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FCWA STANDS WITH FARMWORKER MEMBERS IN OPPOSING THE FARM WORKFORCE MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2019

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The FCWA opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act because we believe it will set dangerous precedents, divide workers, and ultimately make conditions even more difficult for farmworkers across the country.

On November 12, 2019, H.R. 5038 – The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 was introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren of California. The bill introduces a process for farmworkers to access permanent residency status and also amends regulations for workers who work in agriculture under the H-2A program.

Many of our farmworker members have a long history of organizing with farmworkers across the US and Canada and supporting workers to improve their wages and working conditions. As an Alliance, we believe that regardless of immigration status, all farmworkers deserve dignity, respect, and full protection on the job and in the communities in which their families reside. It is our belief that our movement should be guided by this vision of expanding access to rights and protection for all workers, especially the right to organize. 

This bill moves in the opposite direction. It does not include the right to organize for farmworkers. It excludes many workers from “blue card” status, sets up a very long path to get residency status, and requires farmworkers to continue working in agriculture for up to 8 years to qualify. It expands the H-2A program without providing necessary oversight or adequate protections, and will serve to further divide farm workers against one another based on their immigration status. Many of our farmworker members have the following critiques of the bill:


PATH TO LEGAL STATUS IS LIMITED, COMPLEX AND EXCLUDES MANY CURRENT FARMWORKERS: The bill introduces a complicated process to access residency status that will exclude many current farmworkers and their families. For those workers who would be eligible, the bill requires workers to continue working for a long period (up to 8 more years) in agriculture to qualify. 

THE BILL EXPANDS A FLAWED H-2A PROGRAM  Many of our farmworker members organize with guestworkers or are seeing increasing numbers of guestworkers enter their regions and sectors and with that an increase in exploitation for both H-2A workers and domestic workers. H-2A workers’ immigration status is tied to one employer and workers are isolated in rural farming locations with little access to support, making it much more challenging to speak out about exploitation. Furthermore, workers in the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program have often paid significant sums to recruiters to obtain jobs, visas, and transportation. This current legislation does not jointly hold employers and recruiters liable for violations. When H-2A workers do report violations, they often face retaliation, including repatriation to their home countries. Despite this, we have seen many H-2A workers and guestworkers courageously come together to expose wage theft, health and safety violations, and other issues in their workplaces. 

The bill as negotiated increases some limited protections for H-2A workers, but it also weakens other hard fought protections that are already in place, such as a 1-year freeze of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. As negotiated, the current bill expands an exploitative program without the serious overhaul and oversight of the program that is needed. We believe we should strongly oppose employers using immigration laws to exploit and divide workers. Both guest workers and undocumented workers should have access to permanent status. 

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives added a rider (section 533) to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 3931) that if approved would expand the H-2A program to year-round work, with no reforms made to the program. This is a direct response to lobbying from agricultural employers, especially the dairy industry, who for years have been pushing for expansion of the program. Some advocates are suggesting that H.R. 5038 would counteract and replace this harmful rider. It is our view that H.R. 5038 is simply not strong enough to do so and we should oppose any legislation that does not provide stronger rights on the job for farmworkers and guestworkers and oversight over their conditions. 

The current proposed changes only reinforce the significant power imbalance between employers and workers. We strongly stand against any system of indentured servitude and believe all agricultural labourers should be treated with fairness and dignity and no worker should be disposable to serve the interests of the agricultural industry. 

REQUIRING E-VERIFY IN AGRICULTURE WILL HURT FARMWORKERS AND SETS UP A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT: E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. For most employers, E-Verify is voluntary and currently, there are no entire industries that are required under law to use E-Verify.  E-Verify unduly places a heavier burden on workers than on growers to comply and leaves workers vulnerable to fraud. We strongly oppose the collection of data that could one day be used to criminalize workers. Beyond the incredibly harmful impact this will have on farmworkers, granting this concession sets up a very harmful precedent for other immigration reform measures in the future. 

