After braving the summer heat for 335 miles along the San Joaquin Valley, thousands of farmworkers and supporters concluded the United Farm Workers march to Sacramento. This journey was made in hopes that Gov. Gavin Newsom would sign Assembly Bill 2183, which would allow farmworkers to vote when and where they please, free of intimidation from management.
The march began in Delano on Aug. 3, taking a similar path Ceasar Chavez and many others took in 1966. Yolanda Chacon-Serna, a labor organizer, began the pilgrimage on its first day. She even celebrated her birthday while passing through Stockton. Chacon-Serna drove the van that would assist the marchers. If someone was tired, had to use the bathroom, or needed refreshments, she was there to assist.
“After walking so much everyday, someone is bound to get injured,” Chacon-Serna said. “If someone twists their ankle or is overheated, I go and pick them up. They’re doing so much, I want to help in any way I can.”
For the past 30 years she has worked as a labor organizer. Her mother was a farmworker and activist for UFW. “I am the seed that was grown from the struggle of my people,” Chacon-Serna said. “ We must continue so our children have opportunities.”
Jesus Garcia is a fellow marcher who was there for most of the duration of the march. He comes from a family of farm workers.
“We’re not asking, we’re demanding justice for farm workers,” Garcia said. “Government and politicians are no longer dealing with farmers in the field. They’re also dealing with their children and grandchildren.”
The proposed bill would extend all farmworkers the right to vote at home, similar to how Californian’s vote in elections. Currently the governor has not agreed to sign Bill 2183 with how it stands. Newsom opposes the current bill due to lack of provisions in an untested mail-in election.
Chacon-Serna explained how this disappointed many of the farmworkers, as they supported Newsom during the time of potentially being recalled from office.
“He utilized the vote by mail, farm workers supported him and stood behind him,” Chacon-Serna said. “They feed the world. Farmworkers rights are human rights.”
In response to the governor not passing the bill, protestors have set up a vigil outside of the Capitol until the bill is signed. Vigil’s have also been set up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno.
Farm workers have had to continue working in extraneous conditions such as extreme heat waves, COVID-19 and wildfires the past few years. Additionally, they are more susceptible to various health
problems due to the chemicals used in the farming process.
Oscar Mogollon, a Cal Poly Humboldt alumni, is the marketing manager and community peacekeeper at the North Coast Growers Association. The organization helps put on the farmers markets in the county and runs food programs that connect farmers with excess food to those who need it.
He speaks of the harsh field conditions and lack of respect that workers face. Mogollon believes this march is a stride in the right direction for farmworker rights.
“The march indicates there’s lots of moving pieces in the work, and it still needs solidarity,” Mogollon said. “Problems are still on the rise, farmer suicide higher than many other professions. These
skilled farm workers are struggling in many domains. They unfortunately don’t get the support when they need it.”