Photo/Alejandro JSM Chavez

Activities surrounding Farmworkers Awareness were held this week in the Northeast San Fernando Valley on Sunday, March 27, as people gathered in their cars at the intersection of Brand and Sepulveda Boulevards in Mission Hills.

As they arrived they tied signs to their cars. One urged the support of  AB2183-Stone — the California Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act — that would modernize voting procedures allowing access to farmworkers interested in joining a union. Another protest sign adhered to the cars called for an expedient path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

The Northeast San Fernando Valley has a long history of support for the United Farmworkers Union, and the late UFW labor leader Cesar Chavez and co-founder Dolores Huerta. Both Chavez and Huerta  have had a connection to the local community — often traveling from the central valley to attend events both here and at the CSUN campus to speak and solicit support for the rights of farmworkers. Beyond the fields, support for the union and the organization of  boycotts in communities like those that make up the Northeast Valley was instrumental in the farmworkers’ movement.  

Photo / Alejandro JSM Chavez

Following the passing of Chavez in 1993, the local Cesar E. Chavez Commemorative Committee SFV held large marches — first through the streets in the city of San Fernando, and in later years changing its base location to Mission Hills with a route ending at Ritchie Valens Park where a community event would be held.   

While the pandemic derailed this annual event over the last two years,  this year the committee opted to resume their support with a caravan of cars instead of a march. A  long line of cars traveled through the communities of Mission Hills, San Fernando, Pacoima and Arleta. 

“It was our goal to get people away from social media and get involved in an ‘action’ again, “ said Ruben Rodriguez, one of  the main organizers.

“Having a caravan instead of a march kept people more protected from COVID-19 and it worked out really well. People were honking and cheering for us along the route — they were even coming out of their houses and taking pictures and giving us support,” he said.  

“We are calling on Gov. Newsom to support voting rights for farmworkers,” said an event organizer. 

Supporters of AB 2183 which is currently pending, describe the legislation as  “modernizing the voting procedures for farmworkers to determine if they want to be represented by a labor union.” During a recent Zoom meeting, Sen. Alex Padilla voiced his support for “expanding voting accessibility for farmworkers in California.”

Since the passing of Chavez, gains made by the union have been difficult to maintain. One challenge for the union has been that current law requires elections take place at the worksite and, they point out, elections are held usually on land owned by the rancher, which puts farmworkers in an intimidating environment. 

The new voting procedure will allow farmworkers to turn in ballots by mail or deliver them to the office of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. The new procedures are modeled on the voting process that was in place for the failed recall of Newsom. Last year, a bill that contained the new proposed voting procedures passed the Assembly and the state Senate. However, Newsom vetoed the bill.

“Why was the absentee ballot process good for the governor when he depended on it to defeat the recall, but not good for farmworkers?” asked Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers.