By Luz Ticas
The local fight for a just and fair outcome for the Beach Flats Garden and the gardeners has been put in conversation with the recent movement to boycott Driscoll’s berries in California - one of the biggest family owned companies that produces and distributes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and black berries. The parallel has been made as a fight for basic human worker rights that all workers are entitled to. The campaign was started by the union Familias Unidas por la Justicia in 2013 when farmworkers decided to stop working to defend their workers' rights. Although Driscoll’s claims to follow a code of conduct for workers’ rights, the workers have a long list of reported complaints. One of them is simply Driscoll’s lack of acknowledging and respecting workers’ rights as a large company, and paying a mere $6 for strenuous 12 hour work day. Farmworkers experience wage theft, long hours, child labor, little time for rest, unsanitary housing conditions, threat of job loss, and daily mistreatment. In response, the farmworkers have begun to fight and organize for Driscoll’s to sign a union contract that would increase of the amount of money earned per pound, provide medical plans, pensions, and prevent child labor.
This past spring, the Familia Unidas por La Justicia came to Santa Cruz to establish a committee to stand in solidarity with the berry farmworkers. They have come to the Beach Flats Garden to speak with the gardeners. Together, both groups have shared experiences as farmworkers; together, they turned the soil and planted seeds in the Garden. The Beach Flats gardeners now stand in solidarity with the Boycott Driscoll’s campaign, and many supported and rallied in a ‘May Day March’, where they combined both causes in the Central Coast region to increase awareness. The movement to boycott Driscoll’s and the movement to save the Beach Flats Garden share similar calls: respect the rights of those who tend the land and grow food, and do so justly and fairly.
To learn more about this movement, you can watch this video, read this article on Democracy Now, and follow Familia Unidas' Facebook page and their website.
About the author: Luz Ticas is an undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz working as a research assistant this summer on the No Place to Grow research project. She is interested in environmental studies, environmental justice, and community studies.