“We are ignored,” he said.
However, it did not feel that way during the march, where in many towns people greeted them with snacks, Gatorade and full meals. While the group was in Stockton, an inland port city, Huerta, now 92, stood in front of the crowd wearing a baseball cap that read: “Sí se puede.”
“You all have made me very proud,” she told them.
Huerta, who helped negotiate the first farmworker contract with Schenley, left the UFW leadership more than two decades ago to pursue other causes. But in an interview, she asserted that the need for unionization was still as great as it was when she helped found the union.
“Farmworkers wanted the support and continue to want it,” said Huerta, who attributed the shortage of contracts to the reluctance of growers to negotiate in good faith.
Despite setbacks in recent decades, UFW officials say they have continued to win contracts focused on health benefits, wage increases and cultivating a respectful culture among farmworkers and employees. At Monterey Mushrooms, which has been working under contract since the 1980s, UFW officials say the average annual salary for a mushroom picker is $45,000 and includes vacation and pension (the state average for farmworkers ranges from 20,000 and 25,000 dollars a year, according to the United States Department of Labor).
“With a union contract, workers know their rights and can defend them,” said Teresa Romero, union president.
The problems vary in each place, Romero explained. “In a workplace it can be low wages; in another, the unsafe conditions and in yet another the work culture, such as having to pay bribes or endure sexual harassment to get a job, or having a supervisor who is racist or cruel,” he said. “We understand the immense risks workers take by speaking up at work; it takes courage for workers to unionize.”
Source: NYT Español