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Walk for Farmworker Justice

The 2nd annual walk for farm workers is a one-day walk around farms in Oregon to show support for workers rights and to educate ourselves more about the conditions farmworkers face.
Walk for Farmworker Justice
Walk for Farmworker Justice
Hello Friends of Farmworkers,

It's time to put on your walking shoes again and come out to show your solidarity for farmworkers! The second Walk for Farmworker Justice is just around the corner. It's this July 13th 9am to 6pm Woodburn Oregon. Please see the details below and in the attached flyer.

Those of you coming from Eugene, you can carpool up or ride a bus up for free. Meet at 7:15am on the 13th at South Eugene Highschool east parking lot.

Please help spread the word! And be there!

Agatha Schmaedick
Farmworker Justice Coalition of Oregon

SOLIDARITY with Farmworkers!
Get Involved! & Meet other Active People!

2nd Walk for Farmworker Justice July 13th Woodburn 9am ­ 6pm

Who: Various labor, human rights, environmental and religious
organizations taking a stand for the fair and humane treatment of

What: A one-day walk around farms in Oregon to show support for workers rights and to educate ourselves more about the conditions farmworkers face.

Where & When: July 13th: assemble 9am at Legion Park, Woodburn. (Park Ave., across from Salud Medical Center and two blocks south). Dinner,music and speakers following 4:30pm at Legion Park. Suggested donation $10.

Why-- Goals of the WFJ:
· Bring national attention and support to the Oregon farmworkers¹
struggle for justice and the right to bargain collectively.
· Keep NORPAC and their growers at the negotiations table.
·Construct an inclusive coalition of labor, faith, and community
members to be a force for justice now and in the years ahead.
·To create a march focused on faith and justice, bringing together farmworker advocates with farmworkers in the tradition of Cesar

For more information contact the Farmworker Justice Coalition:
(541)607-8097 www.wfjustice.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.wfjustice.org

Mary Jo Tully address at last year's Walk 02.Jul.2002 23:57


This is the text of a speech given by Mary Jo Tully, Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, on June 18, 2001, during last year's Walk for Farmworker Justice. It was delivered at the Centro Cultural in Cornelius and I had the pleasure of hearing it in person. Beautiful stuff.

This is the Oregon strawberry season--those brief few weeks when we can buy strawberries from our local farms--rich, juicy and succulent fruits that do not come from a foreign country or another state. I looked at those strawberries in the supermarket the other day and I could almost taste them. My mouth watered at the thought of their sweetness, but I was left with a bitter aftertaste. I thought of the workers in the field who had, perhaps, slept in an auto the night before they picked those berries. I thought of the hot days that produced such red berries and I tasted the sweat of those whose backbreaking labor put those berries before me. It was the taste of their separation from family, the flavor of their sometimes unsuccessful efforts to support their children. It was the dust of unsuitable housing and the bitterness of poverty.

I tasted, too, the frustration of the grower. Falling prices, increasing energy costs and diesel prices, competition from overseas and a water shortage have made it even more difficult for growers and farm workers to resolve their differences. The berries I could not bring myself to buy were $1.49 a pint. They were grown at the expense of growers and workers.

As Catholics, we believe in the dignity of each and every human person. Our purpose in participating in this walk is not to defend the rights of any individual. It is to announce the dignity of every person and to call on all members of the community to work toward justice.

Those who work on farms often work with little pay and few if any benefits. Sometimes they are mistreated and abused. Some feel unable to speak or to bargain for themselves because they are undocumented. Tonight, I ask all of you to work for legislation that will enable every farm worker and family to have an opportunity to adjust their status and remain in the United States legally on a permanent basis. This is not enough. All of us need to engage in the issues surrounding justice in the fields. We need to make affordable housing available to farm worker families and, most especially, workers need to have a voice in their own future. We commend Centro Cultural for all its efforts to bring growers, workers, and the larger community together to address these issues. We join with the religions of every denomination in seeking a resolution to the issues that keep workers and growers apart . We support the right of farm workers to organize and pledge our continued work on behalf of all in this community.

The Hispanic community is a gift to the Pacific Northwest, to our Church and to our society. You enrich us with your culture and your presence. You are our sisters and our brothers. We stand with you when you are in need. Your struggles are our struggles. Your needs are our own. At each Eucharistic celebration, Catholics remember that God gives us this earth and its fruits. Our growers and our farm workers bless God?s gift with the work of their hands. When we walk with you, we walk with God.

portland indymedia coverage of previous Walk 03.Jul.2002 00:13


Last year's Walk for Farmworker Justice was a week-long affair. In cooperation with KBOO community radio, portland indymedia provided more in-depth coverage of the event than any other media organization, with new articles, photos and video posted everyday.

Highlights were numerous, but included the march to the Pictsweet Factory, where Salem mayor Swaim addressed the crowd with a bullhorn from the back of a pick-up; the walk to the NORPAC plant in Stayton; and the various teach-ins and educational moments that the Walk provided.

The archives of the portland indymedia coverage, including audio from the KBOO reports, can be found at portland.indymedia.org/wfj.

the religious facet of the Walk 03.Jul.2002 01:25

The PDX Prop Busta

Religious organizations and people of faith have been at the forefront of the farmworker justice movement in Oregon. The 2001 Walk for Farmworker Justice was organized and endorsed by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and a plethora of churches around the state, in addition to labor and human rights groups. Check out the impressive list here.

