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Walk for Farmworker Justice update for Monday, 18 June 2001

Walk for Farmworker Justice update for Monday, 18 June 2001
"Time to reshuffle the deck"

Walkers gathered at a campsite from which the event is being staged. After registration and an introduction to the week's event, about 50 people participated in a non-violence workshop. All walkers were required to sign an oath of personal committment to non-violence, and this workshop was provided to lay out what that means. It was facilitated by Vip Short, a Eugene chiropractor and homeopath who has been practicing non-volent political activism since 1977, during the first occupation of the now shut-down Trojan nuclear plant.

Participants in the workshop learned about Gandhian ideas and took part in a mock conflict. They were also alerted to the presence of orange-vested "peacekeepers", who are people who volunteered to assist with conflict resolution if the need need arises. This workshop attempted to instruct how best to deal with the fears expressed by walkers, which included: guns, dogs, cars, inability to connect with workers, and hostility from the NORPAC growers.

Short reminded everyone that, in a tight spot, the best thing to do is to stop and breathe--consciously breathe. After this is mastered, one can attempt to employ other techniques such as "active listening" to best protect oneself and others.

Central to the philosophy explained by Short was the concept that exuding vibes of truth, harmlessness, and self-sacrifice can be more powerful than any weapons or verbal coercion. Urging an end to the dichotomies that divide us, Short declared that it is "time to reshuffle the deck" and use non-violence to address the problems and inequities of the world.

Finally, Short promised that each day would begin with a reminding reaffirmation of the walkers' committment to non-violence.

Selma, Montgomery... Salem

At 6:30 p.m., walkers met for speeches and dinner at the Centro Cultaral Community Center in Cornelius.

Speakers included Sarah Jacobson, an organizer for Eugene Jobs with Justice; Sabino Sardineta, director of Centro Cultural; Mary Jo Tully, Chancellor of the Archdiocese; Rebeca Salda?a, of PCUN, one of the Walk organizers; Ramon Ramirez, president of PCUN; Xochitl Espanza, from the Committee for Justice for Jose Mejia Poot; Nora Rodriguez of Adelante Mujeres (a women's group that practices arts and crafts); and Dan Bryant, Chair of the Walk's steering committee.

Bryant mentioned that the Walk for Farmworker Justice was originally the brainstorm of a working group from Ecumenical Ministries in Oregon, an inter-church organization seeking social justice. Bryant said the group was taking inspiration from the Freedom Marches that took place in Selma and Montgomery during the Fifties and Sixties, when Northern activists came South to help the Civil Rights movement. Bryant reminded the assembled crowd that the primary focus of the Walk is to bring NORPAC to the negotiating table, and he expressed hope that this goal could be accomplished.

Bryant's exhortation was simple: "No more brown people and white people, no more English speakers and Spanish speakers; just one people."

Pressure from NORPAC, small victory against PictSweet

According to KBOO, at least two venues that had committed to hosting Walk events this week have backed out after pressure from NORPAC. Since the schedule for the Walk has been open to the public for quite some time, this is not surprising, but is certainly disappointing to Walk organizers, who must now make other arrangements. Unfortunately, this might not be the only wrench NORPAC throws the Walk's way.

KBOO also reports that PictSweet, an Oregon mushroom producer against whom PCUN and farmworkers have also had many complaints, has been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for unsafe labor practices. Workers at the PictSweet plant have suffered eye ailments from chemicals and have been injured by leaking battery packs, to name only two examples. Unfortunately, the amount of the fine is a mere $100, but allies of the farmworkers see this case as a validation of their complaints, and a reason to hope for more in the future.

Lunch with small farmers 22.Jun.2001 08:08

Linda Tarr prestarr@earthlink.net

I walked the walk on Tuesday and heard two big guys with small farms tell about the pressures that they are dealing with, trying to continue raising organic food, in a global market place. One is a manager and one owns his own farm. The man who owned his own berry farm said that he had good relationships with the workers on his farm, and that they felt like using PCUN, the union, to negotiate for them would be bringing in an unnecessary middleman.
He went on to talk about the fact that the prices farmers get for their crop hasn't increased in a decade, while the price to produce it has. He said that the tension between farmers and farmworkers comes from the fact that the only variable which is negotiable for the farmer is the price of labor. But he stressed that that tension is misplaced. What is needed is for consumers to pressure their own grocery stores to buy local produce and pay farmers a decent price. As it stands, even the 'local' produce we might buy at Albertson's or Safeway or Wild Oats has probably been shipped hundreds of miles and sat in a warehouse refrigerator for a few days. All of this waste is because of corporate conglomeration and the pattern of trading food on the spot market, driving prices down because of the ability, always, to 'get it elsewhere'.
I say let's recognize this parasitism and get it under control. Let us all talk to the produce manager and the buyer at our grocery store, ask him/her where this food came from and how far it traveled before it got here and how much the farmer gets for growing it and how much the person who picked it got. If they don't know these things, if we don't know these things, and feel decent in eating what we eat, we are part of the problem.
Bob Marley says "Their bellies full, but they're hungry. A hungry man is an angry man."

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