The United Farm Workers march to the California state capitol
Courtesy of United Farm Workers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The United Farm Workers Union (UFW) and their supporters assembled at Southside Community Park two miles from the California State Capital.  Thousands of supporters came to support the UFW unionization protection bill. They chanted and marched to the State Capitol to show support for Assembly Bill 2183.

AB 2183 would amend the Agricultural Labor Relations Act to make it easier for farmworkers to vote for or against unionization free from intimidation and threats. Governor Gavin Newson doesn’t support the bill in its present form. Negotiations are still ongoing between the UFW and the Governor’s office.

Opponents of the bill, the Chamber of Commerce, big business and agricultural grower associations, as well as wealthy independent ranchers, all oppose the bill, claiming it is nothing more than an attempt by the UFW to force agricultural workers to unionize.

Those attending the rally on Friday, August 26, included labor leaders, community groups, religious groups and clergy, students, seniors, activists, Latino organizations, and many others. They had a clear message for the governor: We stand with the farmworkers in support of unionization and this pro-labor bill. Sign the bill!

Lorena Gonzalez, the first woman and person of color to lead the California Federation of Labor said, “For too long the farmworkers have been on the outside. This bill must be approved and signed by the Governor. If not, we will be back. Stronger, bigger, and more determined. We will not stop. Sign the bill.”

Dolores Huerta, the 92-year-old labor icon who helped found the UFW, said, Today we march in support of this important bill. We will let Gov. Newson know our desire and courage to stand up for what is right for farmworkers and the labor movement. Let me say this: March today, but go back to your communities and march to get out the vote.”

Sonia Salinas, a student from Berkeley, said she was inspired by the energy and commitment of the community, young and old, to come out and support the UFW. “It’s 102 degrees and no one complained, because the issue, signing the bill, is so important. Can you believe Dolores Huerta? She inspires all women and activists.”

Charley, a biker riding a Harley Davidson along with other bikers, circled the State Capitol with large red UFW flags flying in the wind as they rode their bikes. Aztec dancers marched alongside various labor union members (Teamsters, SEIW, UAW, teacher unions, National Writers Union, UNITE, Longshoremen, San Francisco Labor Council, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement), and many others. The crowd, estimated, at over 5000, chanted the traditional farmworker slogan “Si Se Puede.”

California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo reflected on her childhood growing up working in the fields. Her message is it’s time to respect the Latino community for everything it has done. “The Governor has made this day California Farmworkers Appreciation Day,” she said. “Well, then, sign the bill.”

The peregrinación

Decades ago Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta held their UFW historic pilgrimage— peregrinación—from their headquarters in Delano to Sacramento for farmworker rights and unionization. Community supporters and Chicano activists from around the Southwest participated and supported the pilgrimage.

They carried their red farmworker flags chanting “Si Se Puede” as they walked the 300 or so miles in the sweltering heat to the State Capitol in Sacramento. Hundreds joined the UFW during the march.

The peregrinación was a historic march and a significant push for labor rights, especially for farm workers. Many Latino activists became involved in community and political organizing because of the power of the peregrinación to engage on the grassroots level—schools, communities, workplaces—and confront institutions in order to make positive changes for many.

Just like decades ago, hundreds of people joined the UFW members and their supporters as they walked the 335 miles from Delano in Kern County to Sacramento. Community people along the way provided housing, food, water, medical support, and joined in the march—some only for a few miles, while others walked many more.

The march started on August 6 and ended on the 26th with a huge rally outside the California State Capitol. Many in the crowd remembered the earlier peregrinación, some even had participated. Others in the crowd this year were motivated to join up with their first march and rally ever.

By early evening the streets of Sacramento were silent. The barricades in front of the Capitol were taken down. The last of the supporters walked back to their buses and cars to head back to wherever they were from. Going home, everyone knew that they had participated in a historic march and rally—the pilgrimage, the peregrinación.

The struggle to get the bill signed is not over. UFW President Teresa Romero said, “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here today and organize for tomorrow, if necessary. Be assured. We will push on. We aren’t going to give up. We’re not going to stop.”

Si Se Puede! 


David Trujillo
David Trujillo

David Trujillo is a member of the National Writers Union, a playwright, writer, and community activist. David Trujillo es miembro de la Unión Nacional de Escritores, dramaturgo, escritor y activista comunitario.