sábado, 2 de junio de 2012

Every Worker is an Organizer

Every Worker is an Organizer
Fhotographs by David Bacon
This exhibit in the California State Capitol is organized by Assembly Member Luis Alejo and his staff, and is part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Farm Workers of America.
California State Capitol
Hallway next to the Governor's Office
May 20-26, 2012
Sacramento, California
Open to the public

Farm labor is a key element historically in the photographic documentation of social reality in the US, and in particular the documentation of social protest. Dorothea Lange, Hansel Meith, Otto Hegel, and the generation of the 1930s and 1940s left a body of work showing the extreme exploitation of farm workers, and documenting the early farm labor organizing efforts, part of the great labor upsurge of those decades.
The iconography of social documentary photography was shaped by images like Lange's mother and children in Nipomo, or those of the Pixley cotton strikers packed onto the back of a truck under their banner "Disarm the rich farmer or arm the workers for self-defense!" or the growers with their rifles waiting in ambush.
The first two decades of the growth of the United Farm Workers was undoubtedly one of the most-photographed social protests of the civil rights era. It too had its icons -- the line of marchers on their way from Delano to Sacramento, silhoutted against the sky, or Cesar Chavez weakened by his fast, at the side of Robert Kennedy.
In 1994, a year after the death of Chavez, the union made a second march from Delano to Sacramento. In 1996, it began an effort to organize the central California coast strawberry industry, employing 25,000 workers. That struggle pitted workers and the union against mass firings, blacklists, company unions, and the use of the legal structure to subvert workers' efforts. In 1998, workers at the country's then second-largest vegetable grower, D'Arrigo Brothers walked out on strike in the Salinas Valley
The photographs in this exhibit document this period in the union's history, especially the organizing drive in Watsonville and the strike at D'Arrigo. Some also document working lives of workers themselves. Strawberry pickers bend over double in the rows, run as they pick wine grapes or tomatoes, or balance at the top of date palms without safety lines. They show as well the extreme youth of farm workers today, where the average age has fallen to 20.
Like all workers, farm laborers take pride in the skill it takes to do their jobs, their bravery in the face of dangerous conditions (farm labor has one of the highest occupational injury rates of all US employment), and the social contribution they make in providing food for millions of people.
These are not images of passive exploitation, designed to elicit just a sympathetic response. They are a documentary record of the efforts workers have made to organize a union in the face of brutal working conditions and low wages.
The images are a view from below, looking at the work process and the union from the point of view of workers.
The UFW has had an enormous impact on the US labor movement over the last 50 years. It helped to inspire a resurgence of interest in organizing, and trained hundreds of people who went on to become organizers for unions and community organizations all across the country.
These photographs are part of a larger exhibition and documentary project about farm workers and migration tody. This set of images was exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California, the U.S. Labor College, Bread and Roses Gallery and the American Labor Museum, thanks to support from the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights and the Zellerbach Foundation.

Roberto is a fourteen-year old immigrant from Oaxaca. He came to the U.S. with other friends in 1996, and began working in the strawberry fields of Jaime Rocha near Salinas.

Coachella Valley
A palmero steps off his ladder onto the fronds of the palm, walking around the crown of the tree as he works. Palmeros are paid by the tree, and have to work quickly in order to make a living. They wear no safety lines, and practically run as they work. Date palms are male and female, and must be pollinated by hand, one of the seven operations done each year at the top of the trees.

Napa Valley
A farmworker picks grapes in the Napa Valley, practically running as he works.

Tomato pickers bring their full buckets to the truck to be counted, in the fields of the Triple-E Tomato Co., one of the world's largest tomato growers. Many workers complain that they are not credited for the true number of buckets they pick, or that buckets aren't counted for frivolous reasons. Workers struck and voted for the United Farm Workers at this company in 1988, but Triple-E refused to sign a contract.

Juan Jimenez took care of the old UFW hall in El Hoyo, where many of the largest strikes in California agriculture began. Workers cross the Mexican border here every morning, and are hired by labor contractors to go to the fields. Jimenez picked lemons for many years, and spent a decade as a sewing machine operator in a Los Angeles sweatshop and in the Huffy bicycle factory in Azusa.

Strawberry pickers work bent over double all day. It is painful work, and after a few years, can cause permanent damage to a worker's back. Pay systems use a bonus for each box of strawberries to ensure that workers pick as fast as possible, and in his back pocket this worker has the ticket keeping track of the boxes he's picked.

Workers went on strike at D'Arrigo Brothers in 1998. Strikers stopped the company busses from bringing strikebreakers in to work early in the morning at the edge of a field in Salinas.

D'Arrigo strikers call out from the edge of a field in which strikebreakers are working, to convince them to stop work and join the strike. Sheriff's deputies look on to keep them from actually going into the field.

Rodolfo Garcia, a UFW organizer, urges workers on a broccoli machine to stop work and join the strike at D'Arrigo.

Thousands of farmworkers and their supporters converge on the state capitol in Sacramento in 1994, at the end of the United Farm Workers' month-long march from Delano, demanding the enforcement of the laws protecting workers' organizing rights, and an end to immigrant-bashing.

For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org

See also Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

Two lectures on the political economy of migration by David Bacon

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories

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