Thousands of farm workers and their allies completed a march to California’s Capitol in Sacramento on Friday, completing the final leg of a 24-day journey that began 350 miles away in Delano. The United Farm Workers Union designed the march to pressure Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign legislation that would give farm workers the ability to vote in union elections by mail, reflecting the way Californians vote for candidates for political office voices.
Under current state law, farm workers must vote in person in union elections on sites owned by the producers who employ them.
“It creates a lot of intimidation. A lot of employers have security there, all supervisors are there, and that doesn’t encourage participation,” Teresa Romero, president of United Farm Workers, said in an interview with KQED.
The Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act, Assembly Bill 2183, would amend this in-person voting requirement and would also prohibit growers from encouraging or discouraging union membership. Under the new law, growers could also face fines of up to $25,000 for certain specific labor violations and up to $10,000 for general labor violations.
But in a statement released hours before farm workers were due to march the final mile to the Capitol, Newsom said he would not support the law as it stands. The governor’s office told the Fresno Bee that Newsom remains open to negotiations.
Veronica Mota, one of the 19 farm workers who braved triple-digit temperatures throughout the 24-day march, said she was saddened by the news but remained motivated.
“It’s not going to take away my motivation to keep pushing for the right thing,” Mota told KQED. “It doesn’t end here. It starts here.”
“56 years ago, César Chavez led this march to raise awareness of the problems faced by farm workers,” Romero said.
“We felt it was important enough to replicate this march for people and consumers to understand that farm workers still need the rights that other workers have. We all eat because of their hard work.”