“Every time we sit at a table at night or in the morning to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations…” – Cesar Chavez.
When UPS students get overly excited at the sight of red, delicious strawberries at the Diner, we tend to forget the men and women who pick our fruit. We forget that the reason we have cheap food in the United States is because of the farmworkers who slave away in the fields, barely able to sustain a healthy livelihood for themselves and for their families. Trapped in vicious cycles of poverty, these men, women, and children cannot afford to put nourishing meals on the table.
Professor Oriel Siu’s Intro to Latino studies class organized a discussion with migrant farm work union ‘Familias Unidas por la Justicia’ to raise awareness of this reality that most of us overlook. Ramon Torres, president of the union, shared his experiences working for Sakuma Brothers Berries, the terrible conditions that have forced them to go on strike and why they are boycotting Sakuma, Driscoll’s, and Häagen-Dazs. What these farmworkers and their allies demand is secure living wages of at least $15 per hour, standard living conditions, that the company stop stealing their wages, and respect rather than racial discrimination in the berry fields.
The latino studies class will continue their activism next semester and have formed a club called ‘UPS students for Farm Worker Justice. Another thing we take for granted at our university is how much power we students have organizing together. It’s great to see students step up against the silencing of those who may not have the same privileges we do.
At the event, a lady from the audience told us about her experience working in the fields of Eastern Washington as a young girl. When ‘la migra,’ also known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement would show up, to confuse them the US citizens would flee while the undocumented farmworkers would stay, a clever trick…and so unfortunate that we can’t treat better the hands that feed us.