Wine Boycott Grows

At any given time, there are hundreds of boycotts to choose from, most of them launched for good reasons and in support of good causes. One cannot, it seems, support them all and still live in our society. How do we decide which efforts to support?

One criterion is the viability of the effort. Is the boycott likely to have a positive effect, to help bring about a just result? And, it's fair to ask, is a boycott the appropriate and necessary tactic?

For a growing number of church people, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes in the boycott of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines from Washington State. The winery, which also produces Columbia Crest wines (the nation's second leading premium table wines), refuses to recognize or negotiate with the farm workers' union. Farm workers are excluded from federal labor law that guarantees workers the right to form unions, because of the power that growers had in the 1930s when the law was written. Thus, after five years of seeking to have the company recognize their union election--and with no recourse through the law--the vineyard workers in 1991 called for a boycott.

Since then, the boycott has been endorsed by hundreds of religious leaders, labor organizations, and peace and justice groups. More than 70 restaurants have dropped Columbia Crest wines, and the country of Sweden joined the boycott in August.

"The boycott is really starting to pick up steam," United Farm Worker organizer Guillermo Nicacio told Sojourners. When people learn of the working conditions faced by the farm workers, Nicacio said, they are "surprised it's still happening in the field. Most people thought that was taken care of in the '70s."

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Sojourners Magazine December 1993
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