Friday, October 30, 2015

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Shining the Light on Our Social & Environmental Justice Action Work at 
BUF, Story of the Week

Familias Unidas por la Justicia is a newly formed Union, initially made 
up of migrant farmworkers (indigenous peoples from Mexico who speak 
Native languages rather than Spanish) working at Sakuma Berry Farm in 
Skagit County.  The Union has now spread down the West Coast into Mexico 
and is spreading to eastern parts of the country as well.  This new 
union has faced enormous struggles--lack of basic necessities when 
striking, threats, paid anti-union publicity campaigns, physical harm, 
etc.  C2C has been a strong support and information system for this 
union, and, via the partnership, many from BUF have been involved in 
their actions.

Recently, several BUF and C2C folks went down to join 60 or so others to 
peacefully demonstrate at Sakuma on Labor Day.  They physically blocked 
the entrance into the Sakuma processing plant, forcing trucks to go over 
land or via personal driveways to find a way in.  Police came,  but the 
demonstrators had lawyers along who persuaded the police not to take 
action. The part of the action, though, that the farmworkers found the 
most meaningful, was surprising. C2C staff suggested a theatrical 
demonstration where the workers' experience could be witnessed.  The 
workers acted out the supervisors using heavy-handed tactics to get the 
workers to pick faster than is right or healthy or even possible--and 
they acted out how they resisted.  But this time, they could show their 
resistance more strongly, forcefully and safely. And they burned the 
picking policy document.  Witnesses and those witnessed found this 
experience both powerful and empowering.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

South African Farmerworkers Visit Belllingham

This was a big week for Rosalinda Guillen (BUF Member and Executive Director of Community to Community-C2C).  She was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Community Food Coop's Meet the Directors Dinner. Her organization was hosting farmworkers/small farmers from South Africa as part of their Community Alliance for Global Justice West Coast visit.  And author/activist Eric Holt Gimenez, who has been called one of the world’s most “prominent critics of the global food system” was in Bellingham to present at the Whatcom Food Justice conference--which Rosalinda was helping organize.  On top of all this, Rosalinda was getting ill.

Rosalinda had reached out to the BUF-C2C Partnership Team earlier to ask if several of us might like to take the South African farmworkers out to breakfast, and asked me if I could host Eric at our Inn.  As the week arrived and Rosalinda wasn't feeling well, our contribution became bigger.  I offered to host the farmworkers overnight out at our place as well and cook for them and Eric too, inviting those who had signed up to take the farmworkers out to breakfast.  I went into town to transport them and was fortunate to catch much of Rosalinda's talk with the Coop staff, directors, and members--she was lucidly and powerfully sending a message (despite her illness) that clearly had the audience inspired to take action. 

At home, we all had a fascinating evening talking about farming and South Africa (geography, race relations from the perspective of Black SA's, economy, the consequences of protesting, etc)--my husband Kurt stayed up until 1:30 talking with Peteros, a South African farmworker/organizer. In the morning, Kurt gave Eric and the farmworkers a tour of his small demonstration permaculture farm.  One of the small farmers has been trying to go organic in an area where no one else is--and found the permaculture principles illuminating.  Then we had a healthful brunch together with the whole group--smiles and laughter and goodwill all around.  Connections that will last in our hearts and make changes, however small--but still significant, in how we each live our lives.   
~ Kara Black, C2C/BUF Partnership Team member

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

C2C and Familias Unidas por la Justicia to Mexico!

Shining the Light on Our Social & Environmental Justice Action Work at
BUF, Story of the Week

This week's story is from our partner organization, Community to
Community.  The focus for the rest of this month will be on the work of
this partnership, with other social justice action teams chiming in in
future months.

Something remarkable was planned. C2C staff and the President (Ramon)
and Vice-President (Felimon) of the first independent farmworker's
union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), based in our little corner
of Washington, travelled to the border to meet their Mexico farmworker
counterparts who also grow and harvest berries for Driscoll.  (As an
aside: FUJ has called for a boycott of all Driscoll Berries until Sakuma
Farms agrees to negotiate a fair labor contract with its workers).  The
plan was to meet at the fence with the FUJ workers on one side, and the
farmworkers from Mexico on the other.  While free trade agreements allow
capital and corporate types from the company to flow freely across the
border, the workers cannot.  The C2C and FUJ folks left Bellingham by
car at noon on Friday and just got back at 4 am today, Tuesday.

