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Rep. Gutierrez Joins Farm Workers behind the Thanksgiving Meal to Hold Holiday Feast in front of White House


ufcw im thanksgivingFarm & Food Processing Workers Deliver Letters Calling for Executive Action

See here for archived footage and other important information from today’s event.

Washington, DC—Today, on the cusp of one of America’s most celebrated holidays, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) alongside immigrant farm, food and commercial workers from across the country gathered in front of the White House to remind Americans of the people behind the Thanksgiving meal, and express their support for President Obama taking the most inclusive executive action possible.  The event shined a special spotlight on members of United Farm Workers and United Food and Commercial Workers who presented an array of Thanksgiving foods harvested and processed by immigrant workers, including a turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, and other foods commonly found on America’s Thanksgiving tables.

Said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), “The President is going to act boldly, broadly and soon and across the country the bounty and blessings of Thanksgiving will be joyous.  The President’s actions will mean that millions of American families will not fear deportation and destruction and so many people contributing to our economy, including those who pick, pack and move the food to our tables, will be able to continue helping us all live better.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving table, farm workers delivered letters from across the country, explaining why administrative relief is so important to their families and communities.  Many of the letters included invitations to the President to share a Thanksgiving meal with farm workers in their homes.  (View the original letters in Spanish and their English translations).  One of the letters written by Jaime Sanchez, a fourth year college student and son of farm workers, appeared as an op-ed in his student paper at the University of Chicago–the President’s former place of work.  

“The protracted political debates and the partial solutions offered by House Republicans that ignore the inconvenient truth that America’s food will continue to come to our tables through the toil and exploitation of undocumented farm workers who do the work that no one else is doing.  Instead of a seat at our nation’s table, farm workers live in the shadows where they are subjected to inhumane working conditions, rampant sexual harassment, wage theft and the threat of deportation if they dare to stand up for their humanity,” said Arturo Rodriguez, President of  United Farm Workers (UFW). “That’s why we are here at the White House today, to share with America that we support the President taking the most inclusive executive action possible.  On this holiday of giving thanks, it’s time to give thanks to our Thanksgiving workers by simply extending to them meaningful action that says, ‘If you harvest our food, you’re welcome at the table.’”

Added Esther Lopez, International Vice President and Director of Civil Rights and the Community Action Department at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, “In the face of cowardly inaction by the House Republican leadership, today we ask President Obama to do what he should have done long ago – use his clearly defined legal authority to provide relief to immigrant workers and their families. We ask the President to put in place a framework that ensures immigrant workers are treated with dignity and respect on the job.”

Their sentiments were bolstered by a chorus of farm and food workers from across the country.

Said Maria G. Lozano Ramirez, a grape harvester from Benson City, WA, “Wine is important to Thanksgiving dinner, but people drink it without thinking about how much work it takes to make that one bottle of wine. How many undocumented farm workers did it take to make it taste so good? We work long hours but without much acknowledgement.”

Pumpkin grower Maria Martha Acevedo Cardenas from Sunnyside, WA recalled the sacrifices behind every Thanksgiving meal, saying, “I’m not asking for pity, but I am asking for what’s fair. Farm workers need immigration reform.  They’re able to eat the best produce, while we are unable to afford the same fruits and vegetables we picked. One day, I would like to be able to buy my own Thanksgiving turkey.”

Added her U.S. citizen daughter, Eustalia (Toy) A. Acevedo, who picks apples in Seattle, WA, “When the average American eats that apple pie or a dish with apples on Thanksgiving, they need to realize without farm workers picking their fruits or vegetables there wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving meal.”

San Juanita Marquez, a poultry processing plant worker from Lumber Bridge, NC, explained the perils of life as an undocumented worker: “If immigration comes to the plant or my house, I could be separated from my children. My youngest children are American citizens, and because I have no family here, they would be left alone and be sent to foster care if I was deported. It would be too dangerous to take them back to Guerrero where children and the elderly are gunned down in gang violence. I ask Obama to stop the deportations – let us work and let us keep our children safe.”

Maria Arteaga, harvests potatoes in Parma, ID.  Several years ago she and her husband were stopped and subsequently deported for “looking suspicious” while on a road trip to Los Angeles.  At the time her small children, including her daughter Areli, then 5, had stayed home with a relative while they were away. “Once I was deported, all I could think about was my children. I had to get back to them. I did what any mother would have done.  I made the sacrifice and returned to the U.S. illegally.”

Added her daughter, Areli, who often helps with corn harvesting when home from college: “I want people, who don’t believe we need immigration reform to think about something before they bite into their corn on the cob: some people, unlike them, can’t be sitting at the table enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with their family because they can’t travel out of the country to see them or because their family has been deported.”