INJURED FARMWORKERS ARE EXCLUDED: Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries for workers, yet this bill will exclude the hundreds of thousands of undocumented farmworkers who have been injured on the job and who will therefore not qualify for residency status. While the bill contains some language regarding workplace safety and prevention of sexual harassment, there is no mechanism or funding in place for tracking and enforcement, nor is there any language around provision of healthcare. The bill does not address how guestworkers are often repatriated and blacklisted after they are injured. 

Finally, as our members have noted, there is no provision for the right to strike, the right to join a union, or the right to bargain collectively as a counterbalance to employers’ control over workers. 

For all of these reasons, the FCWA opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. We call on our allies to join us in taking action to ensure this bill does not pass. 

1. Call your legislators to oppose Section 533 in the appropriations bill H.R. 3931

2. Call your legislators to oppose H.R. 5038 – the Farm Workforce Modernization Act 

Visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials for contact information for your federal, state and local elected officials. You can also be directly connected to US representatives by calling 202-225-3121 and US senators by calling 202-224-3121.

Download full statement here

Burgerville Workers at Three Stores Go on Strike over Bad Faith Bargaining

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

08.09.2019

Contact: Emmett Schlenz, 401-855-9440, emmett.schlenz@gmail.com

Burgerville Workers at Three Stores Go on Strike over Bad Faith Bargaining 

PORTLAND, OR: Today, on Friday August 9, the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) went on strike at three stores to demand that Burgerville bargain with the Union in good faith and present workers with a serious proposal for higher wages. In a coordinated action, over 50 workers from the Hawthorne, 92nd & Powell, and Montavilla Burgerville locations went on strike today. This comes after months without a new wage proposal from Burgerville, and after the BVWU filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against Burgerville for bad faith bargaining. Workers will return to work tomorrow.

The BVWU has been in contract negotiations with Burgerville for over a year. In that time, the only wage proposal Burgerville has brought to the bargaining table is a $0.13/hr raise, which they presented five months ago. The BVWU found this proposal unacceptable, because it comes nowhere close to meeting workers’ demands for a living wage—a $5 raise for all hourly workers by the end of the three year contract, and for new hires to start at $15/hour immediately.

Right now, Burgerville pays many employees poverty wages, meaning that workers don’t make enough to maintain a decent standard of living. “When Burgerville workers have to choose between paying rent and paying for groceries, something’s wrong,” said Emmett Schlenz, a Hawthorne worker who participated in the strike. “They [Burgerville corporate] should be ashamed of themselves for fighting to keep people in poverty.” 

Since this spring, Burgerville has repeatedly promised to bring workers a better wage proposal and then failed to do so, breaking their promises and missing deadlines they set themselves. “They’ve been stringing us along for months,” said Drew Edmonds, a worker at the Montavilla Burgerville who went on strike. “They don’t want to talk to us, they don’t want to work with us, and now they won’t come to the bargaining table at all.”

This past Wednesday August 7, Burgerville was scheduled to meet with the BVWU for a contract negotiations session, and bring a new wage proposal. On Tuesday, Burgerville told the Union that they would not be meeting for bargaining the next day, because of the possibility of a strike on Wednesday. Burgerville specifically cited that General Managers would not be able to attend bargaining, because they would have to be present at their stores to handle potential strikes. The BVWU upholds that some General Managers regularly miss bargaining sessions, and this is an inadequate reason to justify once again pushing back contract negotiations.

Delaying the bargaining session has very immediate impacts on workers like Betty Buchanan from the Montavilla Burgerville, who can’t afford to keep waiting for a raise. Buchanan said, I’ve had to sell the only thing I had left from my dad before he passed away, just to put food on the table. I’m going on strike because they keep stalling and we need a raise and fair contract now.Mark Medina, a striking worker from 92nd & Powell, stated that “Every month the company refuses to move forward towards a good contract, every month they make excuses, is a month working families have to do without.”

On Wednesday, the BVWU filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, stating that Burgerville’s decision to postpone a contract negotiations session on the basis of a potential strike constitutes bargaining in bad faith. According to Mark Medina, Burgerville corporate’s reasoning for pushing back the bargaining session doesn’t hold because “Any day the company refuses to bargain in good faith by bringing real proposals, is a potential strike day, regardless if that’s next week, next month, or next year.”