The logistics of the border proved too tough for the meeting, but there
were some positive outcomes, nonetheless.  Though the Mexico and US
farmworkers could not hear each other talk at the border, they did talk
by phone and solidified the cross border commitment to the Driscoll
boycott.  They plan to try face-to fence-to face talks with the same
groups again in early December. An even happier outcome was that the
FUJ/C2C group ended up connecting with a group of 12 young Latino
students and children of famworkers in San Diego in a "wonderful"
meeting.  This group of young leaders is enthusiastic about the new
union and is planning to take the boycott to larger groups in San Diego
and LA.  See the photo of their meeting at Chicano Park in San Diego.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Upcoming October and November events with C2C

Upcoming opportunities to get involved with the Community-to-Community (C2C)-BUF Partnership's work:

*October 22nd: Rosalinda (BUF Member and ED of C2C) will be the keynote speaker at the Community Food Co-op's Membership Meeting.  If you are a Co-op Member, please attend.  The Co-op recently joined the Domestic Fair Trade Association (Rosalinda is on the National Board)

*October 23rd: Join C2C-BUF Partnership Team members for breakfast at the Old Town Cafe at 9:30 am with farmers from South Africa who are struggling greatly to bring sustainable farming practices back to their land.  They are being hosted in Bellingham by C2C.  Please let Kara Black (676-2300, know you are coming.

*October 23rd: Come to the Whatcom Food Network's afternoon meeting from 2-5 at St. Luke's Education Center with keynote speaker Eric Holt-Gimenez.  He will be speaking about Race and the Food System.

*November 2: Day of the Dead evening celebration at C2C focusing on social justice movements.  Meet at C2C (203 W.Holly-time TBD) dressed as your favorite social activist from the past to honor them.  There will be time to share about who you are dressed as and then there will be a candlelight march to the bridge where we will create an alter honoring these people.

*December 13: Christmas Party for all the Sakuma Farmworkers and their families.  BUF members are invited to attend this festive evening in Skagit County.  Food contributions and unwrapped gifts for the children (toddler to teen) are welcome.  If you would like to carpool or need directions or want to contribute gifts but cannot attend, please contact Kara Black (676-2300,

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Northwest UU Justice Summit at BUF!

On October 10th, the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship will be hosting and co-sponsoring the 5th Annual Northwest UU Justice Summit.  This is a regional gathering of UUs and other justice-oriented folks, reviewing and tackling the social and environmental issues of our time.

This year's theme is Allied for Justice.  In the morning, we'll listen to TED-style talks from representatives of Lummi Nation and from Community to Community.  They will brief us on their powerful work on issues ranging from national sovereignty to food sovereignty, from preserving our sacred lands and planet to preserving our democracy.

During afternoon breakout sessions, attendees with particular issues of concern (or participants looking for their next issue!) will gather in issue-oriented groups.  Throughout the day, we will discover new resources, forge relationships and collaborate to create positive change.  Many will exchange email addresses or decide to convene new or expanded issue-support groups.

Last year, 26 congregations sent participants to the Summit, with 119 registrants coming from three states.  Will you be among them this year?  Will we be international this year?! How might that give more power to our work?

Register for the 2015 Annual Justice Summit:
Learn more about the Summit Program:

See you in October.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Farmworkers at Sakuma Berry Farms Demand Negotiations with Management

July 2nd, 2015 Contact: Rosalinda Guillen 360-381-0293

Farmworkers at Sakuma Berry Farms Demand Negotiations with Management 

Burlington, WA – Today, as a result of negotiation between Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Sakuma management in the fields, over 200 farmworkers received punch cards to verify the exact number of pounds picked on a daily basis. The company also agreed to stop the new practice of having workers begin their day in groups of 15 minute intervals. However the negotiations fell apart on the demand from the workers to pick 15 lbs to earn the $10 per hour minimum wage; Sakuma management refused to negotiate and continued to insist on 35lbs minimum for the $10 per hour wage. A session of over an hour produced a stalemate and the workers walked out in frustration. Then Familias Unidas por la Justicia Vice-President Felimon Pineda, with the entire group,  marched back into the fields led by him to deliver a formal written demand for a negotiation of a union contract. 
The company responded harshly by bringing additional upper management, lawyers, and by calling the Skagit County Sheriff’s office. Felimon Pineda led a peaceful assembly requesting a negotiation session for a union contract, when the company refused to negotiate, the workers peacefully exited the company property and moved on to a  boycott of Driscoll picket line at a Costco in Burlington.
In a meeting with allies and union leadership, the workers collectively agreed to return to work tomorrow and try to negotiate a lower number of pounds per hour for the $10 minimum wage established by the company. The workers raised concerns on the 35 lbs per hour required; some of the women pickers spoke to the Union leadership about this requirement being inhumane production standards and also the unhealthy impacts they have begun to feel as they rush to meet the 35lb limit due to the high temperatures. Several women reported having felt throbbing headaches and fatigue in the last week.
“It is hard for us to keep working fast to be able to pick 35 pounds an hour, sometimes we feel sick” said a farm worker woman who migrated to Skagit County with her family from California, to escape the high heat “ I thought it would be cooler, in California they were not asking us for a minimum number of pounds per hour, we were getting paid a straight $10 hr. – when they recruited us to come here they told us we would be able to earn $17 hr., that is why we agreed to come to Sakuma, we were tricked” she was afraid to identify herself for fear of reprisals since she also was not told of the labor conflict at Sakuma Berry Farms.  The workers agreed that no one should put their health in danger to meet Sakuma's 35 pounds per hour requirement. 

