The telephone rang at the grassroots food justice organization in Rosalinda Guillen’s workplace at Group to Group Improvement (C2C) in Bellingham, Washington, in August 2017. The individual on the road stated a gaggle of 70 farmworkers was walking down the street leading away from Sarbanand Farms, a big, corporate-owned blueberry farm within the area.
Farmworker justice leader Rosalinda Guillen, the chief director of C2C, soon arrived on website together with her employees to seek out that the lads had been fired for complaining about mistreatment after the demise of one among their fellow staff, 28-year-old Honesto Silva Ibarra. Silva Ibarra had died of dehydration from being pressured to work 12- to 14-hour days within the scorching, smoky circumstances brought on by fires that have been sweeping by way of the area that summer time.
As a result of the lads had been fired, that they had lost their visa standing and can be thought-about undocumented. C2C immediately arrange an encampment for the lads and put out the phrase to the area people.
“We had a tremendous outpouring of help,” Guillen stated. “Individuals brought cash, meals, tents, chairs, sleeping luggage. Docs and nurses volunteered to examine the employees out. They appeared with automobiles and vans to drive them to the clinic, to the hospitals.”
A ferocious organizer and labor activist for more than 30 years, Guillen, now 68, founded C2C as a corporation led by ladies of colour, a place-based, grassroots organization dedicated to strengthen local and international movements toward social, financial, and environmental justice.
In 1995, Guillen gained the first-ever farmworkers’ collective bargaining settlement in the state of Washington with Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery after serving to to arrange its staff and after an eight-year boycott of its wines. Previously, she organized strawberry staff for the United Farm Staff (UFW) in California, ultimately serving as political and legislative vice chairman of the union’s government board.
“I’ve all the time appreciated that Rosalinda can converse to the nuances and complexities of a just agriculture system, understanding that not everyone sees the same path forward,” stated Kerstin Lindgren, a strategic organizing researcher at Service Staff Worldwide Union (SEIU). “However [she] doesn’t lose sight of a vision for justice that’s extra broadly shared.”
Within the case of the terminated blueberry pickers, C2C helped educate the group about what had occurred through the use of stay feeds on Facebook and protests at state businesses. It held group forums where the farmworkers testified about their expertise, medical staff talked about what excessive dehydration seems to be like, and employees from farmworker justice organizations explained the H-2A program—a visa permitting a overseas national to enter the U.S. for short-term or seasonal agricultural work.
“Individuals noticed it—they noticed what happened,” Guillen stated.
The eye enabled C2C and a coalition of other organizations to introduce Senate Bill 5438 in the Washington legislature, which might create a state Workplace of H-2A Compliance and Farm Labor to offer oversight and monitoring of the H-2A program within the state. The bill handed in Might and will take impact at the end of July.
“Group to Group has made my life actual,” stated Modesto Hernandez, a farmworker and member of C2C, who had suffered devastating personal damage, dropping his ft to frostbite from unsafe working circumstances, as well as experiencing discrimination. “Without their help I might not have the ability to assume positively about my future. Now I do know that I have the power to maintain myself, I don’t need charity—I want equity, and C2C has shown me how one can increase my voice and get individuals and businesses to be truthful.”
Destiny Comes Knocking
Guillen and her seven siblings grew up dwelling in migrant labor camps following her father, a farmworker from Mexico, on the migrant circuit around america. Despite this reality, at the age of 37, Rosalinda Guillen had never heard of Cesar Chavez.
However on the day Anne Atkeson, a recruiter for the Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential marketing campaign, knocked on Guillen’s door in rural Whatcom County, Washington, Guillen was dwelling on a hen ranch with three sons whereas working as the supervisor of knowledge processing at Skagit State Bank. It was the third time that Atkeson had appeared on Guillen’s doorstep, determined to seek out an individual of shade to assist with local organizing for Jackson’s marketing campaign.
“I truthfully was not even registered to vote at the time,” Guillen stated. But one thing about Atkeson’s persistence made Guillen invite her in. “I figured I’d let her speak 15 minutes, then she will depart and depart me alone.”
“However the minute [Atkeson] stated, ‘What do you consider the USA having a Black president within the White House?’ these words have been like a whip or something,” she recalled. “I looked at her and I stated, ‘What are you talking about?’”
The thought of a Black president resonated with Guillen, she stated, as a result of for her and lots of others, being a farmworker in nearly all-white rural Washington meant being treated as a second-class citizen as well as experiencing outright racism, unequal remedy, and disrespect.
She registered to vote and began going to campaign conferences, ultimately operating for—and profitable—election as a precinct committee officer the place she introduced within the rural Democratic Social gathering Caucus for Jesse Jackson.
“I liked it,” Guillen stated of her work registering voters and distributing literature. “It was so invigorating speaking about democracy and the Structure and racism and Jesse Jackson and alternatives for individuals of colour. I didn’t know this world existed. I used to be infused with an entire new id. That’s the place I discovered about Cesar Chavez and the farm employee movement.”
‘What Would Cesar Do?’
Guillen based a Whatcom County chapter of the National Rainbow Coalition, which had grown out of the Jackson marketing campaign, the place she worked on a number of local electoral campaigns. When she heard of the demise of Chavez in 1993, Guillen give up her job at the financial institution and went to work full time for the coalition. It was there that she was approached by farmworkers at Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, the most important vineyard in the state of Washington, who needed the coalition’s help in supporting their boycott of the winery.
By way of that campaign, she met Joseph Moore, a Vietnam Warfare veteran and antiwar activist who taught her to view organizing by way of a strategic, nonviolent lens, using direct motion and campaigns to vary buildings and methods. Guillen and Moore ultimately married.
