La Lucha Sigue! My first week with the UFW

Get off the airplane. Meet UFW organizer. Drop my stuff of at the hotel. Go do worker house visits. Attend organizing meeting for farm workers. Get dinner with the UFW vice president. This describes my first eight hours in Bakersfield, CA, and if any thing these first eight hours gave me a small dose of what I’d be in for this summer. I’ve been here for slightly over a week now, and if there’s one thing I’ve observed it’s that these organizers folks are some of the most hardest working people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting! Right now, the UFW is pushing their organizing campaign into high gear. This means that the organizers are working like 10-12 hour days, seven days a week! It’s amazing, I’ve already learned so much already about how union elections work, California labor laws, working conditions in the fields, the scoop on the Company they’re organizing against, and the history of past organizing campaigns. With regard to working conditions, many of the farm workers feel a lot of pressure (“la carrilla”) from their supervisors to be working as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many of them don’t get breaks, and don’t want to go get water or take a brief rest because they’ll fall behind. It puts a lot of stress on the workers, and it can also put them in danger since the temperatures hover around the upper nineties basically everyday here in the valley. For this reason, in addition to many others, the UFW is trying to organize the workers- so that they can be represented and negotiate a contract with Guimarra so that these working conditions can change.  With respect to the UFW, one thing that I have observed (in spite of my short time being here) is how the movement is really driven from the base. Nearly all the organizers themselves have worked as migrant farm workers in the fields, and so they speak from the heart and with experience when trying to organize the workers of Guimarra. Furthermore, what really moved me was how much the farm workers currently employed by Guimarra are incorporated into the organization efforts of the UFW. The workers’ meeting I attended was a junta for all the farm worker leaders that were working toward organizing everyone in their cuadrilla, or working crew. This means that not only is the UFW organizing by having their organizers go do house visits, but also by having workers themselves organize their fellow workers while out in the fields, which I think is a great and powerful aspect of the movement.  Anyways, I have rambled on enough, and so I will end here. Hopefully this provides a brief picture of my first experiences and impressions of Bakersfield and la lucha for the migrant farm workers!

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