Resisting a Bitter Harvest

With shouts of "Si se puede! (Yes, it can be done!)," strawberry pickers, labor activists, church members, and even some berry growers are joining the United Farm Workers (UFW) campaign to unleash justice on strawberry fields across the United States (see "Between the Lines," Sojourners, May-June 1997). Unfortunately, anti-union forces are violently fighting back.

On July 2, 1998, following a failed attempt by anti-union workers to shut down the Coastal Berry cooler (one of the largest growers in Santa Cruz County, California), a foreman at Coastal Berry Co. was arrested after he and an estimated 150 others attacked 75 strawberry pickers and several sheriff's deputies with lead pipes and scraps of wood. Three farm workers were hospitalized after being shoved to the ground and severely beaten. Pro-union Coastal Berry workers are calling for the dismissal of the Coastal employees arrested for inciting violence and for a national mobilization to hold Coastal Berry president David Gladstone accountable to the earlier neutrality agreement he signed with the UFW.

Coastal Berry is a subcontractor of Driscoll Strawberry Associates, suppliers of 25 percent of U.S. strawberries. Driscoll has hired professional union-busters, fired pro-union pickers, plowed under crops, and shut down plants rather than bargain for union contracts. The UFW recently won a class action suit against Driscoll that resulted in $575,000 in back wages for workers who were forced to work "off the clock" without pay. The UFW has also filed legal actions against 10 Driscoll growers for failing to notify workers when they were exposed to cancer-causing agents.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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