*California's 20,000 strawberry workers earn an average of $8,500 a season. Strawberry workers labor stooped over ankle-high plants for 10 to 12 hours a da fields treated with pesticides. Few have adequate health insurance. Workers have to fight to have clean drinking water and bathrooms in the fields. Many workers return to the same fields year after year, yet they must reapply for the same jobs and can be fired on a whim.
*The strawberry industry has revenues of about $650 million a year. About 80 percent of the nation's fresh strawberries are grown in California. Watsonville, just south of San Jose, is the capital of strawberry country. While there are 270 growers in the Watsonville area, about eight big companies, such as Dr Strawberry Associates, control the industry. They influence prices and field conditions, and collect, cool, package, distribute and market the crop.
*Workers are organizing with the United Farm Workers to improve their lives. When workers successfully organized in individual fields in the past, their fields were plowed under in retaliation, leading workers to begin an industry-wide campaign. Firings and harassment continue.
*It is a myth that farm workers always suffer under poor conditions. Thousands of farm workers who have organized, including those in the mushrol rose and wine grape industries, earn decent wages, have safe conditions and IE middle class lives.
*The workers campaign is accompanied by a massive public effort. Nearly than 3,000 supermarkets around the country have signed pledges supporting the workers. About 80 groups and individuals, including the NAACP, NOW, environmentalists and clergy are supporting the campaign through the National Strawberry Commission for Workers' Rights. And, the AFL-CIO's more than 600 central labor councils are supporting the workers.
*On April 13, 1997,
more than 30,000 people marched on Watsonville.
Workers, activists and students
from 36 states and three countries joined workers was the biggest demonstration
in the history of the United Farm Workers and the birth of what many
biggest movement for social change since the 1960's when Cesar Chavez
founded the UFW.