I have worked for Guimarra for about three years in the crew of Jose Basilio (foreman).
On June 14, 2006 we started working at 6:00 am working the company started to spry their fields with pesticides. There was eighteen workers in are crew all together. We must have been about fifty feet away but it was windy that day.
Three of my co workers including me began to very sick, I was dizzy, nauseated, and my body was weak. I imagine that it was because of the pesticides the wind was blowing the fumes our way. I then informed Seene (supervisor) for Guimarra, that I was not feeling good, he just told me to go and sit down under the vineyards in the shade they started to tell the workers to get out of the vineyards and to go home to come back tomorrow .
After a co workers was send to a Hospital by ambulances Seene (Supervisor) and Joe Guimarra came over to ask me if I was feeling better. I said yes only because they wanted to send me to company doctor, and he takes a long time to see his patients, just wanted to get seen fast and find out what was wrong with me.
When my co worker took me home I explained to my husband what had happened I asked him to take me to the Hospital so that I could get seen faster. While we were waiting the company had send Mario from their staff to take me to the company doctor he said that it was his duty to take me to go see the company doctor. I didn't want to go because he would take a long time to see me Mario then told me that the company doctor was waiting for me that he was going to see me faster. I decided to go.
When I got there the doctor took good samples and at the end of my check up he said that it seemed that I had a vaginal infection and that I could go see my personal doctor for treatment. He didn't give me medicine. He said that whenever the test result came back from the lab he would then give me medicine. I could go home and come back in four days. The next day I was feeling the same I then told my husband to take me to the Hospital I just couldn’t stand being so sick.
The symptoms haven’t gone away I still feel sick and I just can’t believe that the company is trying to make it seem that I had a personal problem. I m glad that the union is representing me and guiding me to make sure that I get the proper treatment for my recovery.
I have worked for Guimarra Vineyards for approximately 6 years.
On June 14, 2006 we started to work at about 6:00 a.m out in the area of Ducor Rd, 208 at Guimarra vineyards. Santos Ramon Monsor (2nd in charge) told our crew of (18) workers that the company (Guimarra) was spraying the fields, for us not to pass a white post. The distance was about fifty feet from our work place and was windy that day.
Around 1pm one of the workers named Maria De La Luz; started to feel sick Santos Ramon (2 nd) went to see if she was ok. When around 2:00 My mother Celia Roque started to cough when I heard her and I asked if she was feeling bad she didn`t respond .I immediately went to see if she was ok, but she was feeling weak and wanted to pass out, Three workers and I took my mother out of the vineyards to get help. At that moment I asked Seene (Supervisor) to call an ambulance and he did .When the ambulance arrived they took my mother, Celia Roque to Porterville Hospital emergency. I accompanied her. My mother, was not seen right away I remember my mother saying that she was having problems breathing and was dizzy and had a headache. The nurse finally gave my mother an injection and a respirator mask to help her with her breathing. She was send home around 6:00 pm that same day, but later that day abound 8:00 pm she started to feel the same symptoms We took her to Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield where she was not treated an till 1:30 am in the morning after drawing her blood and took some x-rays of her chest they sent her back home at 6:30 am.
At 11:00 am Mario a supervisor for Guimarra went to our home to take my mother to the company’s doctor. After the company doctor examined my mother he said that it seemed to be a vaginal infection. He didn’t give her any medicine so I asked if he could give her something for the pain and he gave her Motrin .He said that after he received the lab work he would know if she had a vaginal infection and he sent her home. The company doctor gave my mother another appointment so that he can tell her what the lab test result were. When my mother went to her next appointment he told her that she was ok, that the lab tests were good that she could go home and back to work that if she was feeling sick that she could go see another doctor but that she would be responsible for the bills.
My mother has not been feeling good ever since the incident he does not eat right. She still feels very weak can’t walk much. I hope that by being represented by the U.F.W she will get fare treatment since the company is trying to make it seem that it was a personal matter that is causing her to feel this way.
