Farm worker union “Victory!” cries may not be what you think

  • June 12, 2020

Workers organized by the tiny one-farm farmworker union called FUJ declared victory with an agreement signed with a Yakima fruit plant.

This reminded us of the “victory” claimed by the United Farm Workers (UFW) in an extended legal battle against a Tri-Cities dairy farm.

Seattle media dutifully reported the union accusations against the farm and even the Seattle City Council jumped in to give credence to the false accusations.

We know they were false because just before finally getting in front of a judge after ten years, the union withdrew almost all the accusations. (We didn’t see Seattle media or the City Council say “Oops! We were wrong!”)

They knew they couldn’t stand scrutiny.

Then, the union walked away from the lawsuit without any settlement and loudly claimed “victory!” In walking away the union tried to get a confidentiality agreement, but the farm refused which is why we know that the UFW won nothing.

The “victory” over the packing plant seems a bit familiar. The Yakima Herald article reads:

  • “In a signed agreement provided to the Yakima Herald-Republic by workers, the company agreed to provide personal protective equipment at no charge, comply with all government standards and implement best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The company also said it would not expect employees to work in a way that would endanger health and safety. Finally, to address a concern that workers expressed during the entire strike, the company said there would be no retaliation against workers and that supervisors would receive training “when necessary and appropriate.’”

We haven’t been able to find anything in this agreement that goes beyond what farmers have been doing all along and what is required by the various guidelines farmers are following.

Since this is a packing plant, maybe the “victory” was a matter of making sure the same protections farmers are provided to plant employees as farm employees.

The fact is that farmers have been taking protecting the safety and health of their workers very seriously all along.

The state under Governor Inslee seems far more interested in playing politics with the unions than understanding what is really going on on our farms and with worker protection.

He even said the UFW “crafted” the new rules and, as you will see in this video, demonstrated he may not be as familiar with our family farms as he would like everyone to think (video link).

The real victory of Familias Unidas por la Justicia is once again over the media.

Edgar Franks makes clear in the article that it is FUJ that is behind the scenes, organizing, agitating and getting workers who just want to do their jobs to strike.

It’s known that not all those standing out striking are even workers at the facilities they are striking.

The “victory” that FUJ and Franks should be claiming is how once again they’ve benefited from the unquestioning support of reporters and publishers.