotton
He treats us worse than animals…We don’t have fresh water.
–Juan Negrete, cotton worker
- Juanita Mendoza, Table Grapes
The company did not provide shade for us to use.
–Juanita Mendoza, grape worker
- Imelda Valdivia, Table Grapes
When someone wants to drink water, the boss gets mad.
–Imelda Valdivia, grape worker
- Alejandro Gil, Cotton
One foreman carries a gun on his side to scare the workers.
— Alejandro Gil, cotton worker
- Gaspar Silva, Vegetables
They would never take us water. We had to take our own water.
–Gaspar Silva, vegetable worker
- Pedro Zapien, Vegetables
Sometimes full days would go by and they would never bring the bathrooms.
—Pedro Zapien, vegetable worker
- Eva Zenteno, Table Grapes
They place the water on top of a box or on a tailgate of a pickup truck and when a worker goes to drink water, the heat is unbearable.
–Eva Zenteno, grape worker
- Evelyn Aguilar, Table Grapes
They did have water for us. I got headaches.
–Evelyn Aguilar, grape worker
- Jorge Rodriguez, Almonds
Last year people got sick and people fainted. They had no water and needed breaks.
–Jorge Rodriguez, almond worker
- Jairo Salin Salosairo Luquez, Table Grapes
Being without water is dangerous. We are not camels that can be working without water.
— Jairo Salin Salosairo Luquez, grape worker
- Teodoro Gutierrez, Table Grapes
Teodoro Gutierrez noticed dirt in what was supposed to be his crew’s drinking water. He decided to let his foreman know to change it. Instead of providing workers with clean, drinking water, the foreman threw the dirty water out and left the crew thirsty for the remainder of the hot work day. “The foreman, they always cheat us,” he said.
- Tarino Carlos, Table Grapes
Tarino Carlos says his wife Luz is as beautiful today as when they first met. The only thing he worries about when he thinks of their relationship is what they will do for income when they are both too old to work. Employed by companies without union contracts, neither have any type of retirement plan. As he nears 80, he stresses the importance of organizing among his younger coworkers. “I tell them, wherever there is a union, there is hope.”
- Valentine Gonzalez, Table Grapes
Valentine Gonzalez’ eyes burn every morning. It’s from the pesticides sprayed on the grapes the night before. When working, sometimes he gets thirsty, but there are times when no drinking water is available for hours. The company pressured workers when they tried to join the UFW to make things better. “We were told if the union wins, we’d lose,” he said. “No more work.”
- Manuel Nunez, Table Grapes
Manuel Nunez watched one of his female coworkers get fired after failing a required physical fitness test. She had just had a cesarean section and was not able to lift the weights. He remembers how she cried. It made him think of Patricia, his own daughter and how he wants better for her. “I tell her to finish school and get a degree,” he said. “That is my hope for her.”
- Lucilia Lopez, Table Grapes
Lucila Lopez considers herself a strong woman. A mother of four children, she has worked in grapes for more than 20 years. A U.S. resident, Lucila says she is tired of pity. “When we are treated badly, we should blame ourselves. We shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for our rights.”
- Sabas Arrendondo, Table Grapes
Sabas Arrendondo worked more than five years at the same company before restrooms were installed onsite for workers to use. During that time, he was forced to work under four different Social Security numbers. “The majority of farm workers are too scared to organize,” he said. “They tell us if we try to join the union, we’ll get fired.”
- Baltazar Aguirre, Citrus
Baltazar Aguirre believes that workers, who feel they are respected, work better. He has been a union member since 1975. The union, he says, has made it possible for him to own the house he does, benefit from a strong medical plan and enjoy time with his family with paid holidays and vacation time. “Without the union, I would have suffered much more in my life,” he said.
- Maria Carrillo, Table Grapes
After being sick, Maria Carrillo was forced to pass a physical exam in order for her to return to work. Having to ride a bicycle and lift weights was difficult for Maria. She grew dizzy from the exercises and failed her exam. She was fired as a result. “I don’t understand how me taking a physical exam where I have to ride a bike is important,” she said. “I don’t work riding a bike in the fields.”
- Aurelio Solario, Wine Grapes
Aurelio Solario believes he is singled out by his company and harassed because of his age. “They are afraid of the leadership us older workers carry,” he said. “They’d rather implement a new and younger workforce that will labor for lower wages, without benefits and will know less about the rights they are entitled to,” he said. “Such a workforce is more vulnerable.”
- Miriam Flores, Table Grapes
Miriam Flores remembers watching her supervisors getting angry at workers because they were singing in the fields. “The supervisor said he wouldn’t pay them because they were singing,” she said. “I felt the boss had no right to silence them. They weren’t doing anything wrong. What’s wrong with being happy at work? It’s a field – there is plenty of room to sing without interfering with anyone else’s job.”
- Gloria Ramirez, Table Grapes
Gloria Ramirez says female workers suffer most in the fields. “If a young female worker doesn’t give into her supervisor’s sexual requests, he will fire her or make her life a living hell. He’ll punish all of us for days – with no food, water or restroom breaks.” She says the break times workers are given are not long enough. “The bathrooms are located too far for us to use,” she said. “There have been times I have really had to use the restroom, but they are so far, I could not make it in time and accidentally had to urinate on myself.”
- Manuel Cruz, Table Grapes
“Our bosses simply do not fear the law,” said Manuel Cruz, who has spent nearly 30 years working in the fields and watching workers be exploited over and over again. He says it’s the financial hardship that farm workers have that keeps them silent. “We have a need to work,” he said. “If we say something, we fear we will lose our jobs. Many workers do not speak out – we have seen too many get fired for doing so.”
- Bernardo Hernandez, Table Grapes
Bernardo Hernandez says working in the heat is the hardest part of his job. “The foremen, they just work us too hard,” he says. “We get so tired from the heat.” He also says the restrooms are hardly cleaned. “I feel sorry for the women,” he said. “There are so many of them and only one restroom.”
- Ofelia Flores, Wine Grapes
Ofelia Flores has worked under a union contract for almost 30 years. She believes her work is important. “My work is significant,” she says. “I pick wine grapes, and wine is something universally known throughout the world. I like to think of how people enjoy wine and how what I do helps contribute to the enjoyment of so many.”
- Antonio Vargas, Wine Grapes
Before working under a union contract, Antonio Vargas says he was always behind on his bills and had many financial hardships. “Thanks to the UFW, I was able to regain solid ground financially,” he said. “Workers need to understand the many benefits the union brings them,” he said. “They also need to be given the chance to benefit from the cause.”
- Margarita Hernandez, Table Grapes
Margarita Hernandez was fired after working one day and not meeting her foreman’s quota. “The owners want the workers to get a certain quantity done by a certain time and oftentimes, it is simply not possible,” she said. “What saddens me the most is they just fire us without giving us an opportunity to explain ourselves.”
- Jairo Luque, Table Grapes
Jairo Luque works for an organic carrot farm where the portable restrooms in the field are hardly cleaned. “They smell horrible,” he said. The restrooms are hitched to trucks and moved around the fields for workers to use. Recently, a restroom that needed to be cleaned and emptied out was moved, and Jairo witnessed urine spilling out on the organic carrots. “If the public knew about this, I don’t think anyone would want to eat the carrots,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t.”
- Evelyn Aguilar, Table Grapes
“I knew I wasn’t alone anymore…” was how Evelyn Aguilar said she felt when she realized the UFW was designed to protect her rights. Prior to joining the union, Evelyn was sexually harassed by her foreman. What made her feel worse was she never had the courage to say anything despite knowing what he was doing was wrong. The union has since changed her perspective. “I have a voice now,” she said, “and, I’m no longer afraid to use it.”
- Juan Manuel Nunez Alvarado, Strawberries
Juan Manuel Nunez Alvarado believes his life is better because of the UFW. Before he worked under a union contract, working conditions were poor. “We’d be given 10 minutes to eat our lunches – with no other time to rest,” he said. “I also often saw the foreman harass the female workers and mistreat the males.”
- Eva Zenteno, Table Grapes
Every day that Eva Zenteno goes to work, her mom is there. They work for the same company. She remembers how once her mom wanted to take her break. “The foreman started yelling at her for sitting down,” she said. “He called her a ‘useless cow.’” A new mother, Eva never wants her daughter to hear anyone speak to her that way. “It angered me,” she said. “It was so humiliating and offensive.”
- Raul Medrano, Vegetables
Raul Medrano has worked 15 years at the same company. Throughout his tenure there, he has not seen one wage increase. Raul says he believes the lives of his coworkers would be better if his company had a union contract. “The company is making millions in profits,” he said. “They only care about the money. They don’t care about their workers.”
- Mirna Vasquez, Citrus
Mirna Vasquez is a U.S. citizen. Working in the citrus industry, Mirna is fully aware how much damage a little frost can bring. She has worked through two freezes in the last decade. She said the UFW helped her family survive both. “During the months of the freeze, the UFW helped me find employment and my family received periodic food donations,” she said. “I am always confident they will help us.”
- Margarita Galarza, Wine Grapes
After working 13 years for the same company, Margarita Galarza was fired after her company decided to bring in an entirely new workforce. Despite her struggles to find new work, Margarita says she has not given up hope. “I am going to continue fighting until companies stop exploiting workers or firing them whenever they feel the want to do so.”
- Manuel Ruiz, Wine Grapes
After working seven years for the same company, Manuel Ruiz was fired after his company decided to bring in an entirely new workforce. He now works as a day laborer to make ends meet. “Working only once or twice a week is the only way I am able to bring food home to my kids,” he said. “I feel very sad and depressed about our current situation.”
- Lorena Martinez, Wine Grapes
Lorena Martinez had let her supervisors know in advance about the time off she would need to have her baby. They reassured her she could return to work after her baby was born. While on maternity leave, she learned that she was fired. “Our newborns need time with their mothers. They should not be at fault for the actions of our management. I want to go back to work. I have children to provide for – I must continue working.”
- Jorge De Haro, Wine Grapes
Jorge De Haro does not believe workers should be forced to pass physical exams in order to work. He believes it is the company’s way of discriminating against some of the older workers. “If we don’t pass the exercises, they can fire us,” he said. “After working 33 years of my life for the same company, this is how they compensate us? By kicking us out into the street?”
- Fidel Arriaga, Vegetables
After working 13 years for the same company and never having problems, Fidel Arriaga started noticing his supervisors treating him differently. “They realized I was getting older,” he said. “They always try to get rid of older workers like me.” His supervisors started to demand more work from Fidel just to pressure him and began threatening him with his job if he could not meet their work quotas. “They made me feel ashamed of myself,” he said. “My work is all I have. I don’t know how I will survive without it.”
- Alfredo Alvarenga, Table Grapes
“I need the union so I can have a better life,” said Alfredo Alvarenga. Working for more than 20 years in the fields, Alfredo has never worked under a union contract. He’s given 10 minutes to eat his lunch for the day. “Workers need to eat like animals to be done in time,” he said. “I know workers who work at companies with union contracts. They have a sense of power about where they work. They know they are worth something.”