I began to work with the Company Charles Krug Mondavi on September 5, 1973. I now have 33 years serving this Company as a Equipment Operator and doing general labor.
When I began working at this Company, the treatment I received was harsh, discriminatory, and I received a lot of pressure from the Supervisors. The Supervisors demanded a lot of work and in return they gave us bad treatment.
These injustices made us workers want to organize ourselves and want representation from Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers in 1975.
After the election in 1975, the Company fought hard against us, negating itself to negotiate a contract with the United Farm Workers. For these reasons, we did not win our first contract until 1981, six years after winning the election. During this time, the Company discharged many workers as a form of retaliation to the results of our election in 1975.
In 1991, the third contract that we had signed with Charles Krug Mondavi expired and the Company refused to re-negotiate the next contract. We fought for 8 years without a contract. During this period, the Company focused on discharging many of the workers with higher seniority. I noticed that the Supervisors of the Company enjoyed the fact that these types of workers were being discharged and that they used this as a way to intimidate us older workers. This is similar to what is occurring right now in the Company.
The Company via its Supervisors is demanding large amounts of work from us workers, where on occasions this pressure prevents ourselves from going to drink water, going to the restroom and this because in order to comply with the standards of production that the Company is asking of us. I think that the Company is doing this with the intention that we will quit our jobs. This way the Company can replace us with a younger work force. This is where I feel insulted and discriminated by the Company against us workers who have given a great number of years of service and best years of our life to this Company. It is very clear that the Company wants workers that will last longer than us.
I am a member of the Negotiating Committee and I have participated in the only three meetings to which the Company has called us to meet to re-negotiate the contract that expired on December 31, 2005. What I have seen in these meetings is that the Company is solely looking after their personal interests and is not seeing the necessities nor the interests of the workers. One of the issues that the Company is proposing in the Negotiations is that the workers receive periodic physical capacity exams every three months.
I feel frustrated and angry at the Company, for their wanting to take severe decisions including termination if we do not pass such physical capacity exams. This after having turned over 33 years of my life and service to the Company and now the Company wants to compensate me by kicking me out into the street.
On November 7, 2005 we had our last negotiation meeting and the Company has not contacted us to resume negotiations nor have they responded to our last proposal that was submitted to them on this day. It is very clear that the Company wants to do the same that was done to us in 1991 but now even more shameless because the Company wants to throw me and my co-workers out onto the street. In every one of these meetings, I have seen the bad faith to which the management at Charles Krug Mondavi has acted with.
I as a worker will continue to fight so that the Company does not discriminate against us because of our age and I will continue to aid my co-workers so that together we can protect the interests of ourselves and that of our families.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and under the laws of the state of California that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 30, 2006 in the City of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA.
In 1977 I began working as general labor worker before having been given the opportunity to be classified as an Equipment Operator in 2003. Currently I have been working for 29 years with the Company Charles Krug Mondavi.
During my time working with the Company, I have seen that the Company has always wanted to fight against the organization of the workers. The largest period of time in which the Company attempted to get rid of our Union was during the 1990’s when we went 8 years without a contract.
It wasn’t until Marc Mondavi, one of the proprietors and sons of the owner Peter Mondavi, Sr. during a vigil in front of the winery organized by myself and my co-workers to pressure the Company to sign a just contract, shoved one of my co-workers towards the highway, tore up some of our flags and banners that forced the Company to feel obligated to have to sign a contract with our United Farm Workers in order to wipe its hands clean of these actions of bad faith against us workers.
Presently, the Company continues with this same mentality of attempting to hurt the workers. I feel the Company has always been searching for ways on how to take out our Union, which took us 6 years from the date of our election in 1975, for us reach our first contract with the Company in 1981.
Now, I think the Company is attempting to get rid of us because of our age. I think the Company has seen the leadership that us older workers carry. Those of us who have given the most and best number of years of service to the Company have been able to guide and instruct our co-workers on how to protect and advocate their labor rights. In other words, the Company has seen that they have not been able to break our unity, now they want to breaks us using our age.