Pictures and video available in Community to Community Facebook page 
The workers are planning the Third Annual March for a Union Contract on July 11th. Details for the march:
Article on the work stoppage and negotiation from last week:…/sakuma-workers-win-better-condit…/   

Maru Mora Villalpando
Latino Advocacy

Friday, May 1, 2015

C2C/BUF Partnership Team Report 2013-2015

Here is a link to the Partnership's report for the years of 2013-2015.  Each time we put together a Partnership Report, we are always surprised at what we've accomplished.

Heartfelt thank you and much gratitude to Community to Community in taking a leadership role, performing admirably with limited resources and allowing BUF to work with them and be a part of changing the world!

C2C/BUF Partnership Team Report 2013-2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

"The Essence of the Partnership" by Kara Black

I am a member of the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship of Swiss and other mixed Western European heritage. I remember the first time I joined the farmworker march for justice in our County.  It was shortly after we had launched our "official" partnership with the organization Community to Community, though we had been unofficial partners on several efforts for years.

I heard that some farmworkers, including a man in a wheelchair whose feet had been injured by farming in too-cold weather without adequate clothing, were going to be walking all the way from the Lynden border that morning--20 miles from the downtown end point.  I wasn't quite ready for that, so I waited at the half way point with several others to join the march.  We waited longer than expected (we later discovered the  marchers had been waylaid at the Sikh Temple where they had been welcomed with a hotbreakfast).  I felt a bit awkward.  I didn't know most of the people and wasn't bold enough to try out my Spanish with the non-English speakers waiting. I milled about in the store where we were waiting and realized it was a Mexican store with many products imported from countries to the south of the US.  It had been a long time since I was in such a store, and never in my home county. I felt a bit out of place, but also felt pleased and interested in this new "home" experience.

I remember when we first saw the group of marchers coming towards us. A shout of pride and joy went through our own crowd (which had grown considerably by then).  I even felt tears prick my eyes, seeing that small, determined group--led by a man in wheelchair, red banners proudly proclaiming their purpose. Our crowd started to feel to me like we were together.  We cheered them as they got closer and a big round of joyful cries rang out as they arrived.  We gathered in a circle and heard some inspirational words and then set out to continue the march.

We walked along a very busy, wide road.  At first I felt somewhat fearful of our vulnerability to hostility from anti-immigrant residents driving big vehicles that could do harm.  As we walked, though, we more often had friendly honks and waves from drivers going by (I will always remember now to honk when I go by a rally—it makes such a big difference to the folks "on the ground").  Walking with people creates unique opportunities for interaction.  I ended up beside many different people, and in that setting, felt comfortable trying out my Spanish and having chats with people I Iikely would never otherwise have met.  There were many children in the march--walking or being carried.  It was easy to talk with the children or with the parents about their children. I had a proud moment when I was asked to take a turn carrying one of the big banners (it was heavy!).

The conversations, the honks, helping carry all made me feel more like a meaningful participant in the march.  What really solidfied it, though, was when we got to the next gathering place much closer to downtown.  What looked like a huge crowd on both sides of the street were cheering us on, waving new signs, welcoming our band of marchers.  I felt tears in my eyes again, experiencing our power, support and size grow with  many new, enthusiastic marchers and voices.  We were in front of the mall then, with a presence so visible, that there was no way drivers could miss us.  It is a special thing to be part of helping make something that is usually invisible so visible.

Our joyful band of marchers continued on to downtown Bellingham, rallying along the way, and attracting new marchers or people stopping to ask about our purpose.  Several members of our fellowship had joined in along the way as well.  At the park, we got to hear from many speakers, including the farmworkers who had been walking from the wee hours in Lynden.  We stood in line and ate together, spread out on the grass. I felt connected to them in a way I never had before.  It is one thing to believe in justice, but it is another to experience a real togetherness in fighting for it. When I think of Community to Community as our partner organization--marching together embodied for me the true essence of this partnership.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Cesar's Last Fast" Comes to BUF

Members of the C2C/BUF Partnership Team are working with the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival to bring this inspiring film on the challenges that farmworkers have been, and are, being faced with.  Community to Community’s mission and work is influenced by the community organizing model of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker’s movement in California and Washington State and BUF stands with C2C in promoting equity and dignity for our farmworkers.  

Join us, the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival, Community to Community and the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship in deepening our understanding of the challenges farmworkers face and the obstacles they have to overcome. Hear from Community to Community staff members as they speak to the vision of Cesar Chavez as they stand in the front lines of farmworker struggles here in Whatcom and Skagit counties and across the globe.