Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

From today’s New York Times:

Veronica Mota marched under the sweltering sun, hoisting a cloth banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe above her head for miles.

“Sí, se puede,” she chanted in unison with dozens of other farmworkers, who waved U.S. and Mexican flags as they walked along two-lane roads lined by dense orange groves in the Central Valley of California.

The banner, flags and rallying cry — “Yes, we can” — echoed back more than half a century to when Cesar Chavez, a co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, led agricultural workers on a pilgrimage along a similar route to meet lawmakers in Sacramento.

“We are a legacy of Cesar Chavez,” said Ms. Mota, 47, who, when blisters began to form on her feet during the 24-day trek in August, gathered strength by thinking of how the march in the 1960s led to groundbreaking farmworker reforms and propelled the U.F.W. to national prominence.

What the farmworkers wanted last summer was for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign into law a bill that they argued would make it easier and less intimidating for workers to vote in union elections — a key step, they believed, in rebuilding the size and influence of a now far less prolific U.F.W. But changing a rule is not the same as changing the game. The question now is whether the U.F.W. can show it has not irretrievably lost its organizing touch and can regain the ability to mobilize public opinion on its behalf as it did under Mr. Chavez.

The union is a shadow of what it was decades ago. Membership hovers around 5,500 farmworkers, less than 2 percent of the state’s agricultural work force, compared with 60,000 in the 1970s. In the same period, the number of growers covered by U.F.W. contracts has fallen to 22 from about 150. The march last summer stood as a reckoning of sorts for a union desperate to regain its relevance.

Read the complete story here.

By Editor