Shouts of “Si se puede!” could be heard along El Capitan Way in Delhi Friday as a group of 20 to 30 United Farm Workers supporters marched through town and to that day’s lunch spot, Iglesia de la Cruz (Church of the Cross). The marchers took a much-needed rest and refueled to continue their journey north.
Friday marked the fourth day of the 13-day, 200 mile “Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Now March” that began in Madera and is set to end on Sept. 4 with a rally in Sacramento. The triple digit temperatures did not slow down the group of marchers who traveled by foot from Livingston to Turlock on Friday.
The goal of the march, according to UFW president Arturo Rodriguez, is to raise awareness for farm worker issues and gain the support needed from Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Legislature to make much needed changes.
“It’s important for (Gov. Brown) to do what the farm workers are expecting him to do — respond to our needs. Do what’s necessary, make the changes. Do what’s right for farm workers,” Rodriguez said.
The top issues the UFW want Sacramento to face: the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act and the right to be paid overtime after eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.
In June Brown vetoed the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, a bill that would have made it easier for farm workers to join a union and speak up for their rights; and farm workers are currently exempt from federal overtime labor laws.
“We needn’t give up just because he vetoed that law,” said Jose Cerritos, 23, one of the six Salinas-area farm workers who joined the march on Friday. “We must continue to fight, even harder.”
“Every time farm workers try to improve their living conditions and working conditions the employers consort against them. Farm workers work harder than every other group in the nation and state. California is the richest state in agriculture in the country, if it wasn’t for farm workers we all wouldn’t be eating,” Rodriguez said.
The farm workers took this message on the road, sharing their stories with those they met along the way on Friday.
When the marchers finally reached Turlock— at around 6 p.m. — a welcome party was waiting for them at Columbia Park.
California State University, Stanislaus students from a variety of clubs and organizations — including the Hunger Network, Teatro LHDC, Mecha and Lambda Sigma Gamma — arranged for a hot meal, a cool place to rest and even live entertainment to help boost the marchers’ spirits.
“They know the significance of this,” said CSUS club advisor and admissions counselor Carolina Alfaro about the student volunteers. “Everybody just automatically jumps to it.”
CSUS student Ana Gonzalez knew with going to school, working two jobs and being a mother she wouldn’t be able to march; so she decided to do what she could to help the UFW supporters — she arranged for Mariachi Pihuamo de Julisco to perform.
“(The marchers) sacrificed more than I can,” Gonzalez said. “My heart goes out to them. When I saw them dancing around with blisters on their feet, it was worth it.”
CSUS student and Delhi resident Cesar Salazar heard about the march coming through the Central Valley and decided to show his support for the marchers by seeing them off in Livingston Friday morning.
“I went to the church to say hi and ended up walking from Livingston to Turlock,” Salazar said. “The movement is pretty powerful.”
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