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Chavez, Farm Workers Union Are Laborers' 'Only Hope'

April 11, 1993

Harry Bernstein's March 30 Labor column ("UFW of Today Sows Little Hope") proclaims the demise of the United Farm Workers of America and states that Dolores Huerta "quit" the union.

Get it right, Harry. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union are the only hope for farm workers.

Bernstein revealed his ignorance of the current activities of the UFW in his article.

UFW staffs throughout California, Arizona, Florida and Texas work daily on collective bargaining matters, organizing, negotiations, grievances and arbitration. Also, they handle hundreds of cases regarding unfair labor practices, wage claims, immigration, agency hearings, workers' compensation and numerous other social issues that confront workers.

The UFW's Community Union membership of workers who do not have the protection of a union contract is now 20,000 strong and growing. (This is in addition to the 20,000 under contract.)

Blaming the UFW--and more specifically, Cesar Chavez--for agribusiness' refusal to bargain and comply with the labor laws is blaming the victim.

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board has refused to administer the law that is supposed to encourage farm worker bargaining and organization, leaving the workers totally at the mercy of their employers, creating working conditions that are worse than those in John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath."

The UFW has won representational elections covering more than 8,000 workers within the last five years. Union contracts are not realized because the ALRB has intentionally delayed certification of these elections for years. The ALRB has turned a blind eye to employers' repeated retaliations against workers who support the UFW, resulting in unwarranted discharges, blackballing and even death, as in the case of Rene Lopez, a worker killed at a Fresno County farm for organizing the union.

Millions of dollars owed to workers by growers who have been found to have wrongfully terminated workers because of their UFW support has gone unpaid, and the ALRB has done nothing.

Cesar Chavez alerted the nation and continues the UFW's educational campaign on the dangers of pesticides. Pesticide poisonings are epidemic among farm workers, and the cancer rates among farm workers' children range from 800% to 1,200% above the national average.

The UFW has asked the public to boycott California table grapes until the use of these toxins is terminated and California's fields become a safe working environment for farm workers.

The incredible magnitude of the difficult work of the dedicated staff and leadership of the United Farm Workers union to gain justice for farm workers does not deserve Mr. Bernstein's denigrating comments.

Furthermore, had Mr. Bernstein contacted me, he would have known that I am currently on a campus tour promoting the California table grape boycott. In February, I made a presentation to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva; testified before the Helsinki Commission on farm workers and reported to the U.S. Congress on farm workers.

I also sit on the board of the Farm Workers Credit Union, the union's Juan De La Cruz Pension Fund and the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan.

Does this sound like I've quit? I don't think so.



Huerta lists herself as vice president emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America.

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