North Bay Jobs with Justice holds protest for farmworker hazard pay

North Bay Jobs with Justice organizers, dressed in newsboy caps and striped overalls, asked the crowd to close their eyes and imagine the inequality and exploitation of the 1920s at the Plaza on Friday night.

The demonstration was in direct response to the Sonoma County Wine Auctions at Buena Vista Winery on Friday night — where tickets to the weekend’s event sold for $2,500 — to contrast the two realities of the wine industry.

“Their theme for their party is ‘Roaring 20s.’ They call it the best party ever… Some of the richest people in the county are there. But the 20s weren’t roaring for everyone,” said Davin Cárdenas, organizing director for NBJJ. “So we’re here to talk about what happened after in the 1930s, which was the workers’ strikes right here.”

The demonstration is part of NBJJ’s ongoing efforts to advocate for hazard pay for farmworkers during wildfires and unhealthy weather conditions. And after the protest, NBJJ volunteers went to various restaurants and tasting rooms around the Plaza to implore them to divest from vendors who exploit their workers, the NBJJ alleges.

“Workers here cannot enter these parties, but they create wealth,” Cárdenas said. “So we try to offer a space where workers can land and get informed, get involved, but also where we start to discover our shared stories and the stories that brought us here, today.”

Friday’s protest also served a second purpose: to take the public back “90 years to the 1930s,” connecting the efforts of workers in California and Sonoma County’s past with organizing today.

Organizers sought to draw parallels between the greatest challenges facing Californians today — climate change, housing unaffordability and income inequality — with those of the 1930s, risky and speculative stock market investing. to the Dust Bowl and migrating for opportunities.

“We have a climate crisis and an economic crisis, people who have to migrate and unaffordable housing,” Alper said. “But don’t worry, the 1930s was also a time of not only sadness, but…there was also an amazing organization, run by farmworkers in California.”

He added: “The past can teach us where we need to go.”

In 1933, 15,000 farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley staged a strike against the jefs, the owners of agricultural farms. Alper involved the crowd of around 50 in a call and response to recreate the moment.

Huelga! Huelga! Huelga!chanted the crowd, the Spanish word for strike.

Employers violently suppressed the farmworkers’ strike, coordinating with police and killing three workers in the process – but the strike persisted, Alpert said.

“The workers continued to fight. And with the support of the community, just three weeks later they won their strike and doubled their pay,” said Alpert.

Cárdenas said some winery owners have started working with North Bay Jobs with Justice to provide better working conditions, but “bad actors” still exist. He points to Clay Mauritson, president of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation, who is under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board for allegedly discriminating against foreign nationals who work in temporary agricultural positions in the United States.

Organizer Sierra Downey and five volunteers walked into Mary’s Pizza Shack, the Girl and the Fig, and El Dorado Kitchen to demand restaurants stop doing business with wineries that violate labor practices.

“Look around at all this richness,” Cárdenas said during his monologue, pointing to Sonoma Plaza’s array of tasting and dining rooms. “All this wealth was created by the backs and sweat of working people.”

Contact Chase Hunter at [email protected] and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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