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World Food Relief Agency Offers Help in Egg City Walkout

September 04, 1986|MAYERENE BARKER | Times Staff Writer

World Vision International, a Christian relief agency that has dispersed emergency food supplies to millions in foreign countries such as Cambodia, Somalia and Ethiopia, will feed hungry people closer to home on Friday--the families of striking Moorpark farm workers.

Officials of the Monrovia-based agency offered their help when they heard that many Ventura County food pantries had been depleted because of the needs of about 150 families of workers taking part in the two-month-long strike at Egg City chicken ranch, said Michael Frieline, the agency's field projects coordinator.

"Our local food pantry was wiped out the first day," said Ruben Castro, director of the Catholic Social Service office in Moorpark.

Strike negotiations will resume Friday but, even if the dispute is settled then, it will not solve the families' problems immediately, Castro said.

At the urging of United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez, the workers walked off the job June 24 after management cut their wages by $2 an hour. Officials from Egg City, the world's largest chicken ranch, said the wage cut was essential for the company to survive. In May, the firm filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U. S. Bankruptcy Code.

UFW negotiators have said that they reached agreement with management on wage cuts of roughly $1 an hour but that several key issues pertaining to benefits remain unresolved.

Frieline said World Vision has paid Lord's Ministry, an Orange County hunger organization, $2,250 to purchase and deliver a truckload of food--enough to feed the striking workers and their families for a week--to the Catholic Service Organization office.

Various organizations, including his own, have collected food for the families wherever they could for the past few weeks, Castro said.

Describes Own Efforts

"But you never know what you're going to get," Castro said. "Some days, it's tomatoes; the next day, beans, and the next day, bread."

World Vision's contribution will provide the families with the kinds of food they haven't had for several weeks, including meat, milk, fresh fruit and eggs, Castro said.

"The farm workers have run out of their savings," said Susan Hamm, who heads a group at St. Peter Claver Church in Simi Valley that is helping the families. "It's such a shame. Some of these families are down to one small meal a day."

Many of the workers have been employed at Egg City since it opened 15 years ago, Castro said.

Castro said that, even after the strike ends, it will be at least two more weeks before the workers get a paycheck.

The striking workers are like most other people, Castro said. "They live from paycheck to paycheck."

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