Can the United Farm Workers of California rise again? Story-level
While the impact of the law remains unclear, it has lifted the spirits of some farmworkers.
Asunción Ponce began harvesting grapes along the verdant hills of the Central Valley in the late 1980s. Over the decades, Mr. Ponce has worked on various farms under UFW contracts. The bosses of those farms, he said, seemed aware that if they harassed or mistreated the workers, the union would intervene.
“They don’t mess with you anymore,” he said, “because they think there might be trouble.”
Even so, he has seen his financial security decline. He made an average of $20,000 a year in the 1990s and 2000s, she said, but these days he makes about $10,000 a year picking grapes and pruning pistachio trees. Their eight-hour shifts are no longer supplemented by overtime as producers have cut hours, partly as a result of the overtime law supported by UFW leaders.
From time to time, Ponce said, he relied on outside contractors, sometimes employed by growers, to find available work for him. But he said he was optimistic that with the new legislation he would get a full-time job on a union farm.
On a recent afternoon, the 66-year-old took a sip of coffee and decompressed after a shift at a farm outside of Fresno. His feet ached and his flannel shirt was stained with fertilizer, but he’s happy that his job allows him to spend all day outdoors, a passion born in his hometown in the Mexican state of Puebla, where he grew corn and aniseed. .
He smiled softly under his white mustache as he spoke about Mr. Chávez’s legacy, which inspired him to join various stages of the pilgrimage last summer.
“I marched for many reasons,” he said in Spanish. “So we’re not as harassed and mistreated as we are now in the fields, so benefits come to us and better treatment.”