Besides the fact that I think that the Company thinks that because of my age that I can no longer work and produce as a younger worker, the Company simply wants to do away with our Union that has represented us and fought for our benefits. The Company wants to implement a younger work force, that will carry lower wages, no benefits, and will hold a lesser amount of knowledge of their labor rights to which they will in effect be making themselves vulnerable to the requests and demands of the Company.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and under the laws of the State of California that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 30, 2006 in the City of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA.
I have worked for four (4) years at Charles Krug Mondavi. In the month of July of 2005, I reported to Mr. Jose Martinez, Supervisor of Charles Krug Mondavi, that I was pregnant. I reported this to him with the intention so that I would not be put to work with shovel work because it is a heavy duty job for us women to do and at the same time I wanted to take care of my state of pregnancy and therefore asked to be given light duty work to carry out. However, Supervisor Jose Martinez did not issue me a response and so I continued to work as normal.
Later, Supervisor Jose Martinez began to ask me every week, two to three days a week, for notes from my doctor regarding my pregnancy.
Approximately, two weeks later, I went to my family’s doctor to request a note for work. The Doctor issued the note directly to the Office of Human Resources of the Company Charles Krug Mondavi. This same day, August 26, 2005, Supervisor Jose Martinez, notified me that I not report to work the following day despite the note still authorizing me to conduct light duty work but the Company did not respect this note. Supervisor Jose Martinez told me “not to worry, your job is secure, after you give birth, just bring me a note from your doctor and you will have job upon return.”
After my son was born on March 8, 2006, my doctor authorized my return to work on April 24, 2006. I turned this note into my Foreman Floriano Tavares as I had been instructed to do so via telephone by Supervisor Jose Martinez. That same evening I called Supervisor Jose Martinez to reconfirm that I had already turned in my doctor’s note to my Foreman Floriano Tavares. Supervisor Jose Martinez asked that I call him next day. The next day, I did call Supervisor Jose Martinez, and I was told by him that he had not yet received instructions from the Company authorizing my return to work and he said he would call me later.
I waited for a couple of days for the phone call from Supervisor Jose Martinez but he never called me. I then contacted the United Farm Workers, who are our Union Representatives, and spoke with Mr. Roberto Garcia. I reported to Mr. Roberto Garcia that I was ready to return to work and that I had already turned in my doctor’s note that authorized my return to work. Mr. Roberto Garcia responded that he had just received the seniority list of the farm workers from Charles Krug Mondavi, but that my name no longer appeared on the list. I am aware that when one’s name does not appear on the seniority list, that that means that one is practically discharged. Mr. Roberto Garcia said he would investigate this issue more deeply. Three days later, Mr. Roberto Garcia came to visit me personally and demonstrated to me a memo from the Company that said that I had already gone 32 weeks past my approved maternity leave of absence and that for that reason, I had lost my job.
Upon hearing this, I felt very bad and I felt discriminated because after having complied with the procedure of turning in doctor’s notes I could not believe the injustice that the Company was committing against me.
In fact I was ready before the 32 weeks to which Company claims that I have passed. I felt offended and frustrated and more because I want to continue working. I have kids and I need to provide for food, dress, and all of the necessities of the family.
I think the Company is attempting to get rid of everyone of us workers and not because I am a women means that I am going to let the Company discriminate me in this manner.
At this time, our Union is trying to re-negotiate a contract with the Company and I am aware that the Company is fighting back and rejecting the proposals that we are presenting. I feel that the Company is searching for opportunities to get rid of us workers.
I am also aware that each year Charles Krug Mondavi gets richer with the work that we produce and I feel that us, the workers, are not of importance to them and they solely want to exploit us for our labor.
Our newborns that come to this world should not be at fault that our management from Charles Krug Mondavi want to create a disorder affecting our sons and daughters, families, and ourselves as workers.
I will continue standing up for my rights so that they will be respected together with those of my co-workers because I am not the only one who has gone through this situation, because there are others who have been discharged for the same reasons.
