SACRAMENTO, CA: The United Farm Workers of America's media savvy has sown the seeds of success.
Farm workers recently marched on California's capital to pressure Gov. Gray Davis (D) to sign a controversial bill allowing the UFW to have a neutral arbitrator impose binding settlements when contract talks between growers and workers stall. The 10-day, 165-mile march elicited plenty of ink for the UFW.
State newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and LA Times, have covered the march and bill debate, as have national outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, and AP.
"This is democracy at its finest," said UFW communications director Marc Grossman. "We've had excellent media coverage. (The march) drew the contrast of how the growers influence politics (through donations and lobbying), and the sacrifice farm workers make.
"Farm workers don't have money to contribute," added Grossman. "Growers are generous with contributions. The way workers can have their voices heard is through mass action."
Growers oppose the bill, saying the current labor act assures farm workers of a contract.
But the farm workers' very public support of the bill has thrust growers, who had been keeping their opposition fairly quiet, into the spotlight.
Davis has yet to sign the bill, and has maintained a neutral stance.
Commenting on the attention, Celine Garcia, media relations specialist for the Western Growers Association, said, "We love it. I'm glad the media is calling to get our side of the story."
Grossman said that while past marches have taken place to raise public awareness, this latest march was just to get the attention of one person - Davis. And the media coverage has helped turn up the heat on the governor.
"It's anyone's right to protest and the governor respects that right," said spokesman Russ Lopez. "But it's really not going to sway him. He will determine whether or not he supports the bill based on the its merits."