This morning, Burgerville workers from the Hawthorne, 92nd & Powell, and Montavilla stores went on strike to show Burgerville Corporate that they will not tolerate any more delays in negotiating over wages. “We’re on strike because this kind of behavior can’t stand,” said Nathan Iles-Pride, a worker from the Hawthorne Burgerville. “Bad faith bargaining, dragging their feet on the wage issue, refusing to negotiate—this is unacceptable. We have been fighting for years and it’s about time we see real results.”

The BVWU has won elections at five Burgerville stores and is the largest fast food workers union in U.S. history. Workers have been fighting for years for fair wages, an end to Burgerville’s voluntary collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), affordable health care, and improved working conditions. Burgerville corporate has sought to block Union demands at every opportunity and gone back on policies agreed to at the bargaining table. Corporate has also engaged in illegal activities, such as changing policies at stores involved in bargaining without first consulting the Union. Until a fair contract is negotiated, the BVWU continues to call for a boycott of all Burgerville locations. 

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ILRF is hiring

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The International Labor Rights Forum is hiring, for the Legal & Policy Director and Communications Coordinator positions. The International Labor Rights Forum is a human rights organization that advocates for dignity and justice for workers in the global economy. We hold global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains; we advance policies and laws that protect workers; and we strengthen workers’ ability to advocate for their rights. More information about ILRF is available at www.LaborRights.org.

Apply https://laborrights.org/join-our-team


Job Opening: Communications Coordinator

The Communications Coordinator will work across the organization to develop ILRF’s organization-wide communications strategy and to strengthen ILRF’s campaigns, policy advocacy, and alliances. The Communications Coordinator will carry out public campaign advocacy for workers’ rights, particularly as it relates to labor rights in globally-traded supply chains, such as agricultural commodities, apparel, and the seafood industry. Responsibilities include communications strategy development, coalition building and networking, responding to urgent action requests, supporting ILRF’s communications needs, and fundraising. This job is an excellent opportunity to grow your understanding of global supply chain campaigns, trade policy, and international labor rights advocacy.


Job Opening: Administrative Assistant

The Administrative Assistant will report to the Director of Finance and Administration, and play an integral role in the organization’s operations and fundraising, working closely with other staff to strengthen ILRF’s engagement with supporters and activists. Responsibilities include coordinating logistics and fundraising for ILRF’s annual gala, database administration and maintenance, cultivating individual donor relationships, supporting the Executive Director with scheduling and engagement with board members, and other finance and administrative duties. This job is an excellent entrée into understanding nonprofit management and an overall perspective on ILRF’s full range of labor rights advocacy.

FOOD WORKERS STAND WITH BLACK LIVES MATTERS

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We emphatically reject the violent abhorrent actions that took place in Minneapolis against peaceful Black Lives Matters protestors. We call on our elected officials to denounce these terrorists with the same vigor as the attacks in Paris last week.

As the country’s largest private sector workforce, the nation’s 20 million food workers form the backbone of the economy. Over 40% of workers in the food system are people of color. However, the food system has the lowest wages of any sector in the economy. The legacy of slavery continues to plague the food system, and our society at large. The jobs that were once slave-labor; farmworkers, pickers, servers and others are now by no coincidence the lowest paid jobs in America. Unless we leave these chains behind we will not be able to move forward and value the labor of the people who put food on our table.

On this International Food Worker Week when we give thanks for our families and the food we are blessed to share, let us not forget the workers and their families that struggle every day to put food on their tables. As food workers we give thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and our shared struggle to free us all from the legacy of slavery in our food system and in society.

Donate for Joann’s 40th Birthday!

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2014 05 18 JoannJoann Lo, co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, is turning 40 this year on March 16, and her birthday wish is to raise $1,500 for the Alliance! Click below to donate!

Joann is so proud to be part of this organization that is supporting innovative organizing campaigns and policy initiatives that are improving jobs for low-wage food workers and that is changing the national discussion around a sustainable food system so more and more people now include good jobs as part of what a sustainable food should be. Please consider donating at least $40 for her 40th birthday (more or less is much appreciated, too!) and help her reach her goal! In the above photo, she is at a rally with her husband and her daughter. Thank you for your help!

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