About a month ago, I had the opportunity to work at one of the farms PCUN contracts with side by side with the folks. Ramon (Ramirez, president) thought it would be a good idea to send me out there as part of my training as the new secretary-treasurer. I hadnt worked in the fields since my senior year in college (2005). In some ways, I was happy to be back. This was, after all, not just any farm. The contract we have with them includes wages above minimum wage and protections unheard of on most farms, such as seniority, grievance procedures, overtime, paid breaks and union recognition. Working together with these workers felt like re-living the many years I worked alongside my parents, who have been farmworkers for the past 25 years and loyal PCUN members.
The next day wasnt so great though. My back hurt so bad after lifting what seemed like an infinite number of five-pound pumpkins, that I had trouble tying my shoes. I asked some of the workers how they are able to do this on a daily basis. They responded with a common message: Things are a little bit better here, but there are better days ahead.
When I think about our work in 2013 and the challenges well have in 2014, I cant help but share the same feelings of the workers. Our nearly 30 years of improving living and working conditions for farmworkers and our decade-long struggle for legalization have made things a little bit better. But things need to be a lot better for a lot more workers and we are getting closer to making this happen.
A comprehensive immigration reform bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, including more than 100,000 Oregonians, is one step away from being signed by President Obama.
All that stands in the way is the House Republican leadership, and earlier this year, at the May 1 rally, Gov. Kitzhaber signed a bill to restore Oregons drivers license for thousands of undocumented immigrants, effective this coming January. But, anti-immigrant groups forced a delay and an election by gathering enough signatures to place the bill on the ballot next November. This will be the first and only popular vote on these issues in the nation.
As we move forward in these struggles and others that will come, I hope we can continue to partner with the community because, like our immigrant brothers and sisters, I believe there are better days ahead.
Gracias y Adelante!