Seventy years ago, Cesar Chavez helped register 4,000 new voters over 40 hectic days and nights in the east San Jose barrio of Sal Si Puedes. On Election Day, the local Republican Party sent “challengers” to intimidate first-time Latino voters. It was similar to the voter suppression civil rights activists resist today in the South and elsewhere.
The Republican strategy backfired. Voters became angry and more determined to vote. When so many Latinos voted, county officials ordered packinghouses to stop dumping waste into barrio creeks—and fixed cesspools that caused amoebic dysentery.
Today, the fight to preserve voting rights of Latinos and other people of color against Republican attempts to suppress them is still underway across the nation.
Last September, Californians voted overwhelmingly in the Republican recall election to keep Governor Newsom in office.
Some voters them went to the polls to cast their ballots.
Others mailed in their ballots.
Some voters needed help filling out and turning in their ballots.
Some of them dropped their ballots off before Election Day at official sites.
They had choices.
Those choices didn’t exist in 1975, when California gave farm workers the right to vote in union elections. Back then—and to this day—the only way to vote was, and is, on the grower property…where workers confront threats and intimidation.
Today is May Day, when we celebrate the rights of workers all across the world.
So, on this May Day, the UFW is sponsoring a bill before the California Legislature. It is called the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. This bill would finally give farm workers the same voting choices other California voters have enjoyed for years—including letting farm workers vote by mail from the comfort and security of their homes.
Governor Newsom defeated the Republican recall because California political voters had choices in how, when, and where they voted. Shouldn’t farm workers have the same—or similar—choices?
Yet, Governor Newsom vetoed the farm worker voting choice bill last year—in the same month he defeated the recall.
The UFW has reintroducing the same bill this year. Fifty legislators are co-authoring it. It has widespread public support. We need to convince Governor Newsom to sign our bill this year.
Historically, farm workers have been excluded from the legal protections other workers—and other voters—have enjoyed for decades.
In this crucial moment—when civil rights activists and Latinos and other people of color are fighting back around the nation against Republican attempts to suppress the right to vote—why should farm workers still be excluded from the same voting choices and rights other voters won long ago?
To convince Governor Newsom to sign the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act this year, farm workers will march during the heat of this summer from here in Delano to the state Capitol in Sacramento. This year’s march will retrace the same route farm workers took during their historic 1966 march to Sacramento.
Farm workers appeal to you to join them in this important march for the governor’s signature this summer. They are still fighting nonviolently for the same rights other workers—and other voters—have already won.