Ramon Ramierez, president of PCUN, spoke before nearly fifty people at one of many teach-ins at Memorial Coliseum on August 4th. Mr. Ramierez spoke about the origins of PCUN. "We started in 1985 in Salem, OR...at the time it was not unusual to find farm workers not making close to the state minimum wage. These are the people who put food on America's tables, but are treated like second-class citizens."
Mr. Ramierez detailed how he contacted famed migrant worker activist Caeasar Chavez for assistance. He got the help, and today they have a 5,000 worker union. "It has been a long, hard struggle," Ramierez pointed out. He explained that prior to 1990 it was illegal for farmworkers to strike during harvest time. Add to this that farmworkers are the lowest paid laborers in the U.S. (earning on average $7,500 a year) and it became clear to the audience why PCUN came into existence.
Mr. Ramierez also explained the PCUN has also done extensive work getting farmworkers housing. "We are encouraging people to become citizens. That is how we build power. We need to take ground inch by inch...when we do that, we build institutions of change."