Show your Solidarity Today with WA’s Farmworkers: Covid-19 Protections Now!

UPDATED ACTION ALERT!

Show your Solidarity Today with WA’s Farmworkers: Covid-19 Protections Now!

***please forward widely***

Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Community to Community Development have been working in Yakima County these past few weeks, supporting farmworker strikes in solidarity with workers who have walked off the job due to health and safety concerns around Covid-19.
Workers at Allan Brothers Fruit walked out on May 7 after at least 14 of their co-workers tested positive for Covid-19, followed by five other fruit packing plants in Yakima County. Tragically, days after workers won some of their demands, one of the first strikers from Allan Brothers, David Cruz, died on May 31 after being infected with the Coronavirus.
Thanks to pressure from farmworkers and their advocates Emergency Rules for Housing in Agriculture went into effect on May 18. However these rules are not adequate for this pandemic as they do not require the ratios for housing, showers, sinks, cooking and food storage facilities, laundry, and bunkbeds to reflect CDC social distancing protocols and will likely lack proper enforcement. 
Current status of the strikes:

You can support by taking any or all of the below actions!

  1. Call the fruit companies

Ask them to comply with the strikers’ demands for safe working conditions for COVID-19 protections in the workplace, fair labor practices, a just wage now and beyond the pandemic, and establishment of a Health and Safety Committee of workers.

  1. Matson Fruit Co. in Selah, WA (509) 697-7100
  2. Columbia Reach in Yakima, WA (509) 457-8001

CALL SCRIPT

“Hi, my name is ________, and I’m calling because I am deeply concerned about the situation with coronavirus at your company. May I speak to your manager?”

[If no] “Can you pass this message along to management?”

“Hi, my name is ___, and I’m calling because as a consumer of apples I am deeply concerned about the situation with coronavirus at your company. I understand workers at your company have gotten sick, and workers are on strike trying to get safe conditions and hazard pay. I urge you to negotiate in good faith with your workers and not retaliate against them. I will be monitoring the situation closely and factoring it into how I choose which apples I feel comfortable buying.”

  1. Donate

Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Community to Community Development urgently need support to continue their on the ground organizing: “Every day we are spending money on food, gas, port-a-potties, materials for signs and banners, bullhorns, walkie talkies, internet and phones to reach media outlets, lodging for organizers, hand sanitizer, masks, hand washing stations, and many more miscellaneous expenses.”

  1. Contact the Governor’s Office, Department of Health, Department of Labor, and Office of the Attorney General

Demand that workers receive immediate hazard pay, including time lost during the strike. Register your dissatisfaction with the Emergency Rules for Housing in Agriculture, and ask them to assign additional state staff to ensure safety precautions are being followed! Demand a Legislative investigation into why farmworkers are being treated differently than other essential workers during this pandemic. Why is the agricultural industry continuously allowed to put profit over the lives of farmworkers?

  • Governor Inslee’s Office: 360-902-4111 (option 2 to skip the recording and leave a comment)
  • Office of the Attorney General: Labor and Personnel contact form
  • Dept of Health: (360) 236-3393
  • Dept of Labor and Industries: (800) 423-7233

More info:

Call Community to Community Development 360-391-4561 to learn more about the strikes and more ways to support.

Follow FUJ and C2C on Facebook: Receive updates on the Emergency Rules and strikes.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Community to Community Development

Photo credit: Edgar Franks

In Solidarity!

CAGJ

More background information from Community to Community

“We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented strike wave in the fruit processing plants of the Yakima valley. Strikes like these have not been seen in WA State since the 1980s. Packing shed workers and their families are organizing in solidarity across six picket lines to stop retaliation for complaining about poor health and safety conditions in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 100 workers at Allan Bros. Fruit walked out on Thursday, May 7th after at least fourteen of their co-workers tested positive for COVID-19. Ramon Torres, President of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, was called by workers to come to Yakima and assist in presenting demands to the company. In the days that followed, over 400 workers across five other packing facilities — Frosty Packing Co., Matson Fruit Company, Monson Fruit Company, Hansen Fruit and Cold Storage Co., and Columbia Reach — proceeded to go on strike, peacefully and legally demanding protections and hazard pay as the numbers of worker infected by COVID-19 grew in this deadly pandemic.

As C2C has been warning for months, without enforceable protections issued through mandatory emergency rules for farmworkers, the pandemic will continue to peak in rural communities as we near the height of the season. As of reports this month, Yakima County has the highest single-county infection rate of coronavirus on the West Coast. Unsurprisingly, the state agencies tasked with responding to unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices — the Department of Health and Labor and Industries — are noticeably absent in this time of need. LNI has visited workplaces on strike, but bypassed the affected workers on the picket line to go speak directly to the owners and workers inside, and left without registering complaints from striking workers. As the historic worker organizing grew, the organizers from Familias Unidas called C2C eco-feministas for support.

Negotiating committees have been elected by the workers to bring the workers’ demands to the owners. These committees are coordinating with each other as they seek to win basic protections for all six work sites: specific measures to guarantee health and safety amidst the rising threat of COVID-19, stop retaliation if a worker complains about safety measures not being enforced, hazard pay to reflect the risks they are taking as essential workers, and a permanent hourly wage increase to a just wage that extends beyond the timeframe of the pandemic. As more workers join the strikes, there have been multiple incidents of intimidation and harassment, such as drone surveillance to intimidate workers, management calling police to evict striking workers from the company’s property, hiring replacement workers, and even a threat from a white male to shoot striking workers at Allan Bros. — he was arrested shortly after.

Yakima is a close, mostly Latino rural community, and many workers have worked at 2-3 of the companies that are now part of the strikes. Workers from all areas of production are going on strike; many are single mothers, and male workers are joining the picket lines specifically to protest the mistreatment of their female co-workers who largely work on the packing lines. Most of the leadership on the picket lines and committees are women.

C2C and FUJ are on the strike lines supporting these courageous workers, because we were called by them and we gave them our commitment to be by their side. Now we are calling on you to stand with us in this historic moment. Funds are greatly needed to make it possible for this campaign led by workers to result in a durable solution that will help to save farmworkers’ lives. The reality is that campaigns like these cost thousands of dollars, and the corporate agricultural industry as exemplified by these packing sheds is wealthy. In the past, workers have lost because they have no support and they are poor, and because the industry attacks, intimidates, and waits until workers run out of resources and hope and are forced to go back to work.

This time, C2C and FUJ and good people like you are fighting with the strikers.  Please stand with us and donate what you can today to support organizing.”

Donation links:

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Community to Community Development

Posted in Food Justice Blog Posts, News, Slider.

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