Inspiring Change in the Food System

C2C believes the best food system includes worker solidarity and a voice with power in the workplace; all workers no matter their race or ethnicity deserve the opportunity to organize into a union and collectively bargain with their employers. A recent pri.org article describes yet another example how workers can stand together and also how the powerful agricultural bosses worked to break up the union.

Around 200 Mexican betabeleros (beet pickers) and 1,000 Japanese buranke katsugi (blanket carriers, so named for their itinerant lifestyles) united. They formed the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA), one of America’s first multiracial labor unions. Communicating through interpreters, this multilingual group successfully negotiated a strategy for action. On February 11, 1903, workers walked off the job in what would become the “first successful agricultural strike” in Southern California, according to the Encyclopedia of U. Labor and Working-Class History. By the end of March, the group’s numbers had grown to 1,300 and frustrated growers brought in scabs to cross the picket lines.
— Natasha Varner, How Japanese and Mexican American farm workers formed an alliance that made history
Millions of temporary workers from Mexico came north through the Bracero Program, the US’s largest agricultural contract labor program . Here, a bracero is vaccinated while others wait in line at the Monterrey Processing Center, Mexico in 1956. Credit: Leonard Nadel/Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Millions of temporary workers from Mexico came north through the Bracero Program, the US’s largest agricultural contract labor program . Here, a bracero is vaccinated while others wait in line at the Monterrey Processing Center, Mexico in 1956.

Credit: Leonard Nadel/Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

 

Similar to Familias Unidas por la Justicia, a group of immigrant farm workers from Oaxaca, these immigrant workers from Mexico, Japan, China and the Philippines came together in solidarity and in spite of being excluded from the National Labor Relations Act still were able to legally form their union. The only difference between then and now is that today the AFL-CIO and the WA State Labor Council stands strong with FUJ. We believe that together family farmers and large agri-corporations can collectively bargain to improve our food system. Our organization, and many others, are ready to use all of our resources and relationships to promote a fair trade product, such as a berry with the Familias Unidas por La Justicia union label. The power of the union can mobilize the purchasing power of the consumers!