Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Was the LA Times series on the United Farm Workers a misrepresentation?

Was the LA Times series on the United Farm Workers a misrepresentation?
By Leilani Albano

The LA Times four-part series about the United Farm Workers has sparked a fury among those in the progressive community.

In last week’s articles, Times author Miriam Pawel lodges a host of allegations against the UFW.

Most damaging of all, the Times author says that the union has abandoned founder Caesar Chavez’s mission of aiding farm workers.

Unlike the UFW of the 1960s and 1970s, when the organization launched the widely successful grape boycotts and implemented major changes for workers, today’s union does little to help farm laborers, Pawel reports.

However, not everyone agrees with her assessment. "It is one pack of lies after another."

That was long-time UFW spokesman, Marc Grossman.

"The fact is, thousands of farm workers benefit everyday from the United Farm Workers efforts…32 election victories, dozens of news UFW contracts, with some of the largest strawberry, rose, winery, mushroom firms in California and the nation. We dedicate up to fifty percent of the union’s resources to organizing, which is among the highest of any union."

Grossman also points to the organization’s recent successes in passing major farm worker protections including last year’s regulations to prevent heat deaths in the fields, binding mediation laws in 2002, new remedies for workers cheated by contractors, the Agjobs bill, as well as an upcoming immigration reform measure.

Despite the union’s achievements, the conditions of most farm workers remain grim. As Pawel points out, the UFW represents only 1 percent of the 450,000 farm laborers in the state. A majority of them, she reports, still earn poverty wages and lack decent housing.


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