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Strawberry Workers and Unionization

I am concerned that not all within Ventura County have the same protections and possibilities for security or advancement as the majority of our voting population.

I am a bilingual educator. Many times during the Proposition 227 campaign I heard people say, “They’re here, they should speak English!”

Yet many in our community do not want to listen to what these newest arrivals to our society have to say.

Because of injustices to local farm workers, I am proud to support the formation of the Ventura County chapter of the National Strawberry Commission for Workers’ Rights.

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The strawberry-growing industry has long ago out-profited its work force. A well-placed establishment has governed poor working conditions, low wages and intimidation. The enforcement of immigration laws has become a smoke screen in front of practices that would bring condemnation from our highest levels of government in any other business or community.

As a community member, I demand that the strawberry industry improve labor standards to match those of the other industries of which Americans are proud. I call upon our community and government representatives, including President Clinton, to enforce the high standards the United States demands in other industries. Federal and state law should not be swept aside because the culture of agriculture lends itself to intimidation and hidden injustices.

I call upon the strawberry industry, its managers, owners and beneficiaries to enact the high standards that the consumer, Ventura County and the United States of America demand.

DENIS O’LEARY, Ventura

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Dolores Huerta’s recent press conference alleging poor working conditions for strawberry fieldworkers in Ventura County has made me greatly concerned and confused.

Ms. Huerta has once again outdone herself in the creation of an independent agency to investigate strawberry farm worker abuses. As a Hispanic, I am saddened and insulted by her shallow and obvious actions in targeting just strawberry fieldworkers. Why only strawberry pickers?

I am also confused with the United Farm Workers creation of the so-called National Strawberry Commission for Workers’ Rights. This commission undermines and circumvents the very law and agencies Cesar Chavez helped create to protect farm workers.

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Is it because Dolores Huerta cannot abide by the deliberate choice of thousands of strawberry pickers not to join her people’s union? Is it because the very laws Cesar Chavez helped create with regard to freedom of choice are now working against the UFW?

A local Catholic priest once told me of a conversation he had with Cesar Chavez. He said he was very impressed with Cesar’s ability to listen. I would recommend the same to Dolores Huerta: Listen to us! Do you consider us cattle?

KEVIN DUKE, Oxnard


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