Sunday, June 29, 2014

Looking Back at a Full and Significant Year for the C2C-BUF partnership (2014)

Originally posted by David Chen, May 31, 2014

What a momentous year it has been for farmworkers and food sovereignty* in our region!

*Food sovereignty considers all the aspects of what is on our plate: How was the environment treated in producing it? What is the food itself (organic? GMO free? soil health? humanely treated and healthy animals?)? How were the farmworkers treated who produced it? Is it locally produced from sustainable economies?

First off, our Partnership and the BUF congregation did major work to support the striking farmworkers at Sakuma Berry Farms in their efforts to secure fair wages, decent living conditions and fair working conditions  Between donating food, supplies and funds; supporting a Sakuma Farms boycott in various ways; writing letters and making calls; and giving toys to the children of the strikers at Christmas—BUF helped move the strike towards a successful resolution.

Though the key goal of having a fair contract for the workers this year has not yet come about, there have been many small successes along the way.  A Federal court decided with farmworkers on the issue of housing, protests of Sakuma’s guest worker application led to Sakuma’s eventual withdrawal of the application, and the workers recently won a class action lawsuit awarding back pay for unpaid work.  Also, farmworkers have had their first ever meetings with the sate legislature this year.  Most significantly, farmworkers all over Whatcom County report improved working conditions (breaks encouraged, farmers coming out to the fields to talk with workers, etc) as a result of the strike.

At BUF, C2C participated in a number of activities.  Rosalinda Guillen, the Executive Director, gave a sermon one Sunday, and staff of C2C did three adult forums.  C2C cooked a community dinner for the congregation. C2C cooked food for and hosted a booth at the BUF Fall Festival.  C2C prepared organic, GMO free tamales in BUF’s kitchen for sale (fundraiser) over the holidays and several months after—several BUFers volunteered, and many BUFers purchased tamales.  C2C members also participated in BUFs annual Posada dinner.

Also at BUF, we hosted a couple larger partnership events open to the wider community.  First, the forum “When LowWage Workers Rebel,” with several panelists from the workers’ rights movement. the partnership also hosted at BUF one of the films for the International Human Rights Film Festival, “Rooted Lands” about a small community in new Mexico standing up against fracking for natural gas.

BUF members also participated in several C2C sponsored community-wide events.  We took a lead coordination role at C2C’s annual Cesar Chavez dinner (thank you to our many volunteers!).  C2C gave BUF a Seeds of Justice Award at this event.Many of us walked with farmworkers in the annual Guide Meridian Farmworker March and Rally for Dignity that C2C sponsors every year.  BUF members (a tie with BUFs Reclaiming Democracy Team) attended the People’s Movement Assembly in March and the MLK Conference at Whatcom that included presentations by C2C. Finally, many of us attended C2C’s open houses at their offices this year.

Other happenings included: welcoming our partnership’s new intern, David Chen, onto the Team; the Partnership contributing an educational Filipino dinner to the BUF auction; starting a partnership blogspot; BUF donating a monthly special collection to C2C; and finally, involving UUs at the state and national level in our partnership. Both Jolinda Stephens of WA UU Voices for Justice and D.D. Hilke of NW UU Justice Network came down to visit the C2C/BUF Partnership team to explore what our partnership was about and to find ways to support the team’s efforts and to help in establishing solid UU networks throughout Washington State in dealing with immigration and migrant worker issues for the future. Also, initial discussions took place with UUSC as well as the UU College of Social Justice, who are also very interested in visiting us and talking about their Border Links projects. 

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