The "Walk for Farmworker Justice Resolution" that was approved at the 2001 Regional Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oregon is an overtly religious document which references both the Torah and the New Testament and reveals that the Church has supported "the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining to better their working conditions and pay since 1938".

In the same document, Ecumenical Ministries states: "We affirm that among the basic rights for all people who work in the state of Oregon, whether recognized by the law or not, is the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining without the fear of reprisal as a means for workers to achieve a just wage, prevent economic exploitation and protect human dignity." Here we have the idea that people have certain rights regardless of what the law says. Such a notion of morality posits value in people, not structures; as it should be in a world populated not by "resources" but by souls and life. One doesn't have to be a person of faith to gain this understanding of reality, but it might help!

Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, United Treeplanters and Farmworkers of the Northwest), Oregon's largest Latino organization, and the union that has fought for farmworker rights for twenty years, has its roots in the Catholic Church.

On the Walk last year, we stopped at numerous churches along the way for meals, meetings and respite. I met some marvelous, dedicated, well-meaning folks who were taking action for justice, and who were motivated by the faith in their hearts. Whenever I hear folks on "the left" slam on religious people, I get ticked off. Such prejudice would not be tolerated, and rightly so, if expressed against just about any other group. Why is that? I don't know, but it's high time that progressives got over this bit of bigotry and started cooperating more with some of their hardest-working allies. In many, many cases, religious people have been the leaders of the movement, and without them it would be much smaller and less effective. Let's get together, everyone.

Have you heard? 03.Jul.2002 08:00

farmers rise up!

Protesters Take Over USDA Office in Tennessee
Black Farmers Say Promised Loans Were Mishandled

by Darryl Fears

Three hundred black farmers took over a U.S. Department of Agriculture regional office in Brownsville, Tenn., yesterday to protest what organizers called the agency's failure to process loan applications from growers who were counting on the money to plant this year's crops.

Tom Burrell, a Covington, Tenn., farmer and a member of the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association, speaks to a crowd outside a U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Brownsville, Tenn., Monday morning, July 1, 2002, as part of a protest. More than 300 black farmers claiming discrimination in federal crop loans staged a demonstration Monday. (AP Photo by Greg Campbell)

"These farmers are still waiting for word to see if they can get money," said Tom Burrell, a board member of the Tennessee chapter of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, one of several groups that organized the protest. "But now, for all intents and purposes, the planting season is over. This is nothing but business as usual."

Authorities reported no injuries in the building's takeover, after which about half of the farmers remained inside throughout the day. USDA officials said its employees were sent home for the day.

"They were very nice," said Gary Grant, a North Carolina farmer and president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists. "They had been very accommodating. Typical USDA. 'We're going to be very nice to you. Here's the bathroom. Here's the water fountain.' We didn't come to use the bathroom and the water fountain. The men came for their money."

In 1999, the USDA settled a class action lawsuit brought by African American farmers who said they had been denied loans by regional bureaus when white farmers had not been. As of February, the agency had paid more than $615 million on slightly less than half of the 22,600 claims filed, according to statistics posted on the agency's Web site.

Over the years, the lawsuit said, loan rejections to African American growers, which often came under catastrophic conditions, led to massive losses, foreclosures and, ultimately, the loss of farms. In 1920, there were 925,000 black farmers, according to USDA and Census records. Today, there are about 15,000.

"We're at a point right now where we're all but extinct," Burrell said. "This is the last stand for black farmers. If we don't get a victory in the next six months, it's curtains for the black farmer. This is all a part of a conspiracy to get rid of us."

Alisa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the USDA, said the takeover of the bureau, which houses a Farm Services Agency office that makes loans, was unfortunate.

"When you take the kind of action they took today, you disrupt the work the employees are there to do," Harrison said. "There is a place to process disputes in a professional manner. If you look at the last couple of years, we've significantly increased our staffing and resources regarding these types of matters."

Yesterday's protesters came from 16 states by car, train and pickup truck to support five black Tennessee growers. Protest organizers said the five had applied for loans in Fayette County, but the loan applications were sent to Haywood County, where they sat for more than a month.

The farmers -- Coach Perkins, James Hood, Barton Nelson, Earnest Campbell and Gerald Pettaway -- entered into agreements for land, fuel, fertilizer and seed with the understanding that the money was coming, Burrell said. When the planting season ended with the start of July, there was no money. Now they face thousands of dollars of debt.

The protesters demanded to speak with Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman in Washington, to have the loans of the five farmers processed, and to have negotiations on speeding up the processing of claims related to the lawsuit before vacating the building at 1191 Dupree St. in Brownsville.

"We are willing to stay in this building until we get what's necessary," said Burrell, who lost his Tennessee farm to foreclosure in 1981.

Attorney James Myart, another organizer, said the protesters would be nonviolent. "If police touch us, we're going to go limp," he said. "They'll need a large number of officers to carry us out."

For Grant it was a stinging reminder of how his father, Matthew, suffered in Tillery, N.C. The USDA foreclosed on Matthew Grant's farm because he was delinquent by $10,000 on a loan four times that amount.

Grant said the USDA would not adjust the terms for repayment of the loan, even though the delinquency resulted from three years of catastrophic weather. Grant said he proved that the agency adjusted repayment terms for white farmers who suffered from the same conditions.

Matthew Grant died in December, five months after his wife.

"The fact that they died before this was settled is just awful," Grant said of his father's claim under the class action suit. "What the USDA is doing is waiting for these people to die, thinking their children won't pick up the fight. They tried to prevent me from becoming the substitute executor of my father's estate. That's how determined they are."

© 2002 The Washington Post Company