February 27, 1998
Chavez’s brother brings California berry pickers appeal
to a top buyer of Driscoll strawberries
Richard Chavez, brother of the late United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez, will bring the nonviolent battle to better the lives of California strawberry workers to Cincinnati on Friday. He will join area labor leaders in rallying support for the berry workers’ cause and appealing to one of the key buyers of fruit from Driscoll, the nation’s largest strawberry corporation.
They will urge Bigg’s stores to sign a pledge endorsing basic organizing rights for California’s 20,000 strawberry workers. Such pledges have already been signed by Cincinnati-based Kroger stores as well as most of the nation’s other big supermarket firms, including Safeway, American Stores, and A & P.
The action will begin at 10:15 a.m. at the Bigg’s store at 3240 Highland Avenue (Corner of Highland and Ridge — take the Ridge road exit off 71). Participants include Chavez, Cincinnati Labor Council Vice-President Jim Newport, labor and religious leaders.
Under the pledge signed by Kroger and other retailers, the stores endorse the right of strawberry harvesters "to organize and bargain collectively under the provisions of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act" without fear of discrimination. It embraces "the right [of strawberry workers] to seek enforcement of laws and regulations for proper field sanitation, clean drinking water and [hand]-washing facilities." Retailers also call on "all of [their] vendors to abide by the applicable laws and regulations governing such conditions and conduct," the agreement states.
Berry pickers face low pay, pesticide-treated fields, and threats of firing if they band together with the UFW. A major union organizing drive seeks to improve West Coast strawberry worker pay and conditions despite bitter opposition from the state’s $650 million-a-year strawberry industry.
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