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Nyéléni 2007

The struggle of US agricultural workers has come to the World Forum for Food Sovereignty

Wednesday 28 February 2007, by maitreuweb

Immigrant workers represent a major part of the workforce in the United States and, although there are no exact figures, it is presumed that 80% of workers involved in agricultural production are not natives of that country. As a result, the agricultural sector is different from other sectors, with insecurity blighting the lives of its workers, often making unionization difficult for them.

"Two things make it difficult for them to organize themselves: one is the fact that the workers have no documents and their concern that if they become unemployed they will probably not have access to public services of any kind and the second is that, in most US states, they do not have the right to organize, in other words they are excluded from the right to organize themselves in a union", said Tirso Moreno, general coordinator of the Farmerworker Association of Florida, an organization whose main objective is for agricultural workers to organize themselves to improve their living and working conditions.

In spite of this, however, immigrant workers have mobilized and have achieved major victories, as in the case of a dairy in the state of Oregon.

"We have succeeded in organizing one of the biggest dairies in the world, which has some 55,000 cows, and the workers took a gamble, because the company could have used the pretext that they are here without documents to get rid of them all, but as a result of the pressure and support we organized in the community and in the companies who buy the product, we succeeded in organizing the dairy and now these workers are going to be earning better wages and enjoying better benefits than in any other dairy in the United States", said Erik Nicholson, member of the United Farm
Workers of America, in an interview with Radio Mundo Real.

Moreno, for his part, highlighted the support given by society as a whole for the agricultural workers’ struggle to organize themselves, either by exerting pressure as consumers or through the work of community organizations.

Moreno also explained that this year a mass protest would take place on 1 May, when a general strike would be called as well as "a no-shopping day". The motives are not the same as those that provoked the 2006 demonstration, when hundreds of thousands of people expressed their rejection of a draft law that was highly prejudicial to immigrants, but they are equally pressing; what they are calling for is a fair reform of the immigration law.