Friday, May 9, 2014

The movement broadens: Teamsters, UFCW, McDonald's, Taylor Farms workers fight together for fair wages

California's political leaders were recently briefed on the growing battle for fair wages by Teamsters, Taylor Farms workers, a Safeway clerk with UFCW and a young McDonald’s worker. They connected the fast food workers' movement and the struggle of workers further down the supply chain at Taylor Farms.

The briefing was organized by Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who said:
As the son of two activists within the United Farm Workers, I am all too aware of the struggles of immigrant workers in the California food supply chain. While the plight of workers in Tracy may seem remote to Oakland, Taylor Farms supplies the vegetables to local fast food restaurants such as McDonald's and KFC, and to other restaurant chains and grocery stores like Walmart, Safeway and Costco. The movement to organize workers across the food supply chain for fair wages and working conditions deserves our respect.
Politicians at the briefing pledged their support for Taylor Farms workers, who began organizing for their union with Teamsters Local 601 in August of last year. The workers faced a brutal anti-union, anti-immigrant campaign by the company. Workers' ballots in an election for union representation were impounded by the National Labor Relations Board pending review of dozens of Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company.

That the movement for fair wages is broadening, deepening and gaining momentum was evidenced by the support for the briefing, which was co-sponsored by the Alameda County Labor Council, the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Food Chain Workers Alliance. Teamsters from Locals 70, 853315, and 601 attended to hear the workers speak. Other labor allies joined the event as well, including UFCW, AFSCME, SEIU, the Oakland Education Association, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, the Community Food & Justice Coalition, and the Oakland Food Policy Council.

Julian Camacho, the first worker to be illegally terminated for his union activity, gave a moving account of the harsh conditions at Taylor Farms in Tracy and the company’s fierce anti-union assault in the run up to the election. After the briefing, he said:
We drove to Oakland to talk to supporters and the support we received was unimaginable. We definitely feel like we are not alone, that there are a lot of people behind us.
Jose Vega, another worker who went to the event, added:
We told political leaders and others our story at Taylor Farms and they were surprised to hear that such abusive treatment of workers still goes on.
The briefing, which was held at Teamsters Local 70, was attended by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland City Council members Libby Schaaf, Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb. Oakland School Board member Anne Campbell-Washington was also at the hearing. Oakland's school district prides itself on its progressive food procurement system that previously included Taylor Farms products.

Rudy Cazares, a Taylor Farms worker said:
“We feel supported by all the people from different unions and communities. We are not alone in our campaign. The people we talked to felt our story in their hearts. Our voices are being heard everywhere.”
The company's campaign against the workers' union drive has included illegal firings, harassment, armed intimidation, racist obscenities and threats against immigrant workers.

While the NLRB is investigating charges against the company, the workers and the Teamsters are expanding the campaign for justice at Taylor Farms by reaching out community allies, political leaders and the press. In Salinas, Calif., approximately 2,500 Taylor Farms workers are members of Teamsters Local 890.