LOS ANGELES: The United Farm Workers (UFW), the union once lead by legendary activist Cesar Chavez, has begun a ?virtual boycott? of E&J Gallo Winery in an attempt to draw attention to inequities faced by seasonal vineyard workers.
The boycott kicked off two weeks ago with an event on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco, but UFW principal communications director Marc Grossman said that the main thrust of the campaign will focus on creating a viral Internet effort, a new tactic for the union. The UFW sent a call to boycott all Gallo labels to its own listserv, and is hoping that like-minded groups will spread the boycott across the Internet.
?We?re going to be talking to every conceivable ally and sympathetic organization,? said Grossman. ?The UFW can tap a wide range of support.?
Grossman added that the union is using broad messages rather than focusing on the minutia of the labor dispute.
?[We?re] saying there are some corporations that don?t take responsibility for injuring people and you can do something constructive by convincing this corporation to do the right thing,? he explained.
The boycott is the first for the union since the 1980?s, and marks another step in a decades-long battle with Gallo. At issue are benefits and wages for workers hired by middlemen, rather than directly by the winery.
Grossman added that to keep the issue in the news, the union would continue to stage rallies with workers at Gallo-sponsored events.
?There will be a lot of opportunities for confrontation,? he said.
He added that the union?s goals were modest, and that mass support of the boycott was not necessary for it to be successful.
?A boycott that affects sales by 5% can be devastating,? he said.
Gallo is taking measures to communicate its position as well, according to John Segale of Northern California-based Precision Public Relations, which handles issues management for the company.
?We take any threat against the products very seriously,? he said.
He added that the winery is handling the situation by being open with the media.
?We?re going to continue to communicate the facts of the situation,? he said. ? We want to be proactive in helping [media] understand what is a very complex issue. It?s not an easy one to understand who is right and who is wrong.?