Said Inocencio Bernal Pedroza, who picks celery in Madera, CA: “Farm workers contribute to the U.S. economy, but many of them are undocumented and are not treated equally or acknowledged for their work.  They provide food for American families. Americans should try to have to have their Thanksgiving meal without undocumented farm workers toiling in the fields. There would be no dinner! There’s produce in the supermarkets because farm working hands put it there.”

Alberto Bermejo, who picks peaches in Sanger, CA, said, “If we’re not in the fields picking the peaches, then they won’t be served on Thanksgiving. A little appreciation for what we do would go a long way.”

Juan and Maria Pacheco, achieved American citizenship after years of working at a turkey processing plant in Mifflintown, PA.  Today they called for executive action on behalf of their undocumented coworkers.  Said Juan, “Families all across the country are going to be eating our turkeys next week, but they don’t know the stories behind their Thanksgiving dinner. My wife and I worked in the Empire Kosher turkey plant for fifteen years before we finally earned American citizenship. We have worked hard to earn our American Dream. This Thanksgiving, President Obama has the chance to give that same opportunity to other hardworking families like ours.”

Additional information on today’s event, including the farm worker letters, bios, social media tools and archived footage is available here.

 

 

 

 

Raising the Minimum Wage Was a Winning Issue on Election Day

UFCWnewsOn Election Day, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota rejected the notion that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is sufficient for workers, and passed binding referendums to increase their minimum wages. Alaska’s minimum wage will increase to $9.75 by 2016. In Arkansas, the minimum wage will increase to $8.50 by 2017. Nebraska’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016, and South Dakota’s minimum wage will increase to $8.50 by 2015.

While Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota join the growing number of states and localities that have raised their own minimum wage to levels higher than the federal rate, all Americans deserve a living wage and this problem calls for a federal solution. But despite widespread public support, House Republicans and big business continue to block efforts to raise the minimum wage. These Republicans and their corporate backers have stuck to the same old, tired argument that raising the minimum wage will be bad for businesses, despite findings from a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research which found that states that raised the minimum wage experienced faster employment growth than the states that didn’t.

The value of the minimum wage has been declining for more than four decades, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would now be worth over $10 per hour. Yet, we are stuck at $7.25 per hour as more and more workers are either falling out of the middle class or struggling in poverty due to insufficient wages and more and more wealth is concentrated in the hands of the one percent.

Raising the current federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation would provide millions of workers with a living wage and boost our economy. It’s time for Republicans to address the many Americans who are struggling to get by and raise the minimum wage.

UFCW Members Sound Off on Why Voting in This Election Is So Important!

1836618_10150621440574945_8676524051162735750_oWe asked UFCW members from all around the country why they took a pledge to vote this November 4th in the mid-term elections. Here’s what some of you said:

“To elect candidates who want to protect the middle class, not destroy it.” --Andrew Myers; Swanton, Ohio

“Too many people died to give me this right and it dishonors their legacy for me not to vote.” –Ericka Ferrell; Oxon Hill, Maryland

“Because we need to oust these career corrupt politicians who don’t listen to what we want or need!” –Anthony Giordano; Hamden, Connecticut

“I am voting to protect women’s rights, to protect unions, elderly, students, the environment, voters, the economy and all of the 99%.” –Member from Chillicothe, Ohio

“To stop anti-union candidates!” –Andrew Carillo; Denver, Colorado

“I’m voting this year because I want a governor that is not going to decimate the private sector unions by introducing right to work.” –Donovan Jurss, UFCW Local 1473

“To exercise my right to have my opinion heard and get rid of Mitch” –Jeanelle Fuson; Covington, Kentucky

“I vote every year!!! We need keep Democrats in office!!!!” –Karen; Dalton, Georgia

“Because it’s the right thing to do.” –Leinaala Furtado; Santee, California

“Because it is time to get all the officials elected that care about working people.” –Mary Spicher

“For a better future for my children” –Nikki Rich; House Springs, Montana

“To try to move this country forward–we have been at this road block way too long” –Pam; Spring, Texas

“To make America a better place, and to help the American worker any way I can…go union–keep fighting for America…” –Prisco; Guilford, Connecticut

“To keep the super-rich from completely taking over this country.” –Tom; Feasterville, Pennsylvania

“It takes the entire community to make a change. As a society, if we don’t start picking our leaders more carefully, we will never progress past the sorry state we are in.” –Member from Indianapolis, Indiana

“I’m voting to insure a Democratic victory for this country and the people who are pushed aside and ignored. It’s time to push back.”

“Yes I am [voting]–also doing door knocking and phone-banking.”

“I’m voting because my vote might help to make a difference in the middle class and the lower class in reference to jobs, economy and education.”

 

We couldn’t be more proud of all of our engaged members who will be voting to make a difference in their communities, and standing up for working people! Make sure you cast your vote on November 4th if you haven’t already voted early. You can make sure you have everything you need by heading to our voter information hub!