- Alejandro Garcia, Vegetables
Alejandro Garcia has been singled out by his company for being pro-UFW. “The company tries to intimidate me that they’ll fire me,” he said. Still, he says, he will continue to fight for a union contract. He says they are not asking for anything unreasonable. “All we are asking is for the company to sit at the table with us and negotiate a contract in good faith with the workers and with the union,” he said.
- Gonzalo Picasso Lopez, Vegetables
Gonzalo Picasso Lopez believes one day, his company will have a union contract. “I am 100 percent sure the UFW can get us one,” he said. “The people in the fields, we need union contracts. Otherwise, we have no medical plan, no pension – nothing, nothing, nothing.”
- Ramona Aguilar, Wine Grapes
Ramona Aguilar says she feels fortunate to work under a union contract. “Other companies treat their workers so badly,” she said. “It is a little difficult because of the heat, but we have good insurance and the water is in good condition and the restrooms are clean,” she said.
- Jorge De Haro, Wine Grapes
Jorge De Haro does not believe workers should be forced to pass physical exams in order to work. He believes it is the company’s way of discriminating against some of the older workers. “If we don’t pass the exercises, they can fire us,” he said. “After working 33 years of my life for the same company, this is how they compensate us? By kicking us out into the street?”
- Carmen Medina, Wine Grapes
When Carmen Medina’s son was born prematurely, she was not worried at first about going on maternity leave. She had worked out the details months in advance with her supervisor. Yet, in April, while tending to her newborn, Carmen discovered she had been fired while away. “I felt very bad and disgusted because it showed how the company does not understand a women’s necessity to take and be on maternity leave,” she said. “All the company cares about is getting richer and working us like slaves in the process.”
- Benito Zeferino, Table Grapes
Benito Zeferino makes less than minimum wage and has a family to support. “We are so thankful our children our healthy because we cannot afford any medical insurance for them,” he said. “When our children do get sick, we have to pay with money that we don’t have. This puts a strain on our ability to pay our basic necessities, but what are we to do?”
- Luz Carlos, Table Grapes
With 38 years of experience working in the fields, Luz Carlos knows about horrible working conditions. Blood tests show she has pesticides in her bloodstream. She remembers kneeling to work in fields so dirty that the next day all the female workers suffered from vaginal infections and rashes. “People really have no idea what farm workers have to endure,” she said.
- Maria Rosario Chocoteco, Table Grapes
While nearly seven-months pregnant and working in the fields, Maria Rosario Chocoteco left her row to go to the restroom. Being an open UFW supporter, Maria’s supervisor harassed her often. “He watched me go into the restroom,” she said. “He went into his truck [that was hitched to the portable restrooms] and decided to move it. Meanwhile, I was inside. The toilet started leaking and with the movement, I was hit hard in the stomach. I had to stop working.” No one ever checked to see if Maria was hurt. Years later, she believes her son’s learning disability is a result of the incident.
- Margarita Mendez, Table Grapes
Margarita Mendez remembers Cesar Chavez. “He had a calm presence,” she remembers. “But he could fill any room with his energy and strength. Together with Cesar, we fought and won good fights: drinking water, restrooms and 10-minute breaks.” Although Margarita says many successes have been won in recent years, there is much work to be done. “There is still a need to fight for the farm workers,” she said.
- Leticia Aburto, Table Grapes
Leticia Aburto remembers asking her boss for time off when her youngest son was sick with asthma. “He asked me, ‘What is more important? Your job or your sick child?’ I left right there. The most important thing is my child,” she said. “It is very sad. I care about my job. I pay rent, bills, we need to eat, but my son was sick. The bosses, they just don’t care.”
- Pablo Alvarez, Table Grapes
When Pablo Alvarez’ sons were teenagers, he gave them two choices – either study or go to work in the fields with him. “I’d ask them, ‘Do you want to go burn in the hot sun and get paid minimum wage to do it?’ And they’d always answer, ‘No! I will finish high school.’” Looking back, he says his strategy must have worked – all his children finished school and not one is working in the fields.
- Reynaldo Arevalo, Mushrooms
Reynaldo Arevalo has picked mushrooms for 16 years. He says the union has not changed his life as much as it has helped improve it. “Before the union, we never received raises, had vacation time or any paid holidays to spend time with our families. If my foreman asked me to do something, even if I thought it was wrong, I had to do it. With a contract, I can voice my opinion without the fear of losing my job.”
- Sergio Andrade, Strawberries
Sergio Andrade is 26. He says he is thankful his company has a union contract. “The union has helped us tremendously,” he said. “We need union representation because many people don’t care about us, our lives just don’t affect them.”
- Rufino Vega, Strawberries
Rufino Vega has five children. Before his company signed on with the union, he said health care was too expensive to provide. “But now, I don’t have to pay anything because the union provides me and my children with one of the best insurance providers,” he said. He doesn’t want to see his children work in the fields. “An education is essential for them to have a better future.”
- Olga Velado, Vegetables
Olga Velado has spent the last 32 years of her life working for a company that refuses to promote women to better paying positions. The discrimination angers the female workers. “Women are not even taken into consideration for the higher-paying jobs,” she said. “The company believes the men are more capable. We are just as capable as the men. In some cases, we are even more capable.”
- Daniel Navarrete, Strawberries
Daniel Navarrete knows the life of a farm worker is not easy. “We work despite the conditions,” he said. “It may be raining or freezing, yet we believe we must fulfill our working responsibilities.” Working under a union contract, he said, makes things better. “We have job stability. We also have benefits, such as health care and worker’s compensation packages because of the UFW.”
- Maria Cervantes, Table Grapes
Maria Cervantes works for the only grape company that makes workers pack grapes on their knees all day. From kneeling in the soil, her knees are stained. She says she feels embarrassed to go to parties unless her knees are covered. She also says she can tell when the fields have been sprayed with pesticides. “Once I had to tell my husband I couldn’t keep working. I had to leave I felt so nauseous.”
- Aaron Miranda, Table Grapes
Aaron Miranda picks grapes with his wife Monica at the same company. He said the most difficult thing is watching his wife work in uncomfortable conditions. “She has allergies,” he said. “And a particular plant they let grow in the fields makes her very sick. I told the foreman and supervisor, but they were of no help. I had to take her to different doctors to get her allergies under control.”
- Monica Martinez, Table Grapes
Monica Martinez prefers to wear long pants to any i gathering. After working eight years on her knees packing grapes for 10 hours-a-day, her knees are stained the color of the earth’s dark soil. She’s tried scrubbing them, but the stains hold firm. Her grape company is the only one left that makes its workers pack all day on their knees. “The black spots, they just won’t come off,” she said.
- Leonar Ramos, Table Grapes
Tired of her checks being shorted regularly and pressure from her supervisors to work faster, Leonar Ramos believes the UFW should enter every ranch and increase awareness among workers of the benefits the union can bring to their lives. “All people need to know their rights in the workplace,” she said. “That includes farm workers.”
- Rocio Ontiveros , Table Grapes
Rocio Ontiveros used to cry over how one of her supervisors harassed her. When she first started learning to work in grapes, he would call her a “monkey” and tell her she did not know what she was doing. He yelled at her constantly, at one point, throwing grapes in her face. “No one fought back,” she said. “We needed our jobs. We all have families to support.”
- Esther Hernandez, Table Grapes
Esther Hernandez’ (center) day begins at 4 a.m. She must make her children’s lunches for school and pick up her house before her workday begins at 7. She then works nine-hours-a-day packing grapes in carts with the majority of her workday spent on her knees. Although she is tired, she always tries to spend quality time with her daughters, Erika (left) and Cecilia (right). “I never want to see my girls in the fields,” she said.
- Imelda Valdivia, Table Grapes
Imelda Valdivia packs grapes. Her hands are the tools that guarantee her pay check. For the last few years though, she has suffered from Carpel Tunnel in her right hand. She tried to explain her pain to her supervisors, but they said she still had to keep up with her other coworkers. “My hand was too swollen to work,” she said. “I decided to pick with one hand. Within a week, my good hand was hurt from using it so much.”
- Jorge Rodriguez, Almonds
Jorge Rodriguez knows firsthand how important it is to have California laws protecting farm workers from heat exposure. Last summer, while working in almonds, he watched many of his coworkers suffer. “There was never water for us,” he said. “We could only take breaks when we were told.” He remembers people fainting. “They would vomit; they’d pass out and then be able to go home.”
- Maria Elena Castillo, Table Grapes
Maria Elena Castillo hopes when she has children, she does not have to work in the fields. She knows how hard it is for her coworkers to balance working in the fields and family life. “By the end of the day, we are exhausted,” she said. “Mothers tell me they have no time or energy to spend with their children. They only have enough left to feed them and put them to bed.”
- Alba Castillo, Table Grapes
Alba Castillo (center) is the oldest of her siblings. She graduates high school in one year. She plans on studying to be a medical assistant. While other kids are on summer vacation, Alba helps her mom Zeferina (left) work in the fields. “The restrooms are the worst,” she said. “They don’t clean them. You just hold it all day instead of use them,” she said. “I ended up getting a bladder infection.”
- Zeferina Castillo, Table Grapes
Zeferina Castillo takes her daughter Alba (center) to work with her in the fields when she is on summer break from school. She wants her to see how hard it is and stay in school. “I tell my kids to study hard,” she said. “I didn’t come here for an education. I came here only to work. Alba and Jeymi (right) have the chance to get educated. I never want to see them in the fields.”
- Lilia Alvarez, Table Grapes
Lilia Alvarez’s youth is filled with memories of how hard she worked in the fields, often pushing wheelbarrows that were too heavy for her. She hurt herself once and reported it to her foreman. She was ignored. “The foremen don’t care,” she said. “People suffer working in the fields.”
- Rafael Alvarez, Roses
When his wife was sick and needed surgery, Rafael Alvarez was calm when the doctor told him the procedure would cost more than $50,000. He knew he and his wife were covered by the UFW’s Robert F. Kennedy medical insurance plan. “I have faith in the UFW,” he said, “I have seen in my own life how much the union works to help farm workers.”
- Nicanor Rojas, Tree Fruit
Nicanor Rojas remembers the day he quit his job picking cherries after the foreman yelled and threw fruit at him. After working all day, the foreman noticed Nicanor had left one cherry on the tree. After the foreman’s angry reaction over it, Nicanor decided to quit. “Supervisors always yell at us to show off who is stricter,” he said.
- Sabino Reboyedo, Table Grapes
Sabino Reboyedo and his wife Anita believe all companies should have union contracts. After injuring himself while on the job and knowing he was mistreated by the company, Sabino turned to the UFW for help. “Their support has helped me keep moving forward with my life,” he said.
- Hector Carbajal, Table Grapes
Hector Carbajal does not like to complain about his job, after all, it is his livelihood. The one thing he does not like is when he is forced to buy his own work equipment. “They make us buy our own gloves, glasses and scissors,” he said. “That can cost up to $20. If we refuse to buy it though, they will fire us.”
- Adan Ramirez, Retired Mushroom Worker
Adan Ramirez carries much wisdom in his years. He has seen many changes for farm workers over the years. He says the older he gets the less likely he is to change his beliefs. The one belief he always holds firm – “The farm worker is the most mistreated of all, yet it is the farm worker who feeds the world,” he said. “No one else wants to do this work. Everyone needs us – the entire world needs farm workers.”
