A meeting was held yesterday as a follow up to the National Walk for Farm Worker Justice....Minutes were taken and will be available, but I know a lot of you wanted to attend and couldn't, so here is my scoop:
I saw folks from AFL-CIO, SEIU, PCUN representing labor. Others from EMO, OR Farm Worker Ministries, Quakers, Methodists.... Fellowship of Reconciliation, Portland Indymedia, and Youth Action Network....among others, all making up a wide coalition of interests and groups.
A new group, born out of the Walk, was formed....Farmworker Justice Coalition, whose main objective is to work for collective bargaining rights for Oregon farmworkers. There was some discussion as to the breadth of the focus of our activities....i.e., does community education move us closer to collective bargaining? Does meeting with small farmers to find common ground move us closer to collective bargaining, etc.
One theory that I particularly liked was that we CAN do it all....we just can't do it all at once! There were people clearly interested in various dierctions. I think a time line will be developed at our next meeting (date TBA) which will include a weekend (instead of a full week) Walk next June, on-going vigils in front of Norpak ... perhaps including individual organizations from the Coalition taking leadership and commiting to certain dates, a big ad in the Statesman Journal announcing ourselves and our intentions, among other ideas. Meeting regionally within the Coalition general meeting was also suggested. Focussing on internal education....perhaps even offering a weekend workshop, to bring ourselves up to speed on the issues in preparation for making public presentations was also discussed. PCUN's Rebecca Saldana is taking a leave of absence beginning in November, and it was noted that her expertise was invaluable, and should be tapped before she leaves.
Some workers from PictSweet came and gave us an update.....They explained that they chose a BOYCOTT vs a STRIKE because there are so many others out there that could be hired to replace picketers. This would have enabled the management to continue their mismanagement and abuse and no real forward movement wouldhave been achieved. Enrique, who suffered the accident, continues to receive calls taunting him and asking why he's not coming in to work. He says he is scared and nervous, as well as confused about what he could actually do with just one hand. If there were a union/protection, he would return. The workers made it clear that they are farmworkers, with little education, and do not understand the ins and outs of our legal system. They said they have asked inumerable times to have just a minute of the manager's time to discuss and explain their problems...which affect the manager as well. To this day, he has not found that minute to give to them.
A sizeable amount of money came in after the Walk, and is being transferred to the Coalition. PictSweet workers asked for, and it seemed clear they would be given a good contribution. (I left before this was actually finalized.) I also believe some of that money will go to scholarships for folks traveling to Oaxaca in October for the seminar there: "Through Farmworker's Eyes".
Jeremy from Portland Indymedia showed and distributed to each region, a CD Rom video he had put together of the Walk. It is 16 (I believe) minutes long and can by used for educational purposes. Let me know if you or your group would like to borrow Corvallis' copy.
So that is my take.....It was definitely an upbeat, positive meeting, with so many people and groups present. As I was leaving the meeting to hurry back to a Spanish Class, there was discussion about why the focus should be an Independent Commission versus changing legislation. I will have to catch up on that topic!