Almost 60 years ago, Edward R. Murrow’s groundbreaking TV documentary entitled the “Harvest of Shame” highlighted for Americans the plight of farm workers. Despite many marches, boycotts, worker strikes, and labor negotiations which produced much success and improvements in the conditions of farm labor over time, worker injustices continue in our state.
There has been a 10-year labor dispute and current counter-lawsuits between the United Farm Workers and the Ruby Ridge Dairy outside of the Tri-Cities. A Superior Court judge in the Tri-Cities will hear the case later this month. There are at least five workplace injustices that are the basis of the farm workers’ lawsuit:
- Meal/water/rest breaks
- Sexual Harassment
- Workplace safety and injuries
- Wage Theft (not being paid for regular and overtime hours)
- Retaliation for speaking up and union organizing
FAN and the Church Council of Greater Seattle have been working with a coalition of labor and community groups to negotiate on an out-of-court settlement. The Ruby Ridge Dairy is one of 400 dairies in our state; the vast majority of those are in a co-op that sells their milk to Darigold, which is a key corporate player in this dispute. Numerous faith leaders signed and delivered a letter on September 13th to Darigold CEO Stan Ryan (brother to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan), asking for a meeting with faith leaders and calling for a settlement with the United Farm Workers. FAN and CCGS also met with Costco leadership a week ago to ask them to urge Darigold to do the right thing and settle with the United Farm Workers.
There are two opportunities for public action next week in Seattle to support the United Farm Workers:
Monday, September 17 at 1:30 PM at Seattle City Hall (4th Ave Plaza) there will be a press conference that will feature a proposed resolution from City Council calling on Darigold to meet with the United Farm Workers and settle their dispute. The council is scheduled to vote on this resolution later that afternoon. Please call or email your council member to encourage them to support it – almost all of them are:
District 1: Lisa Herbold, 206-684-8803
District 2: Bruce Harrell, 206-684-8804
District 3: Kshama Sawant, 206-684-8016
District 4: Rob Johnson, 206-684-8808
District 5: Debora Juarez, 206-684-8805
District 6: Mike O’Brien, 206-684-8800
District 7: Sally Bagshaw, 206-684-8801
District 8: Teresa Mosqueda, 206-684-8806
District 9: Lorena González, 206-684-8802
Thursday, September 20 at Noon at the Darigold offices (5601 6th Ave. South), there will be a press conference where UFW president Arturo Rodriguez will begin a Reconciliation Fast calling on Darigold to meet with them. President Rodriguez is inviting all who support the workers to join him for not only this press conference on the 20th but to stand and fast with him. The fast will go for five days, through the 24th.
Each day, a sector of allies will be responsible for organizing individuals to stand with the farm workers. Communities of faith and faith organizations are hosting on Saturday and Sunday, the 22nd and 23rd. Each day will be broken into two-hour commitments to stand and fast. Sign-up here to join.
We invite you and members of your faith community to join in this Reconciliation Fast with the UFW. To sign up please contact Michael Ramos (206) 465-6263. If you have other questions about this issue, contact Paul Benz (206) 390-4133.