California table grapes; all growers except David Freedman Co.
For three decades California grape growers have been accused by the United Farm Workers of poor wages and occupational safety abuses, and the grape boycott has been the union’s chief weapon in securing better working conditions. The current grape boycott — UFW’s third against the growers — was launched by Cesar Chavez in 1984 to fight the exposure of workers and their children to highly toxic pesticides. Ultimately UFW hopes to ban several of the deadliest chemicals, including captan, methyl bromide, and parathion. Check for UFW stickers on grapes or their crates — only the David Freedman Co. vineyard in the Coachella Valley has signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Tipplers rejoice: The boycott does not include California wines.
Strawberry Fields Forever
California strawberries, all growers
The UFW is now in the midst of the nation’s largest grassroots organizing effort: a campaign to unionize all 20,000 strawberry workers in California. But don’t blacklist the berries yet: The union hopes public pressure will sway the growers, making a boycott unnecessary. The AFL-CIO is pushing state and city labor councils as well as religious, environmental, and civil rights groups to encourage supermarkets to sign a pledge supporting the workers’ demands: a living wage, job security, health insurance, toilets in the fields, and an end to sexual harrassment. More than 3,000 stores have signed on, including supermarket giants A&P, Ralph’s, and Lucky. And although the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers have clashed with farm workers in the past, both unions are collaborating with UFW on the strawberry push.