Decolonize Los Campos: Desde Abajo Hacia la Izquierda

We are a group of people of many genders, races, abilities and
political viewpoints that came together though Decolonize/Occupy
Seattle (DOS) and are interested in organizing around a whole-systems
approach to worker liberation. Many of us initially met at Westlake,
worked together at Seattle Central Community College and united to
organize the D12 Port Shutdown. As we work together to create
community, we consistently engage in movement building through
critical dialogues and acts of resistance. We understand that the
struggle of farm workers is one aspect of a larger pattern of
resistance, which is a response to the dispossession that capitalism
and globalization inflicts on our global community. We were approached
by the United Farm Workers (UFW) to work in solidarity with them in
their current campaign against the outrageous labor practices of Ruby
Ridge Dairy. Workers at Ruby Ridge are forced to work long hours
without breaks or lunch, have had their wages stolen, and are denied
clean drinking water as they are told to drink from the same place
where the cows drink. Their efforts to unionize have been met with
threats of violence and most of the workers who led the unionizing
effort were fired. Darigold, the company who purchases milk from Ruby
Ridge, has neglected to hold Ruby Ridge accountable for its
exploitative actions, and in their failure to respond to the needs of
the workers, have condoned such unjust working conditions.

In honor of the ongoing struggle of these workers, we began our
organizing with the commitment to work in solidarity with farm
workers, as opposed to taking action for them. We understand that our
accountability to the workers themselves is a necessary piece of our
intentions for solidarity; it is vital that those on the front lines
of their workplace struggles remain central to the decision- making
process. This accountability is a major principle we utilized to
organize as a collective. In order to make sure this principle was
followed, we met directly with workers twice- once in Seattle and once
again in Pasco. In these meetings we shared our backgrounds, reasons
for organizing and talked about the current struggles we are engaging
in. The meetings were multilingual; we spoke in Espanol, English, and
Spanglish. Traveling together to Pasco, and hearing stories of the
worker’s struggles from the workers themselves, had a strong impact
that we carried with us through the organizing process. We were
mobilized and energized by our meeting with the workers; forming these
relationships was a tangible way to actualize our goals of solidarity,
community-building and provided vision and inspiration for our work
within the movement. We also planned the day of action and talked
about logical next steps during the meeting. Meeting with workers and
leaders from the UFW was an important step in keeping us accountable
to the principle outlined above and was also a way to connect our
communities.

Elemental to this action was arte — the ways in which we created
together and how our co-creativity influenced the march. There were
two banner making parties leading up to January 27th, 2011. During
these parties, food and music were abundant as we expressed our rage,
hope and solidarity with paint, projecting nuestra voz onto the void
spaces and transforming them into meaning. For many of us, this arte
was as much a healing process as it was a symbol used to convey a
message. Again, this demonstrates how an action is not just the event
itself but also the way that we make it happen. Arte is the heart.

In line with our efforts to build community, we began the day of
action with a breakfast that we cooked together to welcome the workers
to Seattle and to further integrate the wider DOS community into the
day of action. We put thought into aligning our food choices with the
intentions of the campaign, keeping in mind that we are all connected
to waste, worker and animal exploitation and ecological collapse via
our food sourcing choices. We continuously work hard to maintain a
full systems perspective within our organizing work. The community
breakfast was held in the basement of a local church decorated with
colorful, creative banners, and picket signs. As we shared food we
continued to build community.

After sitting for breakfast with the some of the workers and their
families, we headed to Westlake Plaza to rally. The rally began as
two-high school students from Seattle, who are the children of farm
workers, spoke about their families’ experiences and their own
feelings around their struggles. We also heard from workers at Ruby
Ridge and one of the organizers from the UFW. We then took to the
streets in a high-energy march filled with arte and enthusiasm. One of
the main goals of the day was to deliver a petition with 20,000
signatures to the Darigold Headquarters. Previous attempts to reach
the administration had been unsuccessful; when workers and their
allies showed up the doors were closed and guarded. When we arrived at
the headquarters, a security guard who stated that only one person
would be allowed inside and only one door would be open greeted us.
However, the crowd did not find this to be acceptable and the other
door was opened by the protesters to allow the voices of the farm
workers’ to travel into the offices.