- Sebastian Gonzalez, Table Grapes
Just because Sebastian Gonzalez is yelled at daily by his foreman, doesn’t mean he’ll ever get used to it. “We’ll work nine hours straight and he’ll still yell at us that we’re useless,” he said. Sebastian believes if his company had a union, things would be better. “People must stand up for their rights and unionize,” he said, “but everyone is afraid to get fired if they do.”
- Julieta Reyes, Mushrooms
Julieta Reyes says she lives a good life. Much of it, she says, she owes to the UFW. Working under a union contract, Julieta is able to make a decent living wage – almost $32,000 a year. “It’s about more than just the money,” she said. “It’s about being seen as a human being. For decades, people have fought for the union. I thank God I am benefiting from their sacrifices.”
- Estella Gutierrez, Strawberries
With nearly 30 years of experience working in the fields, Estella Gutierrez knows firsthand the differences between working with or without a union contract. “The difference between the two is huge,” she said. “First of all, we are treated like human beings and not animals. We are also respected by our supervisors. With a union, workers are given a voice and the chance to positively change their lives.”
- Hilario Torres, Orchard
Hilario Torres believes in the vision of Cesar Chavez. Throughout his farm-working years, Hilario devoted a significant portion of his time toward organizing farm workers. “I believe it is necessary to help workers,” he said. “Looking back, I know I made many sacrifices for the union, but I believe that in life, we all need to give of ourselves … just like Cesar did.”
- Armando Sanchez, Orchard
Armando Sanchez has worked 40 years in agriculture. He has been cheated many times by foreman over the years. “They tell you that they’ll pay you by the number of plants you pick, and then you work your hardest and in the end, they decide to pay you hourly – so you get just eight hours of pay after working so hard.”
- Domingo Ignacio, Table Grapes
Domingo Ignacio is forced to work up to seven hours straight without breaks. Making less than $8 an hour is difficult, he says. The hardest part for him, however, is not having any type of medical plan. The last time he was sick, his supervisor accused him of being drunk when he struggled to finish his workday. “The company doesn’t help us pay for doctor visits,” he said. “On my wages, it’s hard enough to survive as it is.”
- Margarita Gonzalez, Table Grapes
Margarita Gonzalez dreads the summer months when she has to work up to nine hours outside in the hot sun. Despite California laws designed to protect farm workers from heat exposure, Margarita’s experiences reveal the laws are not always enforced. “We sweat a lot and feel like fainting. We want to sit in the shade, but if you sit down, you will get fired.”
- Juan Leon, Table Grapes
Being forced to work on his knees is something Juan Leon says he will never do again. “After working like that for hours, our knees hurt and we had to get up to stretch our legs,” he said. “I remember how angry my supervisor was because we stopped working. I will never again work for that company.”
- Jose Lopez, Table Grapes
Jose Lopez believes that being a farm worker is a very skilled job. In fact, he says most people could not handle the hard work involved. “We work in fields with dangerous pesticides. We work long hours. We work in the heat. The truth is, no one wants this work, but we are the ones working in the fields.”
- Ana Maria Carranza, Table Grapes
On July 21, 2007 we started working at 6 am, we were de-leafing the table grape vineyards by removing leaves and exposing the table grape bunches so that they would get more sun and grows bigger. About twenty (20) minutes before 9am I heard some of my co-workers yelling, “Call an ambulance!” but I continued working since I was not sure what was going on. A few minutes later, the foreman honked his car horn and he was yelling “escuela” which meant that we were going to get additional instruction and training. My co-workers and I came out of the vine rows and our Foreman Bernardo and his assistant Agustin (last name unknown) started telling us that some people were sick and five (5) workers were being taken to the hospital and he wanted know if anyone else felt sick to let him know. The foreman told us to go home and take showers before eating anything. After I got home I ate lunch and drank a cup of milk. I started to feel like vomiting and I started to get a terrible headache. At around 1pm, the foreman called and told me that we needed to go to the hospital to get checked out and that we should notify the rest of our co-workers to do the same. By 2:43 I still felt nauseous and I felt as I my head started to feel inflamed and very heavy. My stomach is very hot.
- Gloria Sanchez, table grapes
We were de-leafing the table grape vineyards when something weird started to smell like gasoline. I got out of the row and I saw a sprayer passing by and drops of pesticide were falling on me. I started throwing up and felt like I would faint.
- Angelica Hernandez, Table Grapes
We started working at 6:00 a.m. we were de-leafing table grape vines. Later on we started to smell something weird and strong. Gloria and I were the most effected, because we were on the back of the area. Our co-workers help us to get out of the row; but when we got out the odor was very strong. Unfortunately I felt and saw the pesticides breeze. All of us started to yell out and wanted to throw up. I started felling sick, headaches and vomiting. Later on I didn’t know what happen, I just remember that I felt too much pressure in my chest. I couldn’t breath.
- Ramona Nava, Table Grapes
I was working in the de-leafing when I heard a machine noise, I got out of the row and I notice that were spraying in front of our work area. There was a strong odor of pesticide and I started felling sick. Also I had a strong headache. I stop working to look for the foreman, but I couldn’t find him. The smell of the exposure of pesticide was very strong. At 8:50 the foreman called us, my co-worker told me “let’s go”. My co-workers started to get out of the rows, but we notice that we were missing several women’s. The foreman couldn’t find them. He didn’t know that they have been taken to the hospital. Accordingly he sent us to home and told us that we have to take off our clothes right away. In addition he told us that if we were felling very sick to call him. About 10 farm workers were affected because we were very close of the almond orchards which were exposure of pesticide…After all I got home, took off my clothes and drank milk. I started to felt better; but I couldn’t control my headache. I called to my sister in-law and she told me that she had the same symptoms as me.
- Jose Silvestre, Citrus
On July 10th, 2007 my co-workers and I started working at 5:00a.m., we could barely see our surroundings in our work area. It was too dark. All of us started to grab our equipment to start picking oranges. We started to smell pesticides, but we started working anyways. Drops of whatever pesticide had been applied to the orange trees the day before were falling on us. We told the forelady that the area on we were working was fumigated. She talked to the supervisors and asked them about if they knew that the area was fumigated. The supervisors didn’t know. Later on one of the supervisors of Villa Park Orchards whose name is Hector commanded us to work on other area (block) because the area on we were working was fumigated. The forelady told us that we have to keep working and move to other area because we need to finish our job. No one wanted to go because we felt sick. We were soaked from the pesticides that fell on us. We had headaches and want to throw up. I think that the Contractor Atanacio Rodriguez and the company didn’t care about us. They did not even offer to send us to the doctor.
- Concepcion Silvestre, Citrus
On July 10th, 2007 my co-workers and I started working at 5:00a.m., we started to smell pesticides. Drops of whatever pesticide had been applied to the orange trees the day before were falling on us. We started to have headaches and our fingers started to become numb. We told the forelady what was happening and told us that we were hanged over. The supervisor Hector arrived and told us to get out of the area because was fumigated. The forelady told us that we were going to go to other area to finish our job. All of us refused to work, we were felt sick. The supervisor told the forelady that she had lazy workers. Also that we were exaggerated. The company doesn’t care what happened to us, they only want us to pick up their fruit.
- Zulma Rosa Avila, Delano, CA, Table Grapes
I worked in the crew of Manuel Brisefio with Farm Labor Contractor Russell Contracting in the fields of VBZ in the 2006 season, harvesting grapes. I was making $7.00 an hour.
I have been working for Russell Contracting for two years. Working conditions under Russell contracting have been awful. The bathrooms were always dirty without toilet paper. The portable toilets door did not have a proper lock; instead a cord was put in its place, the cord we had to constantly pull with one hand otherwise the door would fling open and with the other hand we had to cover the gaping hole where the lock would have been. The hole was large enough that we had to constantly cover otherwise our coworkers would be able to see inside. No hand washing soap or water was provided.
The provided drinking water had an awful taste.
The foreman always insisted to every worker that they should produce the same number of boxes for the harvest. We were always asked to arrive half an hour before our scheduled time to advance our work by half an hour. Our given daily goals were so massive we had no choice but to work during our breaks, for if we didn’t we would fall behind and would be terminated from work as a consequence.
- Jose Luis Jimenez, Porterville, CA, Table Grapes
I worked in the crew of Irma “Choco” Alarcon with Farm Labor Contractor Russell who worked the fields of VBZ in the 2006 season, harvesting grapes. I was making minimum wage of $6.75 an hour.
My family and I have worked many years with farm labor contractors and this one was especially terrible. The bathrooms were filthy; we could not even eat in comfort from the stench that came from them. They always put them far away so that we did not have to smell them but then that caused us to have to walk a long while to use the bathrooms. They did not provide enough bathrooms to the crew since there were only four (4) bathrooms and we had 65 workers in our crew.
When we started working with this crew, the forelady told me and my family who also works alongside me that we had to wash our trays that we used to carry the grapes on our own time. After a long day’s work, we still had more work to do at home. Even though it is California law and we are only making minimum wage we still had to buy our own scissors that we used to pick the grape if we wanted to work. We also had to come in early before work and prepare our work area by placing labels on the boxes, getting a wheel barrow and table for us to pack in. Something needs to be done. I noticed that most of the company crews did not have to do this but the farm labor contractor crews did.
- Juan Jaimes, Delano, CA, Table Grapes
I worked in the crew of foreman Manuel of farm labor contractor Russell Contracting in the fields of VBZ during grape harvesting season in 2006. I was paid minimum wage $6.75 an hour and 28 cents as a bonus for every box of grapes picked.
I’ve been working for Russell Contracting for two years. My experience in working with Russell Contracting has been unpleasant. Our foreman gave us instructions to begin work before the time scheduled. If we refused, the foreman would get upset.
Furthermore, we were never given gear for work; grape picking sheers as an example. The foreman said it was our responsibility to purchase the tools without receiving reimbursements.
We were given the task of washing our trays at home, trays which are used to load and carry the picked grapes; however some workers found it necessary to wash them during their given break, for if the trays weren’t washed the foreman would be upset.
The bathrooms were always kept unclean and without toilet paper. No hand washing soap or water was provided as well. There were times I had to work near a portable toilet and the odor was unbearable, however, I had to withstand the scent, for if anything was mentioned to the foreman he would say, “If you don’t like it, leave.”
The provided drinking water had a taste of chlorine. My co-workers and I only drank the provided water when the water we brought from home had run out.
I still continue to work every grape season with Russell Contracting under the same conditions because under every Contractor; working conditions are the same.
- Luis Jimenez, Porterville, CA, Table Grapes
I worked in the crew of Irma “Choco” Alarcon with Farm Labor Contractor Russell who worked the fields of VBZ in the 2006 season, harvesting grapes. I was making minimum wage of $6.75 an hour.
On January 20,2006 the crew of Inna “Choco” Alarcon got together during our noon lunch break and about 50 of us walked over to the crew of Foreman Juan Servin working next to us on the next vineyard block to motivate them and urge them to organize and join us in our struggle to form a union. We invited them to join us outside of the rows for a meeting and many of them came out to participate. There was no threats made and no one was forced to join us at the meeting. Before the end of our noon lunch break we walked back to our work area.
