– Rachel Scrudato, 2021 SAF intern
Farm Labor Organizing Committee
When asked what he hoped for in the future, a farmworker answered with three simple things: “los mismos derechos, las mismas oportunidades, y la libertad que los ciudadanos tienen.” It is an injustice that the people who do the most foundational labor to feed our families and make this nation prosper are strategically held in a position of vulnerability, intentionally denied rights to maximize corporate profits:
After feeling sick in the field, a worker died at a tienda while waiting for a bus to go back to Mexico, because he was not able to receive medical attention.
When injuring his knee on the job, a worker was given no compensation or medical care, but merely transferred away to a trailer, without money or transportation, where another worker was isolated with COVID.
Being hospitalized from COVID upon arrival, workers are told that it is just a reaction from the vaccine and sent back to Mexico.
At a camp we visited, migrant worker housing was composed of carelessly revamped stables.
These conditions would never be tolerated for U.S. citizens. Why are people valued differently simply because of where they are from? Is it really too much for the people that we literally could not live without to ask for los mismos derechos, las mismas oportunidades, y la libertad?
While governments may not want to grant these rights, opportunities, and liberty to workers, workers fight to secure equality themselves. In my first week of work at the union, my supervisor told me something that would characterize the rest of my summer: “The victory is not in the grievance won or the contract negotiated, but the victory is in workers beginning to grasp that they don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
This summer, while I have seen countless cases of angering, exhausting injustice, I have also witnessed equally impactful cases of workers empowering and liberating themselves by rejecting the manipulative fear that growers and supervisors may try to instill to maintain their power:
After confronting an abusive supervisor, a member told us, “My legs were shaking, but I’ve never felt so GOOD.”
When workers were not given their promised reimbursement, they started a year-long demand until they won their pay and better working conditions.
Workers miss paychecks and risk their jobs to come to rallies and marches, and face retaliation to stand up for their compañero that is not being treated fairly.
Each time a worker calls the union is an act of courage.
The list of injustices is long and tiring, but it does not surpass the list of acts of resistance.
While oppression has always been trampling down, resistance has always been pushing up. The victory will come from these continual acts of courage as workers recognize their value and rights and organize to demand that they are respected with the dignity that any human deserves, regardless of where they are from.
The victory is in grasping that you don’t have to be afraid anymore and being inspired by the courage of workers, I won a victory this summer.