LatinaLista — There's no industry in this country probably more dependent on immigrant labor than the agricultural industry. Latinos, both legal and undocumented, make up the bulk of workers who pick this nation's fruits and vegetables.
It's the one industry where not much in technological advances has been made regarding the picking of the products -- the work is still done by people who must bend, squat, stretch in the harshest of elements, all at lightning speed to fill their bags, baskets and buckets if they want to earn a decent wage that day.
Unfortunately, the treatment of these workers hasn't advanced either since these farms and vineyards were first founded back at the turn of the 20th Century. It's something we're reminded of when we hear federal cases like the one of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's suit against Giumarra Vineyards for allegedly violating federal law by sexually harassing a teenage female farm worker and retaliating against farm workers who came to her aid.
Giumarra, which has products under their Nature's Partner label, has a long history of harassing, intimidating and retaliating against their employees. If these workers weren't so desperate to work, they would quit Giumarra but they don't. And because they don't, they set themselves up for treatment that shouldn't be tolerated in a civilized society.
According to the
EEOC suit, the young woman "was subjected to sexual advances, sexually inappropriate touching and abusive and offensive sexual comments about the male sex organ by a male co-worker."
The EEOC further alleged that after witnessing the sexual harassment, farm workers came to the aid of the teenage victim and complained to Giumarra Vineyards. However, instead of Giumarra management taking the appropriate action against the harassers, the victim and people who helped her were fired. The EEOC suit states they "were summarily discharged in retaliation for their opposition to the sexual harassment."
The retaliatory actions taken by Giumarra lack reason or justification and underscore the complicity of this company in such treatment of their workers.
The United Farm Workers have started an online petition telling Giumarra that their actions are not acceptable.
A delegation of women leaders will hand the petition to Giumarra/Nature's Partner and attempt to meet with this company in mid-February. The petition is intended to give Giumarra a strong message that no one will tolerate this behavior -- anymore.