Soon after we had started working, our forelady Irma “Choco” Alarcon called us out of the vineyard rows for a meeting. Choco told us that we should not have done what we had done because we created problems and the company was mad. While we were in the meeting, a supervisor by the name of Ramon (last name unknown) stopped by on a white company truck and I heard him ask Choco if she had told us about the problems we had created. He also addressed the crew and informed us that we should not go over to other crews because there would be problems with the company and that we were not allowed to leave our work area. He also informed us that soon after the Farm Labor Contractor Jesusa “Susy” Cantorna was going to come by and he did not know what was going to happen to our crew because of what we had done. I feel this is retaliation from the company for us exercising our right to talk to other co-workers. The company’s general supervisor Clemente (last name unknown) also drove by in a white company truck and told us that we should not be creating problems with the other crews.
I have worked many years with farm labor contractors and this one was especially terrible. The bathrooms were filthy; we could not even eat in comfort from the stench that came fkom them. They always put them far away so that we did not have to smell them but then that caused us to have to walk a long while to use the bathrooms. They did not provide enough bathrooms to the crew since there were only four (4) bathrooms and we had 65 workers in our crew which only made the problem worse.
The forelady told us that we had to wash our trays that we used to carry the grapes on our own time when we got home and we had to buy our own scissors that we used to pick the grapes with. We also had to come in early before work and prepare our work area by placing labels on the boxes, getting a wheel barrow and table for us to pack in.
- Manuel Nunez, Alpaugh, CA, Table Grapes
I worked in the crew of Nemecio Panchillo with Farm Labor Contractor Chester Longboy also known as “Macario Santacruz” who worked the fields of VBZ in the 2006 season, harvesting grapes. I was making minimum wage of $6.75 an hour
This was my first year with this farn labor contractor but I have over 10 years working in the fields with farm labor contractors and this farm labor contractor inexplicably would come and belittle us and yell at me and my co-workers. The bathrooms were always dirty and sometimes as much as a week would go by without them being cleaned. Some of the women in the crew would use the men’s bathroom instead since theirs was unbearable. When the foreman would go and move the bathrooms to another site, the stench was so unbearable that I would go deep into the rows just to get away from the smell. The crew had 54-60 workers in the crew and we only had the use of one bathroom each for the men and women.
The foreman was constantly telling us that we had hurry up and we worked as hard as we could but sometimes, we could not keep up the pace. The foreman had family working in the crew and he always would go and help them so that they were always ahead of us. He would tell us that that the other crews were doing much more work than us and try play us against each other. When we were doing the deleafing a company supervisor would be at one end of the row and the foreman would be on the other end. If they saw any minor error, the supervisor would make us run back and clean it up and which caused us to get further behind the rest of the crew.
When we started working with this crew during the harvest, the foreman told me and my wife who also works alongside me that we had to wash our trays that we used to carry the grapes on our own time. He would tell us, “If your tray is not clean, you will be fired.” I sometimes would have to take my own tray to work because the one they provided was so old and broken that it was useless. I had to bring scissors and all other materials needed to work. We also had to come in early before work and prepare our work area by placing labels on the boxes, getting a wheel barrow and table for us to pack in. Since the quotas for the day was so high, some of the workers would try to get ahead and meet the day’s quota by staring early and working through their breaks and lunch hour. I overheard a supervisor tell the foreman that he did not want to see anyone putting labels on the boxes during work time.
The foreman would also place 12 to 14 extra names on the payroll to be able to collect extra checks even though they were not working and make extra money on the side.
- Guadalupe Florez, San Joaquin Valley, CA, Citrus
I am 29 years old and a single mother to three children, a 9 year old girl, 7 year old boy and a 2 year old baby. My husband passed away 2 years ago. My husband’s passing put a strain on our finances but between me and my mother in law which lives with us we have been able to get by.
I’m getting worried now. Both my mother in law and I work in the citrus industry. She was laid off from the fields in December and hasn’t worked since. I expect to be laid off within days. I’ve started to look for work but there aren’t any jobs, all we know is field work and there aren’t any oranges to pick, sort or pack. I can get $118 every two weeks from unemployment benefits but it is not nearly enough to cover my $742 mortgage and the $250 in monthly gas and electric bills. I’m considering moving out to Las Vegas, NV to find work. My sister in law lives there and says I may find a job at a hotel or casino, but even that is uncertain. I’ll have to leave my children behind, I don’t want to take them from the only home they know. If I’m forced to move to Las Vegas I’ll be able to see my children every other month, with the high gasoline prices I can’t visit them more often. I haven’t told my children that I may have to go to Las Vegas because of the citrus freeze, I know that they will cry non-stop and I don’t think I could take that. I’ll have to make a decision next week.
- Daniel Navarrete, Oxnard, CA, Strawberries
I have worked at Coastal Berry Farms as a strawberry picker for six years. I had never seen the things that are happening right now. All the fruits and vegetables are freezing and dying and affecting all of us, the workers. The way it’s affecting me is because there is no production and is holding us from surviving. The economy is very hard right now because everything is very expensive and if we do not have work we are not having any earning. In order for us to support us and our families we work in these fields. Due to the freeze we are not working our regular hours. For about a month or two I do not know if am going to work some days or no day at all.
In order for me to survive here in the United States I need to pay rent, utilities and food. In order to support my family and pay all the incoming payments I have to work and have some income. If this freeze continues we are not going to have enough work and money to pay all of the bills and food.
- Graciela Ramirez, San Joaquin Valley, CA, Citrus
I am 35 years old, my husband and I have six children ranging in age from three to 19 years old. Two of my children live Mexico, all but one are U.S. citizens. It is sad that our family is not together but we try to visit our children and send them money often. Now that the freeze has hit we have considered moving to Mexico, but how do we go back and start all over when we have built our lives here.
I have worked in the fields since 1989. I have a regular work cycle, I work the citrus until the season ends then move to the grapes. When the grape season ends I start the citrus again. This is how we are able to get by. We work most of the week and at the end of the workweek when we get our paychecks we pay all our bills and whatever little is left over we spend on our family. We like to treat our kids with a trip to McDonalds or by throwing a family barbecue. Lately we have been cutting back on expenses and that means no treats for the kids. It’s hard to turn them down when they ask us for things that we can’t afford. A big concern is that my six year old needs dental work. Medi-Cal does not cover dental and we don’t know how we are going to pay for it.
My husband and I do not qualify for unemployment benefits because we are undocumented. Since my children are U.S. citizens, we can apply for food stamps at the local welfare office, these past days the local welfare office has been getting so many people that they have started closing their doors as early as noon. We had to cut back on groceries, before we could afford to have meat three or four times a week, now we just have rice, beans and tortillas for most of the week. The temperatures drop to the mid 20s at night but we can’t afford to turn on the heater because it is too expensive. We turn the heater on a few hours in the evening while we are having dinner, but when the children go to bed, we try to bundle them with blankets and still our gas bill comes to $84 a month which is still a lot of money for us to pay. Our mortgage payment alone is $989 a month and I don’t know how we are going to be able to get by.
- Mirna Vazquez, San Joaquin Valley, CA, Citrus
My husband and I have three children ranging in ages from six to sixteen years old. I have worked in the citrus industry since 1991. My husband can’t work because he sustained an injury at work. We spent the holidays visiting family in Arizona, when we came back to California the citrus freeze was all over the news. We were caught off guard, we were not expecting it nor were we prepared. I’ve been able to work on and off but the packinghouse is expected to shut down operations in less than a week.
During the last citrus freeze my family and I received a lot of help from the UFW. They assisted us in getting help to make four months of our mortgage payments. We also got help with our utility bills. During the months of the freeze the UFW helped me find employment and my family received periodic food donations. I am confident that the UFW will help us get through this freeze once again.
- Filemon Rendon, Los Encinos TX
My wife and I, and our three children, live in a ‘colonia’ called Los Encinos near Alamo, Texas.
I am employed as a farm worker, and have worked in the fields all my life. Field work is very difficult and often dangerous, but it is also very important since it provides food for the entire world.
I have been earning the minimum wage of $5.15 since 1997. Here in Texas, employers think that $5.15 is the Maximum hourly wage that people should earn.
Working for the minimum wage, I do not earn enough to provide what my children need for school. With the increases in our utility bills and the price of gasoline, we cannot make ends meet. We desperately need to have an increase in the minimum wage.
With wages so low, we cannot make a decent living and are forced to depend on assistance from the government to survive. I want to be able to provide for my family with my own work.
- Margarita Galarza, Napa, CA, Wine Grapes
I worked for the company Charles Krug-Mondavi for 13 years.
I have four children, one that is 18 years, 14, 8, and 5 years and as of July 7, I was discharged from the company Charles Krug-Mondavi. I have had trouble in finding a stable and secure job given that I am currently working just a few hours or part-time without any type of benefits, like the ones I previously had for me and my family from the company that fired me.
Now that the holidays are coming, I feel worried for my children given that I am not sure as to whether I will be able to make them the dinner that I prepare for them every year or whether I will be able to give them any of the presents that are expected every year. With the little that I am able to work, I can barely afford to take home any food to them.
One of my major worries is that my children are currently without medical insurance and I cannot afford to provide them with medical insurance. First, because I do not have a medical plan at my work and second, because I can not afford to pay medical plan package given that it is too expensive.
What I most desire is to return to my former job so that I can continue the benefits that I had.
I am going to continue fighting until justice is served and so that these types of companies do not continue to exploit workers as if they were merely tools and so that they do not do away with us workers whenever they feel the need to do so. For these reasons I want to continue helping out so that the farm worker can be treated with dignity like a human being.
- Manuel Ruiz, Napa, CA, Wine Grapes
I worked for the company of Charles Krug Mondavi for 7 years.
Since the day I was discharged on July 7, 2006 of the company Charles Krug Mondavi I’ve been looking for a jog everywhere, but I’ve yet to find a stable one, in occasions I work once or twice a week as a day labourer, and for all of this, I feel very sad and depressed and especially now that the holidays are coming. All of this has impacted my family and I in a negative way.
Working as a day labourer once or twice is the only way that I could bring some food home to my kids, everyday that passes by, I’m not sure if it’ll be the same as the previous day, and all of this for not having stable job.
Regarding the holidays, I feel pity and sad because this Christmas will be different to other years, because my kids wont receive the presents that they did in previous years.
I will continue to fight to better our situation, and return back to normality, everyday I maintain a good faith and wish that the law could give a just failure for me and for my co-workers.
- Guillermo Garcia, Delano, CA, Table Grapes
I am employed with Pandol & Sons for a labor contractor called J & B Pimental. I have been employed with them for 1 ½ years. My foreman’s name is Oscar and we work with the grapes doing field work.
I have been making $7.25 per hour working 38 hours per week sometimes less due to the type of work that we are doing right now.
I have a family of 4 this includes my wife that lives in Mexico. I have 3 teenagers, and my wife Margarita who I support in Mexico. I have not seen my family for four (4) years.
At the moment, I live with 5 of my relatives, my oldest son Guillermo, my daughter Margarita, her husband Miguel and my grandson Miguel Angel who is 3 years old. We pay $200.00 per adult for rent including utilities which is $800.00 per month. I have a vehicle, and sometimes I take one or two workers to work, and we all pitch in for gas. Because of the gas being so high we should get a little more for our pay, it’s just to much right now the way things are.
