By Elizabeth Henderson
Alannah Kull and I attended this highly informative, though rather depressing, conference on farm labor issues in California. Despite decades of farm worker organizing, most of the housing is lamentable and wages have actually gone down. Farm workers have the right to organize and there is an Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB). However, 100% of the orders it hands down are challenged in the courts (in contrast to 30% for the National LRB). You can find a full report with most of the presentations with their slides at https://gifford.ucdavis.edu/events/.
The first panel analyzed the different approaches to improving conditions for farm workers. Nathan Smith of SureHarvest reviewed FairTradeUSA, CIW’s Fair Food, the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) and Food Justice Certification (FJC), and noted that so far, the bottom up approaches are rarely self-sustaining and rely on foundation support. Referring to himself as a “capitalist pig,” Ernie Farley, one of the managers of Andrews and Williams, a large produce operation that is a founding participant in EFI, noted that this program is bringing about real cultural change. As proof, he says he now talks to people like Margaret Reeves of Pesticide Action Network and Eric Nicholson of United Farm Workers. Hector Lujan, representing Reuter Affiliated, the parent company of Driscoll’s, gave a glowing account of his company’s efforts to improve labor conditions, wages and housing, claiming that they offer the same standards in the many countries where they operate. Lujan’s main theme is an important one – “the economic model has to resolve things for everyone in the supply chain, including workers.” Continue reading ““Sustainability, Farm Labor, Immigration, ALRB, and Cannabis” – April 14, 2017 California Agriculture and Farm Labor Conference at UC Davis Law School”