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

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Photo: Farmworker Association of Florida

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.

Please help us make sure the Farm Workforce Modernization Act does not become law and sign and share our petition urging representatives to oppose the bill.


 

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.

The Bill passed in the House by a vote of 260-165 on December 11, 2019. It was received in the Senate on December 12, 2019 and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Senate committee hearings have not yet been scheduled.

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. Sign and share our petition urging representatives to oppose FWMA.
  2. Share our message that #FarmworkersDeserveBetter in your networks.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Download the FCWA’s full statement on FWMA here:

Read statement’s from our members and from other allies on the harmful impact of FWMA:

CATA

Community to Community Development

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Farmworker Association of Florida

UFCW

 

 

Support Striking Meatpackers at Olymel!

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On Day One of Food Workers Rising, we are asking you to support 350 striking food workers in Princeville Quebec!

Meatpacking workers at Olymel have been on strike since October 29. The Quebec-based company is the largest hog producer in Canada. Workers at the Princeville Olymel plant took a $5.40 paycut in 2005 to help the company keep it’s plant doors open. But workers have not seen a fair share of Olymel’s record profits since then and are calling for a fair raise. 

TAKE ACTION

Meat processing is one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the food industry. Can you support the 350 Olymel striking workers by making a call to Olymel CEO today? 

Call Olymel’s head office at: 1 800 361-7990 EXT 3123

Or send a message to the company here: 

Sample message:

“I am calling to support the striking Olymel workers in Princeville. They work hard to make Olymel profitable and deserve a fair wage.”

The 350 striking workers are members of the Federation of Commerce (FC-CSN), one of our newest FCWA members. Federation of Commerce represents 28,000 workers including those employed at grocery stores, warehouses, meatpacking and food processing across the province of Quebec.

Help us get the word on social media to support striking Olymel workers and stay tuned for Day 2 of Food Workers Rising!

Restaurant Workers are on the Cover of Time Magazine

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It centers around Christina Munce, a tipped worker and ROC member who earns $2.83 an hour as a server at Broad Street Diner in Philadelphia, PA. Her story is all too familiar to restaurant workers: earning a subminimum wage, relying on tips as income, and working unstable hours.

For months, ROC worked with reporters for The Fuller Project, which partnered with Time Magazine on the story, introducing them to workers and providing data on the restaurant industry. The result: a compelling article that shows the importance of One Fair Wage and our campaign to level the playing field in our economy, including the recent historic passage of the Raise the Wage Act in the US House of Representatives.

The Raise the Wage Act calls for a $15 minimum wage for all workers, including those who rely on tips, and represented for the first time since Emancipation that either house of Congress voted to eliminate the subminimum wage — a legacy of slavery — for tipped workers. 

Read the entire article here, and share it with your friends!

In Solidarity,

ROC United

Farmworker March for Dignity

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Marchers take part in the Farmworker March for Dignity 2019, on August 4, 2019, in Whatcom County, Washington.  David Bacon

Washington State today is ground zero in the effort to hold back the massive use of agricultural guest workers by U.S. growers, and to ensure that farmworkers, both those living here and those coming under the H-2A visa program, have their rights respected. For a second year, on August 4 workers and their supporters marched 14 miles in 90-degree heat through berry fields just below the Canadian border, protesting what they charge is widespread abuse of agricultural labor.

“Farmworker families have been living and working in local fields since the early 1950s,” according to Rosalinda Guillen, director of Community to Community, a farm worker organizing and advocacy group in Whatcom County. “But we’ve seen a big increase in growers’ use of the H-2A guest worker program in the last few years, and it’s had a huge impact on working conditions in the fields. We’ve had to feed guest workers who come to us hungry, fight to get them paid their wages, and help them deal with extreme work requirements. At the same time, our local workers find they’re not being hired for jobs they’ve done for many seasons.”

At dawn on August 4, two hundred marchers gathered in front of the immigration detention center in Ferndale, about three hours north of Seattle. Before starting the 14-mile peregrination, Guillen told the crowd that most of the immigrants detained there, and later deported, are farmworkers. “The Trump administration is targeting our local community, deporting people who have been living here for years,” she charged. “Then growers complain there aren’t enough workers, and begin using the H-2A program to bring in guest workers. It is a vicious revolving door of exploitation.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey, there are about 2.5 million farmworkers in the U.S., about three quarters of whom were born outside the country. Half are undocumented and the rest are visa holders or people born in the U.S.

Last year growers were certified to bring in 242,762 H-2A workers – a tenth of the total workforce and a number that in just four years has increased from 139,832.

In 2017, Washington State growers were given H-2A visas for 18,796 workers, about 12,000 of whom were recruited by WAFLA (formerly the Washington Farm Labor Association, a H-2A labor contractor). “We predict growers will request more than 30,000 H-2A workers during 2019,” according to Washington Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

The department estimated that 97,068 farm workers were employed in Washington State in 2016, so the projected number of H-2A workers would be a third of the entire workforce.

At the same time as H-2A employment is rising, deportations are increasing. The Trump administration deported 256,000 people in 2018, just slightly more than the number of people brought to the U.S. under H-2A visas. Local deportations are increasing as well in Washington. In August last year 16 people were arrested and held at the Ferndale center. Half were deported immediately, and others were charged bail as high as $18,000 to be released pending hearings. A month earlier 19 others had also been arrested for deportation.

