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Don't Ignore Workers' Struggle

May 07, 1997

Although The Times printed a front-page article on the United Farm Workers' current strawberry- worker-union-organizing campaign ("Strawberry Fields a Hard Row for UFW," April 12), the April 16 Food section cover story on the generational history of Japanese American strawberry farm growers/owners struck me as ironic, to say the least.

Four days after a mass march involving thousands of workers and supporters was held in Watsonville to draw attention to the plight of strawberry field workers, the Food section cover story made no mention of their current struggles. Only scant mention was made of the adverse working conditions strawberry pickers on most California farms are forced to endure--below-poverty-level pay, exposure to toxic pesticides, lack of access to safe drinking water or bathrooms--and this was tacked to the end of an article on an inside page that focused on the recent frozen-strawberry hepatitis A outbreak ("Trouble in Strawberryland").

Of course, it can be said that a report on a union-organizing drive or farm laborer conditions doesn't fit within the purview of a section devoted to the enjoyment and preparation of food. But then, in this country's "advanced" era of ever-increasing convenience and comfort, it is all too easy to ignore the fact that someone else is breaking their back stooped over in a pesticide-soaked field all day in the hot sun so that you can enjoy a good, easy meal.

MARISA AGUAYO

Los Angeles

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