Farmworkers Reach Agreement and Strike Ends

The strike by farmworkers in Baja California has ended following negotiations that led to an agreement giving them health coverage, punctual and full payment of salaries when owed and improved living conditions.

But the main reason for the strike has not yet been fully addressed: further negotiating sessions will attempt to nail down a salary increase for workers, who have demanded 200 pesos per day, or a little more than US $13.

Apparently fearing that the organizations lobbying on behalf of the laborers will carry through on their threats of an international boycott of produce from the region, government negotiators have indicated there could be funds allocated to bridge the gap between what workers want and how much their employers will pay.

Government may help meet 200-peso salary demand (Photo: Milenio)
Government may help meet 200-peso salary demand (Photo: Milenio)

However, all will have access to social security benefits under the accord, which stipulates as well that farms must provide for workers’ needs in terms of food and housing, along with safe and healthy conditions.

The threatened boycott could stand a good chance of winning support north of the border given the attention that farm labor issues in Mexico has been getting.

One of the 13 points in the agreement reached Thursday, requiring farms to certify that they do not use child labor, is the subject of the Stop Blood Tomatoes Act, a bill introduced by a California congressman yesterday.

San Diego Representative Juan Vargas, himself the son of Mexican migrant farmworkers, calls for more oversight of Mexican farms to ensure they do not employ children or engage in forced labor. He was motivated to draw up the bill by a Los Angeles Times series on abuses suffered by workers on large Mexican farms that grow for the export market.

The work stoppage in the San Quintín area of Baja California began March 17 when workers shut down the transpeninsular highway. Last weekend saw an escalation in violence when there was a confrontation between workers and police in Nuevo San Juan Copala.

Farm laborer celebrates Thursday's agreement. (Photo: CUARTO PODER)
Farm laborer celebrates Thursday’s agreement. (Photo: CUARTO PODER)

Three people jailed in connection with those incidents on Saturday, in which two police vehicles and two private vehicles were destroyed, were released on bail totaling 7 million pesos yesterday.

The National Human Rights Commission, which will monitor progress on meeting the terms of the agreement, was critical of the bail amount, describing it as “blatantly disproportionate.”

The money will be paid out of funds of the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples.

Another 17 people who were allegedly involved in a disturbance on the first day of the strike remain in jail.

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