Stories are common, according to C2C, of people stopped for traffic violations, and then held for detention by immigration authorities. In 2017, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order barring state agents from helping to enforce federal immigration laws in most cases, ordering them not to ask about immigration status. Nevertheless, immigration detention centers are scattered around the state, including one of the nation’s largest in Tacoma, three hours south of Whatcom County, where the GEO Group holds around 1500 people.

Protesting Exploitation at Crystal View Raspberry Farm

After leaving the Ferndale detention center, people walked north for four hours, arriving at the Crystal View Raspberry Farm. There they stopped to hold an informal hearing to highlight the decision by the farm’s owners to bring in 80 guest workers for this year’s blueberry harvest.

Growers recruit H-2A workers every year from other countries, mainly Mexico. Companies using the H-2A program must apply to the U.S. Department of Labor, listing the work, living conditions and wages workers will receive. The company must provide transportation and housing. Workers are given contracts for less than one year, and must leave the country when their work is done. They can only work for the company that contracts them, and if they lose that job they must leave immediately.

The H-2A program has its roots in the notorious “bracero” program, which brought workers from Mexico in extremely exploitative conditions starting in 1942. At its height in 1954 about 450,000 workers were brought in by growers, and in the same year over a million people were deported – the same “vicious revolving door” described by Guillen. Although the program was abolished in 1964, the H-2 visa on which it was based was never eliminated. In 1986 an organized farm labor importation program began again, and the H-2A visa was created. It has been growing ever since.

In August last year, about 60 Crystal View workers, brought from Mexico and Guatemala under H-2A visas, went on strike to protest the non-payment of their wages. They reached out to Community to Community (C2C) and Washington’s new farm worker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, looking for help. Workers told C2C organizer Edgar Franks they’d been threatened that if they didn’t work fast enough they’d be fired and sent back home. “They didn’t feel safe reaching out to anyone because of the threats,” he said. Workers were isolated because they lived on the farm property, miles from the nearest town, and had no cars or transportation of their own.

Crystal View owner George Sandhu brought in two representatives of WAFLA, which had contracted the workers, to negotiate. The strikers were eventually paid the money owed them and returned to work after two days. “But I don’t think those workers will be coming back this year,” Franks predicted.

The problem of high production standards, enforced by blacklisting threats, was highlighted by several recent strikes over the past two years. On June 21 this year workers at the King Fuji apple ranch stopped work because of production pressure. According to one striker, Sergio Martinez, “We’re all working as fast as we can, but the company always wants more. When we can’t make the production they’re demanding, they threaten us, telling us that if we don’t produce they won’t let us come back to work next year.”

Pressure to work harder and faster is permitted by the U.S. Department of Labor, often written into the certifications that allow growers to import workers. The job order approved for King Fuji Ranch, Inc. lists the first reason why a worker can be fired: “malingers or otherwise refuses without justified cause to perform as directed the work for which the worker was recruited and hired.” If a worker’s productivity doesn’t improve after “coaching” then “the Worker may be terminated.”


ICE off our Buses: End Greyhound Collaboration with ICE!

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Everyday across the U.S., ICE, DHS and Border Patrol agents board buses with Greyhound’s permission and attempt to detain migrants. We demand Greyhound end all collaboration with ICE and Border Patrol. Greyhound is NOT required to allow immigration agents onto it’s buses and should stop all collaboration immediately. Buses are for transportation, not deportation!

To bus passengers & drivers:
ICE, DHS and Border Patrol agents have NO RIGHT to board buses & ask about immigration status. If agents board your bus, It’s OK to speak up for yourself and others, if you feel safe.
You can say: “ICE has no right to do this! ICE has no warrants! You don’t have to show your ID.”

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.

Mapping the Restaurant High-Value Supply Chain

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A report on restaurant industry trends by Food Chain Workers Alliance in collaboration with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. This study aims to portray the primary aspects and practices of the high-road restaurant industry nationwide in relation to their supply chains, as well as to describe what it means to be a good food business, why it matters, and how policy can direct more companies to embrace these practices.

Read More

Eating Well selected Joann Lo & Jose Oliva as part of the 2018 American Food Heroes

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Eating Well announced the winners of the 2018 American Food Heroes Awards and our very own Joann Lo and Jose Oliva were among the 12 award recipients.

“To select the winners, EatingWell solicited nominations from top experts, advocates and readers. A panel of editors reviewed the submissions and narrowed down the finalists to those who stood out for their focus, creativity, ongoing contributions and, in particular, the achievements they had made in the past year.

Past award winners include celebrity chef and activist José Andrés; Lindsey Shute, the executive director of the National Young Farmers Coalition; Bob’s Red Mill founder Bob Moore; and Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich.”

Source – https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eatingwell-magazine-announces-the-2018-winners-of-its-second-annual-american-food-heroes-awards-300672159.html

Read about Joann and Jose, along with the other recipients on the Eating Well website.

International Food Workers Week: November 13-19, 2016

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International Food Workers Week (IFWW) is held annually close to the week of Thanksgiving to engage the public about the importance of food workers and to move people to take action in support of the workers. Events or actions around the U.S. are organized by the FCWA, member groups, and allies.

During IFWW, on November 14, we are releasing a new report No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers in 2016. This update from our original report The Hands That Feed Us in 2012 will provide the most recent data on food workers and their wages and working conditions, highlights interviews with 20 workers throughout the food system, and shares solutions to addressing the problems they face.

Organize an event or action in your city! You can submit your event info here. Stay tuned for a list of actions and events taking place that week.

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