I declare under the penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 26, 2006 in the city of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA
In 2001, I began working as a general labor worker, where I now have worked for 5 years at the Company Charles Krug Mondavi. In the month of June 2005, I was given my maternity leave of absence to give birth to my son who unfortunately was born prematurely on December 19, 2005 and because of the delicacy of the situation required that I take care.
I turned in a doctor’s note to my foremen Floriano Tavares and he turned it in to Supervisor Jose Martinez. Jose Martinez then told my husband Juan Fregoso, also a general labor worker at Charles Krug Mondavi, that I should take my maternity leave because I had already received the permission to do so.
My son was then born on December 19, 2005.
In the third week of the month of April 2006, Mr. Roberto Garcia, Representative from the United Farm Workers came to visit me personally and asked me whether I had quit my job with the Company because my name no longer appeared on the seniority list.
I replied to Mr. Roberto Garcia that I had not, and that I was simply on maternity leave. Supervisor Jose Martinez had told me to take the necessary time to tend to my pregnancy because the Company had received my doctor’s note.
Mr. Roberto Garcia responded that he was solely notifying me of what the Company was doing in removing me from the seniority list which basically meant that I had been terminated.
I felt very bad and disgusted because it could not be possible that the management at Charles Krug Mondavi could not understand a women’s necessity to take and be on maternity leave. For that reason, I felt not only insulted but discriminated by the actions that the Company was taking against the rights that I have.
In addition, I think that the Company has been acting in a bad manner against us workers in general because year after year, I have seen less co-workers working around me and I have not known the reasons for which the Company has been interested in getting rid of us via any opportunity that they see.
The Company has been discharging the workers and I feel that now I am going through this situation and I feel insulted because I have complied with the required procedure as deemed appropriate by law. I feel that they are basic human rights.
In the month of February of 2006, the doctor gave me a note regarding my ability to return to work. My husband turned in this note to my Foremen Floriano Tavares who then turned it into my Supervisor Jose Martinez.
Up to this date, I have not been recalled to report to work. With these types of actions on the part of the Company it is evident that we have never been respected, every day they focus instead on how they can make themselves richer and to them the workers are not important to them, they solely want to exploit us like slaves.
I declare under the penalty of perjury and under the laws of the State of California, that the aforementioned is correct and true. Executed on May 26, 2006 in the City of Napa, CA in the County of Napa, CA.
The reason why I became a UFW member was because I wanted to make changes in my place of work, and thanks to that I have accomplished to get the respect and dignity from the owners and the foremen in the company. I encourage others to join us in the fight to keep this program growing to better our futures.
I have worked for Kovacevich "5" farms for about 21 years now; I work in the fields doing general work in grapes. Since I started working for this company there has been numerous incidents happening in the work area. The growers are aware of all these incidents and they have not yet done anything to prevent this from happening. The foremen have the power to control the people. In some crews the foremen have intimidated the workers and have told them if they do or say anything to anyone they will get terminated and in some cases even threatened to hurt them.
I been a UFW supporter for a very long time and always wanted the Union to help us in the company, but never thought that this will happen because of all the intimidation that the workers had due to the corrupt "Mayordomos."
A couple of years ago we started to organize in the company and it seemed to have a good response from the workers but the company and the foremen still intimidated the workers from participating with the Union. We started using the direct representation program and it looks like it's working fine, the carrilla has stopped and the company has given us equipment to work with, something that had not happened in the past. Also this company did not hire women for some reason but since we started this new program we have women working in the fields - a great accomplishment for us. The company now gave us medical insurance; they have also posted the ALRB's laws -- something that was never done in the past. Later a class action was put together because of all the injustices that the company was doing. Thanks to the new direct representation we have been able to make changes in the workplace and have been able to get the respect and dignity that we deserve.
