2002-08-20, 5:10 p.m.
In most of the United States, farmworkers do not have the right to unionize and collectively bargain with growers for basic rights and decent pay. In California, decades of struggle by the United Farm Workers finally persuaded the legislature to provide for that right in 1975. Californians were convinced by accounts of backbreaking work, sweltering heat, indecent living conditions and brutal, and sometimes violent, opposition to unionization by agricultural businesses.
However, the promise of California's historic legislation now usually ends in stalemate, and farmworkers are often no better off than before. Frequently, when workers choose a union and try to negotiate a contract, farm owners simply ignore them, bargain in bad faith or dare the workers to go on strike and be replaced by others. The consequence is that most workers represented by unions do not have a contract after years -- even decades -- of organizing.
Governor Davis has the opportunity to sign a bill that would mandate arbitration to break the stalemate if growers won't sign a contract after negotiating with farmworkers. Workers on over 240 farms and ranches in California have been denied contracts that guarantee basic rights and adequate compensation because of stalled negotiations.
The legislation, already passed by both the Senate and Assembly, represents the only important advance in agricultural reform since 1975. But Governor Davis has not yet indicated if he will sign it into law.
In the last two weeks, the California agriculture industry has donated over $100,500 to help the Governor make up his mind to veto the bill. Farmworkers don't have this kind of money to throw around and are counting again on public pressure to help the Governor come to a principled decision.
Call to action
Urge Governor Davis to sign SB 1736 and help guarantee basic rights, including adequate compensation and living conditions, for farmworkers.
"Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation." - Martin Luther King, Jr.