The last time I got a raise was about a month ago where they gave us $.25 cents raise. We get no benefits. And, the reason we got a raise was because the United Farm Workers were in the fields speaking to the workers.
I feel very pressured because I do not have enough money to see my family, and it makes me very sad that I can’t do more for them.
- Benito Zeferino, Delano, CA, Table Grapes
I work at Vignolo Farms, here in Delano, picking grapes. I have been working there two (2) years now, about eight months out of the year. I get paid at $7.35 an hour, with bonus at .35 cents per box.
I have been married for about 12 years now, and I have 6 children, ranging from 10 years to 14 months old. My wife works every now and then. With the income that we get per month, we find it hard making ends meet. The rent is high and so is the gas. We are thankful that our children are healthy and well. At times, when our children do get sick, we have to pay with money that we don’t have. This puts a strain on our ability to pay our basic necessities, but what are we to do?
Every now and then, I will talk with my family and friends about how low the wages are for the hard work that we do. At times, we help each other out by borrowing money when needed. This is sometimes embarrassing, because I know that my family or friend is making a sacrifice for my family. Life should not be lived like this.
It would be great for the company to pay us enough to be able to pay our bills, which are modest in comparison to what I see in the cities. I feel that for the hard work that we do, that we should be able to make ends meet, to pay all our bills and also be able to see our children in better circumstances.
- Sabas Arrendondo Hernandez, Delano, CA, Table Grapes
I work at Lucich Farms, which is located in Delano, Ca. I have been working there almost five (5) years now. I get paid at $7.35 an hour for the work that I do as a tractor driver, mechanic, general maintenance, in short, whatever needs to be done.
Every year, we have been asking the company for a raise, and every year the company says that they will be giving us one soon. But it never happens. This last time, it was in June of this year, he promised us again that a raise would be forth coming, but it has yet to happen. The last raise that we got was about 1 ½ years ago, when our hourly rate went from $7.00 to $7.35. Still, this is not enough money for the type of work that we do.
I have been married for 21 years and I have 5 children, ranging from 19 years to 11 years old. The money that I make I send at least half to Queretaro, Mexico, where my family is located. I have been here for almost 11 years and ever since then, my dream was to bring my family here to the United States, to be able to pursue a better livelihood. But because of the harsh working conditions, those dreams have slowly dissipated and I only think now of returning to my family sometime soon.
Right now, I am here to demand more respect for my fellow workers and for myself. There are times when we are spraying pesticides without the proper equipment. I have seen many of my co-workers get hurt at this farm and the supervisors do nothing but fire them and ignore their rights. There are many more injustices that have happened at the Lucich Farms, but I will only get more upset. I am tired of getting upset. I am here to do something about bringing change for ourselves.
We do not have vacations, holidays, no medical plan. Whenever we get hurt, we have to fend for ourselves in paying the bills. Every time we ask the company for a raise, they cry tears and find many ways to tell us that they can’t. But we know that they can.
- Olga Velarde, Soledad CA, Vegetables
I am married and mother of 3 sons. I have been working for the last 30 years at D’Arrigo Bros. Life has not been easy due to the wages I receive from there, I can barely pay for the most essential needs such as the rent and food. My children have gotten their education thru loans and up to date they are still paying for them, and as if that’s not enough.
I started working at 17 years old, back then the cost of living was much lower, for example the rent, food, gas, clothing, etc were much cheaper than today. Since then the cost of living has been going up year after year and for us women working for this company, they have not given us respect. I say this, because they have not given us the opportunity to apply to other better positions. Such positions as tractor driver, machine operator, forewomen or supervisor. We, women, have the capacity to do this type of work too. It is obvious that this company thinks that we, women, could only perform general labor. As I have been for the last 30 years with no opportunity to inspire to get a better position.
In addition, if the company would of signed a contract with the Union, we would have had a decent pension plan, wages and benefits that will be helpful when we are ready to retire.
- Fidel Arriago, Salinas CA, Vegetables
My name is Fidel Arriago, I am 62 years old I have worked for the company D’Arrigo for approximately 13 years picking broccoli. During all these years, I have never had any problems because I have always been a good worker and responsible season after season. But the company started to notice that season after season, I was getting older. The company is always trying to get rid of older workers, like me, and replacing them with young workers. With me, the first time they started pressuring me was in 2004 & 2005 thru the foreman, Sergio Treviño. He started asking more of me than the other workers. Clearly, he wanted me to quit my job because never before had he done this. They also, started making comments about my age. The first one that started was Sergio, he state to me, “no matter how, I will fire you from the company because you are too old.” I then complained with his supervisor, Conrado, and he stated to me, “if I were you, I would look for another job and leave this one. At that moment, Conrado called Pedro Santiago, General Supervisor of the broccoli. Pedro came and told me, “you just have to work harder because no one is going to bring your check home.” Insinuating that he was going to fire me.
In 2005, I spoke with John S of Human Resources who is in charge of the whole company. He told me that I needed to fix my problem with Pedro Santiago who is the general supervisor of the broccoli. Pedro then told me, “Arriaga, you need to recognize that you are too old, me too when I get to be your age, I will leave my spot to the young ones.” He made me feel ashamed of my self and I saw that no one was going to listen to me. So, then I asked the United Farm Workers Union for help and they took a declaration from me. They placed charges for age discrimination and up to this point they have not fired me. My work is all I have because the only thing I have is the trailer that I live in and if I am out of work, I don’t know what am I going to do to survive in this area that has a high cost of living.
- Fernando Yanez, Salinas, CA, Vegetables
I live in Salinas, California with my family which consist of my wife, my son and 2 grandchildren. In this county life is very expensive to live in; its very difficult to pay the rent, food and utilities.
I have approximately 14 years working with the company D’Arrigo. Fourteen years ago the cost of living was lower, for example, the rents during that time were $300 for a house with 2 bedrooms. At this time, the rent for a house with 2 bedrooms is $1500. It is very clear that the cost of living is much higher now. During those 14 years, we have not received a wage raise from the company. Which causes us, the workers, to be in a very difficult situation and we must share our homes with other families.
In my case the situation is much more difficult, because in June of this year, I got hurt at the company. The company sent me to their doctor and the doctor sent me back to work. And because I was hurt, the company lowered my wages. I have given part of my life to this company and I have always been a constant and responsible worker. And for something that was out of my control, I can no longer keep up with my co-workers. The company has made me feel ashamed by lowering my pay and letting me know that I am worth less than my co-workers. I work here and I make D’Arrigo richer. All this has happenedd because my hand was cut and I am not the only one that the company has done this to. They do this to all the workers who get hurt, they make us feel ashamed of ourselves.
- Efren Fraide, Salinas, CA, Vegetable Worker
I live here with my wife, my 4 sons and 2 daughters. My wife & I work for the company D’Arrigo Bros. for past 25 years; picking broccoli.
We have given our best years to this company and during this whole time, the company instead of raising our wages, they have cut our wages.
This is not fair, that is why we got together with our co-workers and we are fighting to get a fair contract with better wages.
The cost of living is getting higher; right now the rents are costing $1500 or more. Even with the high cost of living, this unfair company is proposing to freeze our wages for the next three years.
For all these years, the company has refused to negotiate a fair contract and bargain in good faith with us (the workers) and the UFW union who represents us.
In the year 2000, we put charges against them for negotiating in bad faith and in 2005, the Judge found them guilty; ordering them, as a remedy, to pay us loss of wages and benefits from 2000 on and up to date, and will continue until the company negotiates in good faith with the UFW.
Instead of obeying the Judge’s orders, they appealed his decision with the Board of Directors of the ALRB. In such hearing, the Board of Directors of the ALRB agreed with the Judge’s decision and found them guilty of negotiating in bad faith and ordered them to continue with the previous order of paying the workers for the losses they have suffered.
On July 27, 2006, again we got together with the company and once again they came to negotiations proposing to freeze our wages for three years more. It is very obvious, that this company does not care of its workers sufferings. It does not care what the law is ordering them, they have always stepped all over us and they are stepping all over the law too.
It is time to make this unjust company respect us; we will continue fight until justice is done and we need your help.
- Raul Medrano, Salinas, CA, Vegetables
I live with my family together with 2 other families. We live together with 2 other families because the economic situation is very difficult in this area. Where a 3 rooms house rent value is $1500 to $1800 per month, this is one of the most expensive areas to live in.
At this time, I work for D’Arrigo Bros Company. This company has operations in Monterey County, Huron, Brawley, and Arizona.
Thie company employs about 3000 workers. Just in the Monterey County there is a workforce of around 2000 workers.
I have worked for this company since 1991–that make a total of 15 years of service for this company.
In 1994, I got fully involved with the negotiating committee of this company. They were fighting with the company to have a fair contract with the United Farm Workers union–UFW.
Since that time, the company has shown no desired to develop a good relationship with the workers and the union. To the contrary, the company has made negative changes that affect most of the workers.
Starting with the example that in the 15 years that I have been working for the company, we have not received a wage increase; to the contrary, in some classifications the company has lowered the wages with the excuse that the company spent too much money in buying machinery.
For all this time, the company has been proposing in the contract negotiations, no increases for 3 years. They are also proposing to have the right to discharge or discipline workers for whatever reason. Refusing to accept the standard clause of just cause and not to mention the right to release all the workforce with labor contractor workers outside of the contract.
In 2000, by evaluating the company’s proposals and attitude, we felt that the company was not respecting us and we decided to file charges against the company negotiating in bad faith.
In 2004, we had the hearings against the company and in 2005, we got a favorable decision. In such decision, the judge determined that for all this time the company has been negotiating in bad faith. His order includes a make whole the company has to pay loss of wages and benefits to the workers. Also, he ordered the company to negotiate in good faith with the union or the make whole will continue.
The company appealed this decision to the ALRB executive board. The ALRB board in their decision, re-affirmed the judge’s decision and ordered the company again, to pay the workers loss of wages and benefits and to negotiate a contract in good faith.
On July 27, 2006, we held another negotiation meeting with the company, to our surprise, the company again came back to the negotiations proposing no wage increases for 3 years. Again not accepting the concept of the just cause to discipline and discharge; and proposing the right to replace all current workers with labor contractor, if they want.
In some of the working areas, the company is proposing the minimum wage of $6.75 per hour. How can anybody live with this salary?
The company also owed us, the workers, alot of money because the company was found guilty of the charges that were filed.–for forcing us, the workers, to use the company’s buses to go to work to the different ranches. The company was using our time the way they felt like it without paying a penny for it.
There were situations where the company would discipline workers if they did not show up at 6:00 a.m. but they would start paying us at 7:00 a.m.
In this case, the company was found guilty but the same way that the company found excuses in negotiations, they have used so many tactics to avoid paying the money they owe us. In summary they have not paid us.
It’s very clear that this company has no respect for anybody, to accomplish their goal of making millions of dollars in profit. They do not care about their workers, they do not care about the law. They will step on anybody who is in their way to make their profit. We have been dealing with this unfair company and we are going to keep fighting but we need your help.