I started working in 1996... The foreman never provided us clean water. The water jugs were never cleaned and were always dirty. The water had a mossy smell and bitter taste. The foreman had seven dogs that he would carry in the vans in the afternoons. The dogs were dirty and would leave lots of hairs in vans and at times even in the water, furthermore the vans smelled like urine. The vans were in terrible condition, the drivers under the foreman didn't have driver's licenses, so they would drive in dirt roads, up to 20 miles to work. This made it very dusty, with no air-conditioning on extremely hot days we would leave the windows open.
By the time we got to the workplace we were covered with dust from our faces to our feet. The dirt roads had many holes and it made it a very bumpy ride too. We would sit on wooden benches and by the time we got to the workplace we were aching already. On or about 1997 a van overturned with 22 cramped workers inside. Wooden benches and workers collided together and workers got badly beat up. In 1998 a worker got his leg smashed by a van accident. The corrupt foreman was asking workers to donate money to cover for medical costs for the injured worker. We were obligated to ride with them or there was no work for us.
At work the foreman didn't provide us safety gear, such as gloves and safety glasses. We also had bad and unsafe equipment, like shovels that were held up with tape. One of the most hostile and harassing situations that made it a miserable working environment under this foreman is that he would say false allegations and comments about us workers.... He even discriminated and did sexual harassment comments to a worker and at one point even wanted to fight him....
The foremen had muertitos (made up workers so he could collect extra checks). At some points he would cash up to 80 checks himself and when he paid the workers he would deduct $36.00 dollars per week for the ride fee. He also wouldn't pay overtime nor any wages after 10 hrs. of work, but he would make us work anyway.
I decided to become a member of the UFW, because the UFW had helped me in the past. I wanted to work in solidarity and together with other workers so we could resolve our problems. I was looking for orientation regarding my problems with the foreman and for more information and how I could I get paid money owed to me. I had got fired for union activity, and my brother got fired for concerted activity and the foreman had not paid us.
Through a UFW membership committee meeting that we had, I and other co-workers found the support of other UFW members and decided to take action. We were able to get the farm labor contractor to fire the foreman and got paid the money owed to us. We were also able to get the FLC to get us back our jobs. At the beginning the foreman would laugh at us and would say that "the union can't do anything to me, because I am the law around here. We really showed the foreman that united, "Si se Puede".
We learned we can do things and gain victories through the power of the people. We were empowered and gained self and team confidence. The struggle does not end here, since we were pushed out of our jobs again by the farm labor contractor. Our mission is to continue recruiting members to gain more power to solve issues and gain victories for us and other farm workers.
I have worked for Grimway Farms through a farm Labor Contractor for 3 years.
I had an accident on Dec. 15, 2004 while cleaning a machine that cuts the product. I was pulling plastic and illumine out of the machine with one hand, and holding a water hose with the other. I dropped the hose, which lowered the safety lever. The machine came on and chopped off my finger. It took ¨ö hr. before I got medical attention. The supervisor was not around, only a secretary - and she didn't have a first aid kit. She was not trained on how to give first aid for an injury.
I thank God that I am a member of the United Farm Workers. They have guided me though my situation in my time of need. I strongly believe that we can make a difference. I will always be proud to be a member of an organization that is fighting for my legalization as well as respect and legalization for all undocumented people.
I want to join the UFW because I want a better future for my kids. My eldest child dreams of going to college at UCLA. This is her last year of high school and I want to make sure that she has that opportunity. I don't want her or any of my children to suffer through all I've gone through. Only through being united and working as one will we be able to stand up and demand the respect that we deserve from our bosses.
I am 34 and have worked in the Giumarra Vineyard Company sporadically since 1989.
My typical day starts at around 4 a.m. when I have to prepare my family's breakfast and lunch. I have five children and I need to get everything ready for them to go to school. My oldest is seventeen and my youngest is only two. After I get everything ready for them to go to school I head off to work where I must be at by 6:30 a.m.
