Last Sunday, a crowd of hundreds marched in the 107-degree heat of Lamont, a city in Central California’s farm country, demanding just wages, rights and respect for the nation’s immigrant farm workers. Organized by the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) to occur during the peak of growing season, participants hope to send a loud and clear message to farm owners at their most vulnerable time.
In 2005, DHF’s Women’s Economic Justice March resulted in a twenty-five cent hourly wage increase, but the wages are not keeping up with California’s escalating gas and housing prices. Households in Lamont, one in five of which are headed by women, suffer the worst hunger and food insecurity in the region, according to a February 2006 study conducted by California State University, Fresno. The study also concluded that four out of five children of immigrant parents lived in households with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line, compared with two in five children of U.S. born parents.
The marchers, who included representatives of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Planned Parenthood Central Valley, the United Farm Workers, the DHF, Loyola Marymount University, and the Chicano Student Movement of Aztln (MEChA), among others, targeted Grimmway Farms, the world’s largest grower, packer, and shipper of carrots, and the largest employer of farm workers in Lamont. Speaking about the decades-long exploitation of immigrant farm workers whose work is producing wealth for others, Camila Chavez, Executive Director of the DHF, said, “If they are producing wealth, they should be allowed a fair wage.”