APPLE SHED STRIKES WIN RECOGNITION, AND THE FIGHT GOES ON
By David Bacon
Strikers at Allan Brothers. (Photo by Xolotl Edgar Franx)
Thirty four workers at the apple packing shed that sparked a wave of strikes in central Washington went back to work on Monday with a written agreement recognizing their workers' committee, Trabajadores Unidos por la Justicia (Workers United for Justice). Of the 115 workers at Allan Brothers who walked out May 7, the 34 stayed out for the full 22 days, during which hundreds of other workers struck at six additional sheds in the area.
According to Agustin Lopez, a leader of the movement who's worked in the valley since the mid-1980s, "The most important thing to us is that the company is recognizing our committee as the representative of all the workers. Under the agreement we will continue negotiating for salary increases, better working conditions, and health protections. The agreement means that our rights as workers are respected."
The shed strike wave was touched off by the impact of the coronavirus on the hundreds of people who labor sorting fruit in Yakima Valley's huge packinghouses. While their numbers are smaller than the huge workforce of thousands who pick the fruit in the summer and fall, the shed workforce occupies a strategic place in this system of agricultural production. The virus has spread more widely here than in any other county on the Pacific Coast, with an infection rate of about 500 per 100,000. As of June 1 Yakima County had 3,891 COVID-19 cases and 90 deaths. Twenty-four percent of people tested have been infected, and the local hospital system is at capacity with few beds available.
"The most important demand for us is that we have a healthy workplace and protection from the virus," Lopez explained at the start of the conflict. "Fourteen people have left work over the last month because they have the COVID-19."
During harvest time, trucks from the orchards haul loads of apples and cherries picked by thousands of farmworkers, laboring for the big growers of the Yakima Valley. After the fruit is cooled and stored, orders from the grocery chains are filled by workers, mostly women, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of fast-moving conveyor belts. As apples and cherries sweep past, they sort it and send it on to other workers who wash and pack it, and eventually load it onto trucks. By the time it appears on the shelves of supermarkets around the country, the fruit has passed through many working hands.
Packinghouse laborers are almost entirely immigrants from Mexico, and most of the sorting jobs on the lines are done by women. Their families make up the working-class backbone of the small towns of Yakima Valley. Most have lived here for years. Jobs in the sheds pay minimum wage, but they're are a step up from the fields because they offer year-round work at 40 hours per week.
While their numbers are smaller than the huge workforce of thousands who pick the fruit in the summer and fall, the shed workforce occupies a strategic place in this system of agricultural production.
REACHED OUT TO UNIONS
When the workers stopped work at Allan Brothers, demanding better safety precautions and $2/hour in hazard pay, they reached out to Dulce Gutierrez, who represents the Washington Labor Council in the Yakima Valley. Gutierrez in turn contacted Washington State's new union for farmworkers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), at its office in Burlington on the coast. Ramon Torres, FUJ president, and Edgar Franks, political director, went to Yakima, where they've spent the last month supporting the strikers.
The first company to settle was the Roche Fruit Company, after a lunchtime walkout, bolstered by the presence of FUJ organizers, got the owners to increase a hazard pay offer of $200 per month to $100 per week. Strikes then followed at Jack Frost Co., Matson Fruit Co., Monson Fruit Co., Hanson Fruit Co., and Columbia Reach Pack.
HUGE CAR CARAVAN PROTESTS THE POLICE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD
OAKLAND, CA - 31MAY20 - Thousands of people participate in a caravan of over 2000 cars from the Port of Oakland, to protest the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and African American and people of color killed by police.
To see a full set of photos, click here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/56646659@N05/albums/72157714533842187
IN THE FIELDS OF THE NORTH
Online Exhibit, May 29 to August 2, 2020
Los Altos History Museum
TARTINE HARDSHIP FUND
Newly organized Tartine Bakery workers in the Bay Area need your help and assistance! This fund, supported by the International Longhsore and Warehouse Union, will help hose workers unable to collect unemployment insurance.
The exhibitions in the following list were scheduled before the current COVID-19 crisis. Public gatherings are not now taking place and these exhibitions have now been postponed or rescheduled.
DOCUMENTING RESISTANCE -
Community Organizing Beyond the Farmworkers' Movement
Photographs by David Bacon
February 18 - March 27
Powell Library Rotunda, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA
IN WASHINGTON’S FIELDS: Photographs by David Bacon
February 1-May 10, 2020
Washington State History Museum
1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, WA
IN THE FIELDS OF THE NORTH / EN LOS CAMPOS DEL NORTE
March 15, 2020 - June 21, 2020
Los Altos History Museum, Los Altos
March 21, 2021 - May 23, 2021
Carnegie Arts Center, Turlock
MORE THAN A WALL - THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS OF THE BORDER
August 29,, 2020 - November 29,, 2020
San Francisco Public Library
April 10, 2020 - May 1, 2020
Uri-Eichen Gallery, Chicago
In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte
Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte
302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95 (in the U.S.)
order the book on the UC Press website:
use source code 16M4197 at checkout, receive a 30% discount
En Mexico se puede pedir el libro en el sitio de COLEF:
Los Angeles Times reviews In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte - click here
"The Criminalization of Migration: A Socialist Perspective" with David Bacon and Rafael Pizarro.
A video about the Social Justice Photography of David Bacon:
En los campos del Norte documenta la vida de trabajadores agrícolas en Estados Unidos -
Entrevista con el Instituto Nacional de la Antropologia y Historia
Entrevista en la television de UNAM
David Bacon comparte su mirada del trabajo agrícola de migrantes mexicanos en el Museo Archivo de la Fotografia
Trabajo agrícola, migración y resistencia cultural: el mosaico de los “Campos del Norte”
Entrevista de David Bacon por Iván Gutiérrez / A los 4 Vientos
"Los fotógrafos tomamos partido"
Entrevista por Melina Balcázar Moreno - Milenio.com Laberinto
Die Apfel-Pflücker aus dem Yakima-Tal
Entrevista sobre la exhibicion con Alfonso Caraveo (Español)
THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog
Books by David Bacon
The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration (Beacon Press, 2013)
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)
The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)
EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA (Critica - Planeta de Libros)
HIJOS DE LIBRE COMERCIA (El Viejo Topo)
For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org and http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com