The Justice of Our Cause

“Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich don’t own, we have our bodies and spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons.” --Cesar Chavez

The struggle of the farm worker has a long and painful history. It begins with the 1935 passage of the Wagner Act, which was instituted to give workers a stronger bargaining position by guaranteeing them the right to vote for, and be represented by, the union of their choice. A strong lobby by the companies who grow the nation’s produce and employ farm workers to cultivate and harvest their crops excluded farm workers from the Wagner Act. Growers have taken full advantage of the power this has given them over their disenfranchised employees, the migrant farm laborer. What this has meant for the farm workers can be readily seen from a few facts and statistics of farm worker life:

—The average life expectancy of a farm worker is 49 years (compared to a national average of 72 years)

— 75,000 farm workers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning each year (either as a result of handling treated crops or as the crop dusters spray both field and laborers with the nerve gas pesticides)

—Farm workers’ incidence of on-the-job accidents is 300 per cent higher than the national average

—Farm workers have an infant mortality rate that is 125 per cent higher than the national average

—800,000 farm worker children under sixteen must work to help support their family

—87 per cent of farm workers over eighteen have not completed eighth grade

—A farm worker family of four, all working year round, earns $2,700

—90 per cent of farm worker housing (provided by the growers) has no plumbing

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