- Celia Roque, Bakersfield, CA, Table Grapes
I have worked for Giumarra Vineyards for about seven years. On June 14, 2006 we started to work at about 6:00 am. It was a windy day. The company was spraying pesticides in the vineyards about fifty feet away from us workers.
I don’t really remember much but I do remember that I started to feel dizzy and weak. I got a cough attack. After that I passed out. My son, Ruben Celio, was calling me asking me if I was OK, but I couldn’t answer as I was too weak. I was taken by an ambulance to the hospital At the hospital they did a blood test, gave me an injection and put on a respirator mask to help me with me breathing. After a few hours I went home.
While being at home at around 8:00 pm, I begin to feel sick again so my family took me to the Kern Memorial Hospital. There all they did was take ex-rays of my chest and send me home. The following day, a representative of the company named Mario came over my home to take me to the company doctor so that I could get a check up. When I got there, the doctor took a blood sample and said that I had a vaginal infection. That it was a personal problem.
My family was disappointed that the company doctor was trying to make it seem like it was a personal problem and so was I because I knew that whatever they were spraying had an effect on my health. I know that I need help, and I’m glad that the UFW is helping me. They found a workers comp lawyer to take care of my case. The lawyer also had to send me to see a doctor, where he determined that I had something wrong with lungs and that it had something to do with the fumes of the pesticides. I am so thankful that I have the representation of the UFW.
- Aurelia Gonzales Hernandez, Bakersfield CA, Table Grapes
I have worked for Guimarra for about three years in the crew of Jose Basilio (foreman).
On June 14, 2006 we started working at 6:00 am working the company started to spry their fields with pesticides. There was eighteen workers in are crew all together. We must have been about fifty feet away but it was windy that day.
Three of my co workers including me began to very sick, I was dizzy, nauseated, and my body was weak. I imagine that it was because of the pesticides the wind was blowing the fumes our way. I then informed Seene (supervisor) for Guimarra, that I was not feeling good, he just told me to go and sit down under the vineyards in the shade they started to tell the workers to get out of the vineyards and to go home to come back tomorrow .
After a co workers was send to a Hospital by ambulances Seene (Supervisor) and Joe Guimarra came over to ask me if I was feeling better. I said yes only because they wanted to send me to company doctor, and he takes a long time to see his patients, just wanted to get seen fast and find out what was wrong with me.
When my co worker took me home I explained to my husband what had happened I asked him to take me to the Hospital so that I could get seen faster. While we were waiting the company had send Mario from their staff to take me to the company doctor he said that it was his duty to take me to go see the company doctor. I didn’t want to go because he would take a long time to see me Mario then told me that the company doctor was waiting for me that he was going to see me faster. I decided to go.
When I got there the doctor took good samples and at the end of my check up he said that it seemed that I had a vaginal infection and that I could go see my personal doctor for treatment. He didn’t give me medicine. He said that whenever the test result came back from the lab he would then give me medicine. I could go home and come back in four days. The next day I was feeling the same I then told my husband to take me to the Hospital I just couldn’t stand being so sick.
The symptoms haven’t gone away I still feel sick and I just can’t believe that the company is trying to make it seem that I had a personal problem. I m glad that the union is representing me and guiding me to make sure that I get the proper treatment for my recovery.
- Ruben Celio, Bakersfield, CA, Table Grapes
I have worked for Guimarra Vineyards for approximately 6 years.
On June 14, 2006 we started to work at about 6:00 a.m out in the area of Ducor Rd, 208 at Guimarra vineyards. Santos Ramon Monsor (2nd in charge) told our crew of (18) workers that the company (Guimarra) was spraying the fields, for us not to pass a white post. The distance was about fifty feet from our work place and was windy that day.
Around 1pm one of the workers named Maria De La Luz; started to feel sick Santos Ramon (2 nd) went to see if she was ok. When around 2:00 My mother Celia Roque started to cough when I heard her and I asked if she was feeling bad she didn`t respond .I immediately went to see if she was ok, but she was feeling weak and wanted to pass out, Three workers and I took my mother out of the vineyards to get help. At that moment I asked Seene (Supervisor) to call an ambulance and he did .When the ambulance arrived they took my mother, Celia Roque to Porterville Hospital emergency. I accompanied her. My mother, was not seen right away I remember my mother saying that she was having problems breathing and was dizzy and had a headache. The nurse finally gave my mother an injection and a respirator mask to help her with her breathing. She was send home around 6:00 pm that same day, but later that day abound 8:00 pm she started to feel the same symptoms We took her to Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield where she was not treated an till 1:30 am in the morning after drawing her blood and took some x-rays of her chest they sent her back home at 6:30 am.
At 11:00 am Mario a supervisor for Guimarra went to our home to take my mother to the company’s doctor. After the company doctor examined my mother he said that it seemed to be a vaginal infection. He didn’t give her any medicine so I asked if he could give her something for the pain and he gave her Motrin .He said that after he received the lab work he would know if she had a vaginal infection and he sent her home. The company doctor gave my mother another appointment so that he can tell her what the lab test result were. When my mother went to her next appointment he told her that she was ok, that the lab tests were good that she could go home and back to work that if she was feeling sick that she could go see another doctor but that she would be responsible for the bills.
My mother has not been feeling good ever since the incident he does not eat right. She still feels very weak can’t walk much. I hope that by being represented by the U.F.W she will get fare treatment since the company is trying to make it seem that it was a personal matter that is causing her to feel this way.
- Jorge De Haro Segura, Napa, CA, Wine Grapes
I began to work with the Company Charles Krug Mondavi on September 5, 1973. I now have 33 years serving this Company as a Equipment Operator and doing general labor.
When I began working at this Company, the treatment I received was harsh, discriminatory, and I received a lot of pressure from the Supervisors. The Supervisors demanded a lot of work and in return they gave us bad treatment.
These injustices made us workers want to organize ourselves and want representation from Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers in 1975.
After the election in 1975, the Company fought hard against us, negating itself to negotiate a contract with the United Farm Workers. For these reasons, we did not win our first contract until 1981, six years after winning the election. During this time, the Company discharged many workers as a form of retaliation to the results of our election in 1975.
In 1991, the third contract that we had signed with Charles Krug Mondavi expired and the Company refused to re-negotiate the next contract. We fought for 8 years without a contract. During this period, the Company focused on discharging many of the workers with higher seniority. I noticed that the Supervisors of the Company enjoyed the fact that these types of workers were being discharged and that they used this as a way to intimidate us older workers. This is similar to what is occurring right now in the Company.
The Company via its Supervisors is demanding large amounts of work from us workers, where on occasions this pressure prevents ourselves from going to drink water, going to the restroom and this because in order to comply with the standards of production that the Company is asking of us. I think that the Company is doing this with the intention that we will quit our jobs. This way the Company can replace us with a younger work force. This is where I feel insulted and discriminated by the Company against us workers who have given a great number of years of service and best years of our life to this Company.
It is very clear that the Company wants workers that will last longer than us.
I am a member of the Negotiating Committee and I have participated in the only three meetings to which the Company has called us to meet to re-negotiate the contract that expired on December 31, 2005. What I have seen in these meetings is that the Company is solely looking after their personal interests and is not seeing the necessities nor the interests of the workers. One of the issues that the Company is proposing in the Negotiations is that the workers receive periodic physical capacity exams every three months.
I feel frustrated and angry at the Company, for their wanting to take severe decisions including termination if we do not pass such physical capacity exams. This after having turned over 33 years of my life and service to the Company and now the Company wants to compensate me by kicking me out into the street.
On November 7, 2005 we had our last negotiation meeting and the Company has not contacted us to resume negotiations nor have they responded to our last proposal that was submitted to them on this day. It is very clear that the Company wants to do the same that was done to us in 1991 but now even more shameless because the Company wants to throw me and my co-workers out onto the street. In every one of these meetings, I have seen the bad faith to which the management at Charles Krug Mondavi has acted with.
I as a worker will continue to fight so that the Company does not discriminate against us because of our age and I will continue to aid my co-workers so that together we can protect the interests of ourselves and that of our families.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and under the laws of the state of California that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 30, 2006 in the City of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA.
- Aurelio Solorio, Napa, CA, Wine Grapes
In 1977 I began working as general labor worker before having been given the opportunity to be classified as an Equipment Operator in 2003. Currently I have been working for 29 years with the Company Charles Krug Mondavi.
During my time working with the Company, I have seen that the Company has always wanted to fight against the organization of the workers. The largest period of time in which the Company attempted to get rid of our Union was during the 1990’s when we went 8 years without a contract.
It wasn’t until Marc Mondavi, one of the proprietors and sons of the owner Peter Mondavi, Sr. during a vigil in front of the winery organized by myself and my co-workers to pressure the Company to sign a just contract, shoved one of my co-workers towards the highway, tore up some of our flags and banners that forced the Company to feel obligated to have to sign a contract with our United Farm Workers in order to wipe its hands clean of these actions of bad faith against us workers.
Presently, the Company continues with this same mentality of attempting to hurt the workers. I feel the Company has always been searching for ways on how to take out our Union, which took us 6 years from the date of our election in 1975, for us reach our first contract with the Company in 1981.
Now, I think the Company is attempting to get rid of us because of our age. I think the Company has seen the leadership that us older workers carry. Those of us who have given the most and best number of years of service to the Company have been able to guide and instruct our co-workers on how to protect and advocate their labor rights. In other words, the Company has seen that they have not been able to break our unity, now they want to breaks us using our age.
Besides the fact that I think that the Company thinks that because of my age that I can no longer work and produce as a younger worker, the Company simply wants to do away with our Union that has represented us and fought for our benefits. The Company wants to implement a younger work force, that will carry lower wages, no benefits, and will hold a lesser amount of knowledge of their labor rights to which they will in effect be making themselves vulnerable to the requests and demands of the Company.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and under the laws of the State of California that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 30, 2006 in the City of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA.
- Lorena Martinez, Napa, CA, Wine Grapes
I have worked for four (4) years at Charles Krug Mondavi. In the month of July of 2005, I reported to Mr. Jose Martinez, Supervisor of Charles Krug Mondavi, that I was pregnant. I reported this to him with the intention so that I would not be put to work with shovel work because it is a heavy duty job for us women to do and at the same time I wanted to take care of my state of pregnancy and therefore asked to be given light duty work to carry out. However, Supervisor Jose Martinez did not issue me a response and so I continued to work as normal.
Later, Supervisor Jose Martinez began to ask me every week, two to three days a week, for notes from my doctor regarding my pregnancy.
Approximately, two weeks later, I went to my family’s doctor to request a note for work. The Doctor issued the note directly to the Office of Human Resources of the Company Charles Krug Mondavi. This same day, August 26, 2005, Supervisor Jose Martinez, notified me that I not report to work the following day despite the note still authorizing me to conduct light duty work but the Company did not respect this note. Supervisor Jose Martinez told me “not to worry, your job is secure, after you give birth, just bring me a note from your doctor and you will have job upon return.”
After my son was born on March 8, 2006, my doctor authorized my return to work on April 24, 2006. I turned this note into my Foreman Floriano Tavares as I had been instructed to do so via telephone by Supervisor Jose Martinez. That same evening I called Supervisor Jose Martinez to reconfirm that I had already turned in my doctor’s note to my Foreman Floriano Tavares. Supervisor Jose Martinez asked that I call him next day. The next day, I did call Supervisor Jose Martinez, and I was told by him that he had not yet received instructions from the Company authorizing my return to work and he said he would call me later.