I have worked for the foreman Eliseo Salazar for the last two years. His treatment towards me is usually different than it is towards other workers. Mainly because I speak English and knows that I won't put up with bad treatment. However, there is a lot of harassment towards other workers and they usually make them stop working for petty reasons. Sometimes it's for an hour or two, sometimes for the rest of the day. It has also happened to me and is something I can't afford when I have five mouths to feed waiting for me back home. On top of that, I hear how they talk behind workers backs. They usually speak in English because they think no one understands them. Little do they know that I have lived here for most of my life and comprehend everything they say. Although they have never called me these words in front of my face I have been yelled at and ridiculed for the way I pack fruit or even the way I kneel.
I have been working at Muranaka (UFW contract Company) for 6 years. When work is slow or I take vacation, I would normally go to work for a contractor.
When a worker injures themselves at the place of employment with a contractor, the contractor never covers or is responsible to help with medical expenses and does not pay the injured workers for days off. Therefore a lot of the workers will always hide their injuries.
The majority of the contractors pay in cash and workers are never clear how much they are getting paid for and that way you can not prove that they never paid you the full amount you earned.
I have had experiences with the following contractors: Morales Produce, San Cristobal Produce, Espinoza Produce, and Maurilio Produce. With all of these contractors I have seen that a lot of the times they do not carry bathrooms or drinking water. The women in particularly are the one that have to look around for a place they can go to the bathroom. They have to find a neighboring company that has bathrooms available for their workers.
I remember a man that we referred to as La Becerra. He asked a foreman why they didn't carry bathrooms and said the women needed them. The foreman told him to not make noise for the bathrooms because he would get himself into problems. The worker then told the foreman that he was leaving. The foreman told him that he knew what he had to do and that he was not going to grant his wishes. By the foreman saying this he meant that he was still not going to bring the bathrooms. The worker who complained about the bathroom situation was then told that he no longer had a job and that he had to leave immediately.
In the 6 years that I have been working for the company Muranaka and the UFW has had a contract. We have never had to let situations like that happen. When we are not paid correctly we let the company know and they will always pay us the missing amount the following pay check. The bathrooms, the drinking water and our working tools the company always provides them for us.
I have worked for Sunview the past 33 years. I have chosen to stay with the same company for this long because I am aware of the mistreatment many other farm workers receive in other companies.
Even so, the treatment at Sunview is not always fair. A most recent example of this is the decrease in wage from $ 6.75 an hour to $ 6.50 an hour. We were never given an explanation of this, they just said that's the way it was going to be. Once the union started visiting us they increased the wage up to $6.75 again.
The company has always managed to extract a bit more from us. They have always managed to dig more out of us for free. During the harvest season we are expected to show up 15 minutes before work to prepare for the day. This time is never paid and although it might not seem like much when you multiply that time over 6 days a week in an 8 month period it equals to about 48 hours of free work. In other words the company steals about $336 a year from our salary.
On top of these scams we have to put up with constant pressure and expectations to produce more. But once again, when the UFW started visiting us the pressure stopped.
It is quite apparent to me that the only way we won't get taken advantage of, is through a contract. The UFW can provide that and security for all of us. I hope the day will come soon when we can be part of Cesar's dream.
I have worked for Sunview since 1998. However, the last harvest left me out of employment during the final weeks of harvest.
It all started with headaches during work. But as time passed on the headaches were accompanied with nausea and fatigue. I couldn't focus on anything and I wasn't the only one. A lot of my co-workers started feeling the symptoms.
We were taken to the company's doctor who immediately dismissed anything serious. "You are fine," he said. "Go to work tomorrow." Unfortunately, I wasn't able to and I knew it was something serious.
I went to a private doctor who diagnosed me with blood intoxication. He didn't know from what but it was assumed it had to do with the pesticides I was constantly breathing.
A total of 33 workers from my crew became sick and all of them had the same symptoms. 18 of them could not continue working. It became quite apparent that the company's doctor was not telling the full story.
I am very worried about the next harvest. I hope that I can work again. I have four small children and as a single mother I can't afford to stop working. I hope to get the UFW to represent us. We need a better health plan and not just one that covers us year round but one that actually cares about their patients.