As a group we requested that the President and CEO of Darigold, Jim
Wegner, come out of his office to answer to the demands of the workers
and their allies. However, he declined to show his face. Despite his
failure to listen to his workers and customers the petitions were
delivered by one of the farm worker’s sons, whose path to the office
was cleared by protesters. We proceeded with a second rally outside
the Darigold headquarters. Speakers included farm workers revealing
the truth about their unjust working conditions, two longshoremen
speaking out in solidarity, a member of the UW custodian’s union and
voices from Decolonize/Occupy Seattle. We ended the day of action with
a march around the building and a promise that we would continue to
organize until the farm workers’ demands are heard and working
conditions at Ruby Ridge improve and meet basic standards of dignity
and respect.

For many of us, what defined this action as “successful” was the
building of relationships with each other, with workers, and with UFW
representatives. From this base we aspire to move forward together as
we continue to create, organize and overcome. While we consider the
action on January 27th to be a success, however, we also recognize
that it is only one step in the struggle towards worker’s liberation.
We completed the goal of delivering petitions to Darigold and through
this process we were strengthened and inspired by the feelings of
community, solidarity and accountability that had been our intentions.
Our commitment to these principles has given us insight into the next
stages of this struggle. We acknowledge that this petition is one
step in the battle to hold Darigold accountable for its abuses, and is
therefore one aspect in the struggle against the oppressive and
exploitative practices of the dairy industry. We also acknowledge
that these fights are embedded within the greater, global struggle to
reclaim sovereignty over our food and labor.

The abuse of farm workers in Darigold feeder farms is not an isolated
issue; it is one instance of the way our capitalist food system, which
puts power in the hands of wealthy corporations (profiteering off of
thousands of wage laborers), continues to perpetuate injustice. The
exploitation of farm workers runs parallel to the abuse of other
laborers throughout the food system. From the fields to the fine
dining room, the exploitation of these workers is tied to their
powerlessness within capitalist and racist institutions. In a similar
way, consumers of this food are bound to the system. We are forced to
make unjust choices as the oppressed roots of our food are veiled from
us by a false abundance at the store. Friday’s action was part of the
inspiration for a research project to explore these connections
between labor abuses, the way our food is produced, and the structure
of power in the food system. This project will continue as this
struggle builds, both informing and learning from it.

Additionally, as we push our organizing efforts forward we recognize
that the complexities of all struggles toward liberation require
multiple approaches. This applies to the workers’ struggle at Ruby
Ridge; thus, our organizing includes a variety of tactics from a
diverse group of workers, allies, consumers and union members. Most
importantly, we must always acknowledge that workers will continue to
organize themselves and lead the course of solidarity. As consumers,
we want to reach out to other consumers and continue to educate each
other and our communities about the crimes of Ruby Ridge and Darigold.
This could look like students addressing the milk purchased by their
schools or creating human billboards stationed outside of supermarkets
to inform shoppers about the suffering they contribute to when they
drink milk. We encourage affinity groups and individuals to think of
their own methods of supporting the effort to change the ways of Ruby
Ridge Dairy and Darigold. The UFW is not officially calling for any of
these actions; these are suggested ideas coming from people
independent of any official affiliation to the UFW.

A vital next step is to continue traveling to Pasco and Eastern
Washington to meet directly with workers and strengthen our solidarity
through further relationship building. We also support workers from
other dairies, orchards and farms that experience abuses similar to
those of Ruby Ridge Dairy, because we know oppression is not isolated.

As mentioned, this action was part of a greater web tied in with
international worker solidarity, class struggle, Northwest based
alliances, and immigrant/economic refugee justicia y libertad. From
the onset we knew this action was one aspect of a long-term vision,
which could help us unite in building for May Day 2012.

A key component of our movement/solidarity bridging was recognizing
the historical significance of May Day 2006, an international worker’s
day led by the people for the people. This event awoke like a sleeping
giant prior to the Decolonize/Occupy Movement. There are many lessons
we can learn about the general strike that led millions of economic
refugees to take to the streets, walk out of los campos, schools, and
divest from the capitalist empire. International Workers Day reminds
us that through unity, and through bridging struggles that transcend
traditionalist labor movement building, we as a people can create the
communities we want to live in. From Food Sovereignty and Workers
Rights, from the fields to the cities, we can dismantle the
capitalistic empire and its nation-states, and plant, cultivate and
nurture a new system. From planting community gardens in our
neighborhoods, to painting murals on urban canvasses we will move our
struggles forward. By building community with economic
refugees/migrants, farm workers, people of color, queer/trans folk and
wombyn, we will dismantle all systems! A movement led by the people
for people. May Day 2012 we unite with the world!

Will you be there?
For more information contact UFWsolidarity@gmail.com