I waited for a couple of days for the phone call from Supervisor Jose Martinez but he never called me. I then contacted the United Farm Workers, who are our Union Representatives, and spoke with Mr. Roberto Garcia. I reported to Mr. Roberto Garcia that I was ready to return to work and that I had already turned in my doctor’s note that authorized my return to work. Mr. Roberto Garcia responded that he had just received the seniority list of the farm workers from Charles Krug Mondavi, but that my name no longer appeared on the list. I am aware that when one’s name does not appear on the seniority list, that that means that one is practically discharged. Mr. Roberto Garcia said he would investigate this issue more deeply. Three days later, Mr. Roberto Garcia came to visit me personally and demonstrated to me a memo from the Company that said that I had already gone 32 weeks past my approved maternity leave of absence and that for that reason, I had lost my job.
Upon hearing this, I felt very bad and I felt discriminated because after having complied with the procedure of turning in doctor’s notes I could not believe the injustice that the Company was committing against me.
In fact I was ready before the 32 weeks to which Company claims that I have passed. I felt offended and frustrated and more because I want to continue working. I have kids and I need to provide for food, dress, and all of the necessities of the family.
I think the Company is attempting to get rid of everyone of us workers and not because I am a women means that I am going to let the Company discriminate me in this manner.
At this time, our Union is trying to re-negotiate a contract with the Company and I am aware that the Company is fighting back and rejecting the proposals that we are presenting. I feel that the Company is searching for opportunities to get rid of us workers.
I am also aware that each year Charles Krug Mondavi gets richer with the work that we produce and I feel that us, the workers, are not of importance to them and they solely want to exploit us for our labor.
Our newborns that come to this world should not be at fault that our management from Charles Krug Mondavi want to create a disorder affecting our sons and daughters, families, and ourselves as workers.
I will continue standing up for my rights so that they will be respected together with those of my co-workers because I am not the only one who has gone through this situation, because there are others who have been discharged for the same reasons.
I declare under the penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 26, 2006 in the city of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA
- Carmen Medina, Napa, CA, Wine Grapes
In 2001, I began working as a general labor worker, where I now have worked for 5 years at the Company Charles Krug Mondavi. In the month of June 2005, I was given my maternity leave of absence to give birth to my son who unfortunately was born prematurely on December 19, 2005 and because of the delicacy of the situation required that I take care.
I turned in a doctor’s note to my foremen Floriano Tavares and he turned it in to Supervisor Jose Martinez. Jose Martinez then told my husband Juan Fregoso, also a general labor worker at Charles Krug Mondavi, that I should take my maternity leave because I had already received the permission to do so.
My son was then born on December 19, 2005.
In the third week of the month of April 2006, Mr. Roberto Garcia, Representative from the United Farm Workers came to visit me personally and asked me whether I had quit my job with the Company because my name no longer appeared on the seniority list.
I replied to Mr. Roberto Garcia that I had not, and that I was simply on maternity leave. Supervisor Jose Martinez had told me to take the necessary time to tend to my pregnancy because the Company had received my doctor’s note.
Mr. Roberto Garcia responded that he was solely notifying me of what the Company was doing in removing me from the seniority list which basically meant that I had been terminated.
I felt very bad and disgusted because it could not be possible that the management at Charles Krug Mondavi could not understand a women’s necessity to take and be on maternity leave. For that reason, I felt not only insulted but discriminated by the actions that the Company was taking against the rights that I have.
In addition, I think that the Company has been acting in a bad manner against us workers in general because year after year, I have seen less co-workers working around me and I have not known the reasons for which the Company has been interested in getting rid of us via any opportunity that they see.
The Company has been discharging the workers and I feel that now I am going through this situation and I feel insulted because I have complied with the required procedure as deemed appropriate by law. I feel that they are basic human rights.
In the month of February of 2006, the doctor gave me a note regarding my ability to return to work. My husband turned in this note to my Foremen Floriano Tavares who then turned it into my Supervisor Jose Martinez.
Up to this date, I have not been recalled to report to work. With these types of actions on the part of the Company it is evident that we have never been respected, every day they focus instead on how they can make themselves richer and to them the workers are not important to them, they solely want to exploit us like slaves.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and under the laws of the State of California, that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 26, 2006 in the City of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA.
- Manuel Hernandez, Earlimart, CA, Table Grapes
The reason why I became a UFW member was because I wanted to make changes in my place of work, and thanks to that I have accomplished to get the respect and dignity from the owners and the foremen in the company. I encourage others to join us in the fight to keep this program growing to better our futures.
I have worked for Kovacevich “5” farms for about 21 years now; I work in the fields doing general work in grapes. Since I started working for this company there has been numerous incidents happening in the work area. The growers are aware of all these incidents and they have not yet done anything to prevent this from happening. The foremen have the power to control the people. In some crews the foremen have intimidated the workers and have told them if they do or say anything to anyone they will get terminated and in some cases even threatened to hurt them.
I been a UFW supporter for a very long time and always wanted the Union to help us in the company, but never thought that this will happen because of all the intimidation that the workers had due to the corrupt “Mayordomos.”
A couple of years ago we started to organize in the company and it seemed to have a good response from the workers but the company and the foremen still intimidated the workers from participating with the Union. We started using the direct representation program and it looks like it’s working fine, the carrilla has stopped and the company has given us equipment to work with, something that had not happened in the past. Also this company did not hire women for some reason but since we started this new program we have women working in the fields – a great accomplishment for us. The company now gave us medical insurance; they have also posted the ALRB’s laws — something that was never done in the past. Later a class action was put together because of all the injustices that the company was doing. Thanks to the new direct representation we have been able to make changes in the workplace and have been able to get the respect and dignity that we deserve.
- Ramon Mendoza, Lost Hills, CA
I started working in 1996… The foreman never provided us clean water. The water jugs were never cleaned and were always dirty. The water had a mossy smell and bitter taste. The foreman had seven dogs that he would carry in the vans in the afternoons. The dogs were dirty and would leave lots of hairs in vans and at times even in the water, furthermore the vans smelled like urine. The vans were in terrible condition, the drivers under the foreman didn’t have driver’s licenses, so they would drive in dirt roads, up to 20 miles to work. This made it very dusty, with no air-conditioning on extremely hot days we would leave the windows open.
By the time we got to the workplace we were covered with dust from our faces to our feet. The dirt roads had many holes and it made it a very bumpy ride too. We would sit on wooden benches and by the time we got to the workplace we were aching already. On or about 1997 a van overturned with 22 cramped workers inside. Wooden benches and workers collided together and workers got badly beat up. In 1998 a worker got his leg smashed by a van accident. The corrupt foreman was asking workers to donate money to cover for medical costs for the injured worker. We were obligated to ride with them or there was no work for us.
At work the foreman didn’t provide us safety gear, such as gloves and safety glasses. We also had bad and unsafe equipment, like shovels that were held up with tape. One of the most hostile and harassing situations that made it a miserable working environment under this foreman is that he would say false allegations and comments about us workers…. He even discriminated and did sexual harassment comments to a worker and at one point even wanted to fight him….
The foremen had muertitos (made up workers so he could collect extra checks). At some points he would cash up to 80 checks himself and when he paid the workers he would deduct $36.00 dollars per week for the ride fee. He also wouldn’t pay overtime nor any wages after 10 hrs. of work, but he would make us work anyway.
I decided to become a member of the UFW, because the UFW had helped me in the past. I wanted to work in solidarity and together with other workers so we could resolve our problems. I was looking for orientation regarding my problems with the foreman and for more information and how I could I get paid money owed to me. I had got fired for union activity, and my brother got fired for concerted activity and the foreman had not paid us.
Through a UFW membership committee meeting that we had, I and other co-workers found the support of other UFW members and decided to take action. We were able to get the farm labor contractor to fire the foreman and got paid the money owed to us. We were also able to get the FLC to get us back our jobs. At the beginning the foreman would laugh at us and would say that “the union can’t do anything to me, because I am the law around here. We really showed the foreman that united, “Si se Puede”.
We learned we can do things and gain victories through the power of the people. We were empowered and gained self and team confidence. The struggle does not end here, since we were pushed out of our jobs again by the farm labor contractor. Our mission is to continue recruiting members to gain more power to solve issues and gain victories for us and other farm workers.
- Juan Antonio Garcia Fidencia, Bakersfield, CA, Vegetables
I have worked for Grimway Farms through a farm Labor Contractor for 3 years.
I had an accident on Dec. 15, 2004 while cleaning a machine that cuts the product. I was pulling plastic and illumine out of the machine with one hand, and holding a water hose with the other. I dropped the hose, which lowered the safety lever. The machine came on and chopped off my finger. It took ¨ö hr. before I got medical attention. The supervisor was not around, only a secretary – and she didn’t have a first aid kit. She was not trained on how to give first aid for an injury.
I thank God that I am a member of the United Farm Workers. They have guided me though my situation in my time of need. I strongly believe that we can make a difference. I will always be proud to be a member of an organization that is fighting for my legalization as well as respect and legalization for all undocumented people.
- Juana Carbajal, Bakersfield, CA, Table Grapes
I want to join the UFW because I want a better future for my kids. My eldest child dreams of going to college at UCLA. This is her last year of high school and I want to make sure that she has that opportunity. I don’t want her or any of my children to suffer through all I’ve gone through. Only through being united and working as one will we be able to stand up and demand the respect that we deserve from our bosses.
I am 34 and have worked in the Giumarra Vineyard Company sporadically since 1989.
My typical day starts at around 4 a.m. when I have to prepare my family’s breakfast and lunch. I have five children and I need to get everything ready for them to go to school. My oldest is seventeen and my youngest is only two. After I get everything ready for them to go to school I head off to work where I must be at by 6:30 a.m.
I have worked for the foreman Eliseo Salazar for the last two years. His treatment towards me is usually different than it is towards other workers. Mainly because I speak English and knows that I won’t put up with bad treatment. However, there is a lot of harassment towards other workers and they usually make them stop working for petty reasons. Sometimes it’s for an hour or two, sometimes for the rest of the day. It has also happened to me and is something I can’t afford when I have five mouths to feed waiting for me back home. On top of that, I hear how they talk behind workers backs. They usually speak in English because they think no one understands them. Little do they know that I have lived here for most of my life and comprehend everything they say. Although they have never called me these words in front of my face I have been yelled at and ridiculed for the way I pack fruit or even the way I kneel.
- Jose Iguera, Ventura, CA, Vegetable
I have been working at Muranaka (UFW contract Company) for 6 years. When work is slow or I take vacation, I would normally go to work for a contractor.
When a worker injures themselves at the place of employment with a contractor, the contractor never covers or is responsible to help with medical expenses and does not pay the injured workers for days off. Therefore a lot of the workers will always hide their injuries.
The majority of the contractors pay in cash and workers are never clear how much they are getting paid for and that way you can not prove that they never paid you the full amount you earned.