The Rainbow Coalition chapter signed a collective bargaining settlement in December 1995, the first-ever union settlement with that vineyard in Washington. However because the Rainbow Coalition was not a bonafide union, Guillen and her partners approached the United Farmworkers of America (UFW), whose leadership was dumbfounded that a native coalition might pull off such a sweeping and historic settlement.
“They didn’t consider us. And because they’re organizers, they requested, the place’s the listing? What’s your leadership, what’s your base, how did you do it?” she stated. “I pulled out the e-book, Conquering Goliath [by Fred Ross] and the ebook [Cesar Chavez: Autobiography Of La Causa] by Jacques Levy. We had them within the workplace and lots of, many occasions, we might go to these two books to say, ‘Okay, what would Cesar do in this state of affairs?’”
To increase her work, Guillen in 1999 moved to Sacramento, California, to work with the UFW. As vice chairman of the UFW board, Guillen worked to efficiently amend the California Agricultural Labor Relations (CALR) Act to impose binding arbitration and mediation on unions and employers if an impasse was declared, since quite a lot of impasses in collective bargaining had occurred since CALR had first been enacted. It was the primary time the Act had been amended because it was written and passed in 1975, which former Governor Gray Davis then signed into regulation in 2002.
She turned increasingly devoted to the beliefs that Chavez stood for. “I[felt like I] talked to him each day about how can we transfer ahead,” Guillen stated of her continually referencing Chavez’s books and speeches, as well as the individuals who had worked with the labor leader. “What are the challenges? What would he do in this altering political local weather? How are we as farmworkers going to be at the decision-making desk and be seen as an equal stakeholder within the production of food?”
“We are the ones on the ground. We’re the ones that know our fact. And we’re those that know what must occur,” she continued, describing Chavez’s battle towards pesticides in large-scale agriculture. “It’s like we’re the canaries within the mine. You’re putting us able the place we’re dying, and you then’re going to die subsequent.”
Guillen believes strongly that as stakeholders, farmworkers must be concerned in any decision-making that has to do with the food production. “We will’t just be instruments,” she stated. “We will’t just be another resource that’s owned by the agricultural business to make extra profit. We’re individuals.”
Guillen’s trip to Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2000 to current on the World Social Forum (WSF) on behalf of the UFW on the circumstances of farm staff was, for her, life-changing. She was astounded by the dynamism she saw in the landless staff’ motion as well as the mannequin of a participatory democracy within the Individuals’s Movement Assemblies—developed as a decision-making area of the WSF. Additionally, the efforts to construct policy from the underside up have been real-world examples of the ideas she had been formulating. She couldn’t wait to get again and, as a member of their governing board of the UFW, introduce those models to the union.
Sadly, Guillen stated the union wasn’t .
Group to Group
Disheartened, and concerned that the growth of commercial agriculture in California would soon migrate north to Washington, she decided to go away the union and return residence to Whatcom County. There, in 2004, she opened C2C to build on the work of Chavez and set up a real-world model of the values of collective motion she discovered at the WSF.
“The whole point of Group to Group is to plant seeds, to grow little crops of leadership and allow them to flourish,” Guillen stated, based mostly around a structure she calls ecofeminism, empowering the feminine in both men and women, and by partnering with Mother Nature herself.
At C2C, ladies make the choices and men help and provides input. C2C has been instrumental in voter registration and schooling drives within the native farmworker group, notably specializing in ladies, and has partnered with Agricultural Justice Venture (AJP) to advertise truthful trade in agricultural manufacturing by creating a Meals Justice Certified label so buyers can easily see that a food product has not exploited staff or the land.
It also means putting the technique of manufacturing into the arms of farmworkers by means of the institution of worker-owned co-ops, which personal and work the land and promote the harvest. The primary, established in 2017, is Tierra y Libertad (“land and liberty”), presently farming 65 acres in Whatcom County and producing its first business harvest this yr.
“With out land we can’t absolutely obtain all our goals,” stated Ramon Torres, President of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, an unbiased farmworker union led by indigenous families. “These berries are proof of our expertise to grow our own meals. We would like to be able to maintain ourselves economically—we do not want bosses, just one another working together.”
“The legacy of injustice in agriculture and the complexity of solutions is certainly a challenge,” stated SEIU’s Lindgren. “But C2C has had an influence regionally in very concrete methods—and extra broadly by creating connections and bridges, sharing information, getting individuals involved within the motion in meaningful ways, and being an inspiration.”
Lindgren added that she is struck by Guillen’s “sense of justice and her assured willpower that we might have a corporation that modeled what we needed our agriculture system to seem like—that’s, a corporation where farmers, farmworkers, businesses, retailers, and other stakeholders all came collectively equally, by means of both formal and informal channels.”
Now at virtually 70, Guillen is beginning to mirror not only on her legacy however on the future of C2C and its place in the general story of the farmworkers who’ve constructed our agricultural system.
“My objective is to have a staff that is led by farmworkers and hand them the construction that we built, and let them run with it,” she stated. “As a result of we don’t know what the longer term brings. We don’t know the shifting political modifications. All we will do is be nimble, to be consistent in our values and our rules and to attempt to do the most effective that we will.”
“The last word objective is that folks have the ability to eat goodness,” Guillen stated, referring to meals that is healthy for the individuals who develop, harvest, and eat it, in addition to for his or her communities and for the planet as an entire. “Your plate of food in front of you is a reflection of what’s happening in your group.”
Photographs courtesy of C2C.
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