Hundreds of farmworkers and supporters gathered in Delano at Forty Acres, the first United Farm Workers Union location, at the start of a treacherous 335-mile march to Sacramento last week.
Farmworkers marched to convince Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Assembly Bill (AB) 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. The bill would allow farmworkers to vote for or against unionization by mail or to drop off representation ballot cards to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board office.
Currently, farmworkers cast their confidential vote to support or oppose unionization at designated polling places, typically located on grower or company property, where they may be approached by anti-union consultants persuading them to vote as the growers may want.
Newsom vetoed a similar bill last summer citing “various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards.”
Farmworkers believe they should have the same rights as other Californians who receive their ballots at home and drop them off or send them via mail.
Farmworkers have been working toward a more aggressive plan to gain national support for AB 2183 based on strategies that have worked in the past.
In the 1960s, the first pilgrimage of this magnitude was led by American labor leaders and civil rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta to bring national attention to the racial and labor injustices endured by California farmworkers. They succeeded in having United Farm Workers of America recognized and were able to secure its first union contract.
Farmworkers led the second 24-day march in 1994, a year after Chavez’s passing, in honor of his legacy. Thousands showed up in support of farmworkers at the State Capitol in Sacramento.
This time, 92-year-old Huerta showed up to support the marchers and served as an inspiration for the next generation of farmworker activists.
The pilgrimage will travel through 20 farming cities—from Delano to Modesto to Stockton and every farming community in between—leading to Sacramento.
The march is scheduled to end on Aug. 26, which was proclaimed as California Farmworker Day by Newsom in 2021.