I have had experiences with the following contractors: Morales Produce, San Cristobal Produce, Espinoza Produce, and Maurilio Produce. With all of these contractors I have seen that a lot of the times they do not carry bathrooms or drinking water. The women in particularly are the one that have to look around for a place they can go to the bathroom. They have to find a neighboring company that has bathrooms available for their workers.
I remember a man that we referred to as La Becerra. He asked a foreman why they didn’t carry bathrooms and said the women needed them. The foreman told him to not make noise for the bathrooms because he would get himself into problems. The worker then told the foreman that he was leaving. The foreman told him that he knew what he had to do and that he was not going to grant his wishes. By the foreman saying this he meant that he was still not going to bring the bathrooms. The worker who complained about the bathroom situation was then told that he no longer had a job and that he had to leave immediately.
In the 6 years that I have been working for the company Muranaka and the UFW has had a contract. We have never had to let situations like that happen. When we are not paid correctly we let the company know and they will always pay us the missing amount the following pay check. The bathrooms, the drinking water and our working tools the company always provides them for us.
- Jose Lopez, Bakersfield, CA, Table Grapes
I have worked for Sunview the past 33 years. I have chosen to stay with the same company for this long because I am aware of the mistreatment many other farm workers receive in other companies.
Even so, the treatment at Sunview is not always fair. A most recent example of this is the decrease in wage from $ 6.75 an hour to $ 6.50 an hour. We were never given an explanation of this, they just said that’s the way it was going to be. Once the union started visiting us they increased the wage up to $6.75 again.
The company has always managed to extract a bit more from us. They have always managed to dig more out of us for free. During the harvest season we are expected to show up 15 minutes before work to prepare for the day. This time is never paid and although it might not seem like much when you multiply that time over 6 days a week in an 8 month period it equals to about 48 hours of free work. In other words the company steals about $336 a year from our salary.
On top of these scams we have to put up with constant pressure and expectations to produce more. But once again, when the UFW started visiting us the pressure stopped.
It is quite apparent to me that the only way we won’t get taken advantage of, is through a contract. The UFW can provide that and security for all of us. I hope the day will come soon when we can be part of Cesar’s dream.
- Oralia Mesa, Bakersfield, CA, Table Grapes
I have worked for Sunview since 1998. However, the last harvest left me out of employment during the final weeks of harvest.
It all started with headaches during work. But as time passed on the headaches were accompanied with nausea and fatigue. I couldn’t focus on anything and I wasn’t the only one. A lot of my co-workers started feeling the symptoms.
We were taken to the company’s doctor who immediately dismissed anything serious. “You are fine,” he said. “Go to work tomorrow.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to and I knew it was something serious.
I went to a private doctor who diagnosed me with blood intoxication. He didn’t know from what but it was assumed it had to do with the pesticides I was constantly breathing.
A total of 33 workers from my crew became sick and all of them had the same symptoms. 18 of them could not continue working. It became quite apparent that the company’s doctor was not telling the full story.
I am very worried about the next harvest. I hope that I can work again. I have four small children and as a single mother I can’t afford to stop working. I hope to get the UFW to represent us. We need a better health plan and not just one that covers us year round but one that actually cares about their patients.
- Alberto Contreras Rojas, Lamont CA, Table Grapes
This is my first year working at the Giumarra Vineyards. I left my home in the state of Puebla, in Mexico, to provide for my family including my two infant children. When I arrived to the United States, I thought I had it made. Little did I know how difficult this journey would become. During my first week or “trial period,” as they call it, I worked for three days without pay to see if I was qualified to do the work. After that I became a regular farm worker.
The work of a farm worker is very difficult not only for the inclement weather one must deal with but also for the constant pressure put upon by our supervisors. Perfection is demanded on us everyday and if there happens to be rotten fruit slipping by us and into boxes being shipped we can be punished by “taking a seat” and not working until the foreman allows us to once again. I have fear every time I am out on the fields because my family might not eat if I am ordered to take a seat. I also fear for my health and well- being because if I get sick no one will provide for my family. I take some precautions throughout the day to make sure I don’t end up as another camp casualty that I’ve heard about. I recently purchased an umbrella to keep the heat from getting to me and I try to drink water as often as I can even though it’s usually gray. I try to think that some water is better than no water. At the same time though, I know I must pick up the pace of my work if I want to meet my quota and keep my job. Working so far from home was never my intention; I miss my family, my friends and the place where I grew up. However, my family’s need is enough to overcome any grief and suffering I must put up with.
- Pedro Zapien, Oxnard CA, Vegetables
In March, April and May I worked for Jimenez, a contractor. The bathrooms were always very dirty and at some times they took a long time bring them to us. Sometimes full days would go by and they would never bring the bathrooms. We would work all day without bathrooms.
There were around 60 workers. There are 4 separate crews at 15 workers per crew and there were always 2 or 4 women working in each crew. We had to figure out a way to go to the bathroom without any bathrooms. We would look for nearby restaurants or find any other way to relief ourselves.
The water they would provide us with was the same water they used to irrigate the fields and the containers that they would use where never washed. We would work 12 to 13 hours a day and 6 days out of the week and our paycheck would come out to be $280 to $300 a week. One time I worked with my friends where I got them a job in 2003. We worked 75 hours during a week and our paycheck came out to be $170 to $180.
I have been at Muranaka about 7 months now. Ever since Muranaka has had the contract with the Union the bathrooms and the working conditions are very different. I was part of the group that went to negotiate the new contract and we went to talk with the owner regarding our wages and about the working conditions. This is very different from any other place I had ever worked for.
- Aguileo Rangel, CA, Table Grapes
My name is Aguileo Rangel and I currently live at Giumarra’s 37th labor camp.
I have worked for camps all over California since 1997. Currently, I work for the Giumarra Vineyard Company. My position in the crew is of a grape packer. It’s a difficult and arduous task that is even more challenging because I have to work on my knees the entire day. Unfortunately, my company doesn’t provide us with packing tables to make the work easier. My wife, Teresa Perez Rangel and my son David Perez work on the same crew I do.
I also have two younger daughters, Leydy who is 10 and my baby daughter Dalia, who is only three. All of us live in a room provided by the company which costs $210 a week with meals included
Living under such crowded conditions can become extremely uncomfortable but we try to make the best of it. The room where we sleep doesn’t have any windows and it could get pretty hot at night even though we have a ventilator. The bathroom situation isn’t any better. We must share the bathroom with another 70 inhabitants that live in the same housing complex where we live. It’s not uncommon to see dirty toilets and to have to share the showers with several other men at the same time. Our lack of privacy is one of the most difficult things to overcome.
For the past eight years I have kept my mouth shut and have put up with all the nuisances and discomfort for the sake of my children’s future. However, on the morning of August 8th, 2005 that future was jeopardized by Giumarra. Their ineptness, lack of care and stinginess almost cost the life of my only son David.
It was that day when he started complaining to me of a severe headache. I gave him some medicine but a short time later I saw him leaning against a truck still dazed. That’s when I decided to let, “Chano” the supervisor, know what was going on. The supervisor assured me he just needed some rest. But that was not the case, I knew he needed an ambulance and convinced “Chano” to take him to the doctor. That was the last time I saw my son until later on that evening.
After many inquiries of his whereabouts David finally showed up at our doorstep at around 9 p.m. shaking and sweating. No one from the company came inside to give us an explanation of what had happened to him. For the rest of that night he spent it vomiting and sweating. I only knew that he would be picked up the next morning at around nine to be taken to the doctor’s again. I left for work and at 12:30 p.m. went to Giumarra’s office to see how he was doing. To much of my disappointment I wasn’t given any clear answers of his whereabouts or how he was doing. It wasn’t until that evening that I was informed of what hospital he was getting treatment at. I picked him up and took him back home where he rested for the rest of the night and into the next day. On Wednesday afternoon, after coming home from work, I noticed David’s condition had worsened. He was dizzy, very weak and nauseous. That’s when I decided to call the UFW.
Roman Pinal, a representative for the UFW, arrived that after noon and took him to the emergency room of the same hospital he had been in the previous night. This time though, he received much better treatment. They conducted several tests on him including spinal tap and they came to the conclusion that he was suffering from meningitis. Now my son is slowly recuperating and is feeling much better with the treatment he is getting.
I am very thankful that the Union helped us out in our time of need because I can’t imagine my life without my children. I support the Union and their cause because they have showed legitimate care for the farm workers and their families.
- CastleRock, Table Grapes
BELOW IS A REPORT OF A POISONING INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED ON OCTOBER 20, 2005, AT THE CASTLE ROCK COLD STORAGE FACILITY IN RICHGROVE, CALIFORNIA. IT IS A FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT AS TOLD TO THE UFW BY THE VICTIMS, ALL OF WHOM WERE FARM WORKERS.
Antonio Ramirez, Foreman:
“At approximately 7:05 a.m., I instructed the men to go in and start distributing grapes to the work stations. At approximately 7:15 a.m. I instructed the women to go in as well. When we went in, it smelled different, but we did not think much of it.”
Ana Maria Hernandez:
“My duties were to pack grapes. Immediately I started to feel pain in my nose and suffocation with a lot of coughing.”
“I was labeling grape boxes . . . almost immediately, we started to get unusual symptoms, which worsened . . . dry throat, bitter mouth, nausea, headache, sinus pain, suffocation, chest and back pain and vomiting.”
Jose Ramirez Gomez:
“I started to get dizzy and couldn’t walk straight any more. . . I started to vomit and my throat and tongue were numb.”
Manuel Hernandez Chavez:
“My duties were to distribute grapes to the rest of the workers and to pick up empty boxes, plastic bags and trash . . . I felt very sick, like never before in my life. I was feeling chest pain, back pain, stomach ache and was vomiting so much.”
At 7:40 a.m., foreman Ramirez reported to the cold storage manager “that there was something very bad happening, because all of us were very sick. He told me to get everyone out. He then went in and found that one of the cold storage doors was open.
“Sulfur dioxide was escaping out to the working area.”
Ramirez pointed out to the manager, who worked for labor contractor J.L. Padilla & Sons, that the cylinders containing the leaking chemical were labeled with a skull and crossbones. The manager insisted that this didn’t necessarily mean the sulfur dioxide was poisonous!
In fact, sulfur dioxide is the noxious pollutant that causes acid rain. It can cause not only acute but chronic health effects. Problems may not show up until years after exposure.
“I saw that neither the company nor the contractor were going to take anyone to the hospital,” Ramirez reports.
“I decided to act and directed everyone to Sierra View Hospital to get medical attention and told them to bring me the bill. I would then give it to the contractor.”
Because they went to the emergency room, the workers were punished by the company. They were demoted, then fired.
Foreman Antonio Ramirez:
“The contractor got very angry and moved us to work in the fields. In a few days, they told me there was no work for us.”
Manuel Hernandez Chavez:
“The company pushed us out of a job. Instead of helping us they retaliated against us.”
Ana Maria Hernandez:
“It is hard to believe that instead of taking responsibility and providing us medical attention, the contractor and the company decided to keep this incident in the dark and heartlessly dismissed us to shut us up.”
The Castle Rock workers have turned to the UFW for assistance. The incident has been reported to the California Agricultural Commissioner and is under investigation. We have helped the workers find an attorney.