This is my first year working at the Giumarra Vineyards. I left my home in the state of Puebla, in Mexico, to provide for my family including my two infant children. When I arrived to the United States, I thought I had it made. Little did I know how difficult this journey would become. During my first week or "trial period," as they call it, I worked for three days without pay to see if I was qualified to do the work. After that I became a regular farm worker.
The work of a farm worker is very difficult not only for the inclement weather one must deal with but also for the constant pressure put upon by our supervisors. Perfection is demanded on us everyday and if there happens to be rotten fruit slipping by us and into boxes being shipped we can be punished by "taking a seat" and not working until the foreman allows us to once again. I have fear every time I am out on the fields because my family might not eat if I am ordered to take a seat. I also fear for my health and well- being because if I get sick no one will provide for my family. I take some precautions throughout the day to make sure I don't end up as another camp casualty that I've heard about. I recently purchased an umbrella to keep the heat from getting to me and I try to drink water as often as I can even though it's usually gray. I try to think that some water is better than no water. At the same time though, I know I must pick up the pace of my work if I want to meet my quota and keep my job. Working so far from home was never my intention; I miss my family, my friends and the place where I grew up. However, my family's need is enough to overcome any grief and suffering I must put up with.
In March, April and May I worked for Jimenez, a contractor. The bathrooms were always very dirty and at some times they took a long time bring them to us. Sometimes full days would go by and they would never bring the bathrooms. We would work all day without bathrooms.
There were around 60 workers. There are 4 separate crews at 15 workers per crew and there were always 2 or 4 women working in each crew. We had to figure out a way to go to the bathroom without any bathrooms. We would look for nearby restaurants or find any other way to relief ourselves.
The water they would provide us with was the same water they used to irrigate the fields and the containers that they would use where never washed. We would work 12 to 13 hours a day and 6 days out of the week and our paycheck would come out to be $280 to $300 a week. One time I worked with my friends where I got them a job in 2003. We worked 75 hours during a week and our paycheck came out to be $170 to $180.
I have been at Muranaka about 7 months now. Ever since Muranaka has had the contract with the Union the bathrooms and the working conditions are very different. I was part of the group that went to negotiate the new contract and we went to talk with the owner regarding our wages and about the working conditions. This is very different from any other place I had ever worked for.
My name is Aguileo Rangel and I currently live at Giumarra's 37th labor camp.
I have worked for camps all over California since 1997. Currently, I work for the Giumarra Vineyard Company. My position in the crew is of a grape packer. It's a difficult and arduous task that is even more challenging because I have to work on my knees the entire day. Unfortunately, my company doesn't provide us with packing tables to make the work easier. My wife, Teresa Perez Rangel and my son David Perez work on the same crew I do.
I also have two younger daughters, Leydy who is 10 and my baby daughter Dalia, who is only three. All of us live in a room provided by the company which costs $210 a week with meals included
Living under such crowded conditions can become extremely uncomfortable but we try to make the best of it. The room where we sleep doesn't have any windows and it could get pretty hot at night even though we have a ventilator. The bathroom situation isn't any better. We must share the bathroom with another 70 inhabitants that live in the same housing complex where we live. It's not uncommon to see dirty toilets and to have to share the showers with several other men at the same time. Our lack of privacy is one of the most difficult things to overcome.
For the past eight years I have kept my mouth shut and have put up with all the nuisances and discomfort for the sake of my children's future. However, on the morning of August 8th, 2005 that future was jeopardized by Giumarra. Their ineptness, lack of care and stinginess almost cost the life of my only son David.
It was that day when he started complaining to me of a severe headache. I gave him some medicine but a short time later I saw him leaning against a truck still dazed. That's when I decided to let, "Chano" the supervisor, know what was going on. The supervisor assured me he just needed some rest. But that was not the case, I knew he needed an ambulance and convinced "Chano" to take him to the doctor. That was the last time I saw my son until later on that evening.
