Northwest UU Justice Network

UUs Endorse Farm Worker Bill of Rights

On April 3, the Conejo Valley Unitarian Univeralist Fellowship (CVUUF) held an all member meeting and voted to endorse a local effort to establish a Farmworker Bill of Rights in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California. This is a historical effort to improve working conditions for those people who help bring us the food we put on our tables. CVUUF took this opportunity to strike a blow for the human dignity of, and compassion for, the farm workers in their community.

For the last 200 years farmworker jobs have been filled by newly arrived ethnic groups and waves of migration. Land owners and farm managers sought after this ever–shifting migratory labor force that that was economically desperate, afraid to organize and able to bear the harsh conditions of the fields.

AS working conditions improved for most of the labor force, farm workers were left behind by legislators and farm owners who exploited their powerless position and the racism often directed at these ethnicities.

The Farmworker Bill Of Rights aims to correct this injustice. Sponsored by CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy), an activist group in Ventura County for low wage workers, this effort targets some of the key areas where current day farmworkers, who are 90% Mexican, are suffering:

  • Curb Extreme Work: Most farm workers need to work 50 to 60 hours a week to sustain their family in substandard housing and to nourish their children. The Bill of Rights calls for adequate sick time, protecting pregnant women from pesticides with pregnancy leave and requiring real break times.
  • Crack Down on Wage Theft: Already against the law, wage theft by not paying workers for the number of baskets they fill or requiring them to work while waiting for a paycheck, needs more resources for enforcement. The Bill of Rights asks for more of these county resources, meaningful penalties for wage theft and protecting workers from retaliation when reporting wage theft.
  • Protect Health and Safety: The farmworker Bill of Rights asks for more funding to educate workers about necessary health and safety precautions for agricultural work where the presence of pesticides is common. It also calls for the provision of adequate safety equipment and holding growers responsible if they apply pesticide when workers are still in the field.

Improving the lives of farmworkers will strengthen our economy in Southern California and enhance the quality of life of a large section of the community. UUs have traditionally been at the forefront of efforts to move the world towards a more just and equitable society. CVUUF has furthered that tradition by endorsing an effort that will transform many lives.

[Michael Teasdale, Co Chair]

Glossary

Citation

Community, U., & Teasdale, M. (2016). UUs Endorse Farm Worker Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://www.nwuujn.org/view/article/57a0eeca0cf25f2d92e34b31

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