After many inquiries of his whereabouts David finally showed up at our doorstep at around 9 p.m. shaking and sweating. No one from the company came inside to give us an explanation of what had happened to him. For the rest of that night he spent it vomiting and sweating. I only knew that he would be picked up the next morning at around nine to be taken to the doctor's again. I left for work and at 12:30 p.m. went to Giumarra's office to see how he was doing. To much of my disappointment I wasn't given any clear answers of his whereabouts or how he was doing. It wasn't until that evening that I was informed of what hospital he was getting treatment at. I picked him up and took him back home where he rested for the rest of the night and into the next day. On Wednesday afternoon, after coming home from work, I noticed David's condition had worsened. He was dizzy, very weak and nauseous. That's when I decided to call the UFW.
Roman Pinal, a representative for the UFW, arrived that after noon and took him to the emergency room of the same hospital he had been in the previous night. This time though, he received much better treatment. They conducted several tests on him including spinal tap and they came to the conclusion that he was suffering from meningitis. Now my son is slowly recuperating and is feeling much better with the treatment he is getting.
I am very thankful that the Union helped us out in our time of need because I can't imagine my life without my children. I support the Union and their cause because they have showed legitimate care for the farm workers and their families.
BELOW IS A REPORT OF A POISONING INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED ON OCTOBER 20, 2005, AT THE CASTLE ROCK COLD STORAGE FACILITY IN RICHGROVE, CALIFORNIA. IT IS A FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT AS TOLD TO THE UFW BY THE VICTIMS, ALL OF WHOM WERE FARM WORKERS.
Antonio Ramirez, Foreman: "At approximately 7:05 a.m., I instructed the men to go in and start distributing grapes to the work stations. At approximately 7:15 a.m. I instructed the women to go in as well. When we went in, it smelled different, but we did not think much of it."
Ana Maria Hernandez: "My duties were to pack grapes. Immediately I started to feel pain in my nose and suffocation with a lot of coughing."
Alfonso Arteaga: "I was labeling grape boxes . . . almost immediately, we started to get unusual symptoms, which worsened . . . dry throat, bitter mouth, nausea, headache, sinus pain, suffocation, chest and back pain and vomiting."
Jose Ramirez Gomez: "I started to get dizzy and couldn't walk straight any more. . . I started to vomit and my throat and tongue were numb."
Manuel Hernandez Chavez: "My duties were to distribute grapes to the rest of the workers and to pick up empty boxes, plastic bags and trash . . . I felt very sick, like never before in my life. I was feeling chest pain, back pain, stomach ache and was vomiting so much."
At 7:40 a.m., foreman Ramirez reported to the cold storage manager "that there was something very bad happening, because all of us were very sick. He told me to get everyone out. He then went in and found that one of the cold storage doors was open.
"Sulfur dioxide was escaping out to the working area."
Ramirez pointed out to the manager, who worked for labor contractor J.L. Padilla & Sons, that the cylinders containing the leaking chemical were labeled with a skull and crossbones. The manager insisted that this didn't necessarily mean the sulfur dioxide was poisonous!
In fact, sulfur dioxide is the noxious pollutant that causes acid rain. It can cause not only acute but chronic health effects. Problems may not show up until years after exposure.
"I saw that neither the company nor the contractor were going to take anyone to the hospital," Ramirez reports.
"I decided to act and directed everyone to Sierra View Hospital to get medical attention and told them to bring me the bill. I would then give it to the contractor."
Because they went to the emergency room, the workers were punished by the company. They were demoted, then fired.
Foreman Antonio Ramirez: "The contractor got very angry and moved us to work in the fields. In a few days, they told me there was no work for us."
Manuel Hernandez Chavez: "The company pushed us out of a job. Instead of helping us they retaliated against us."
Ana Maria Hernandez: "It is hard to believe that instead of taking responsibility and providing us medical attention, the contractor and the company decided to keep this incident in the dark and heartlessly dismissed us to shut us up."
The Castle Rock workers have turned to the UFW for assistance. The incident has been reported to the California Agricultural Commissioner and is under investigation. We have helped the workers find an attorney.