How to make a big scandal out of a non issue

The UFW makes a lot of noise over non-issues, because it can.

Apart from making a lot of noise, the dying UFW can’t (or won’t) do much to help farmworkers. Its membership has crashed from more than 50,000 to less than 5,000.  The UFW can’t (or won’t) fight for better pay. The ALRB’s own chairman admits that UFW organizing in California “has completely disappeared.” He even acknowledges that most California farmworkers don’t want unions.

So it’s understandable that, to detract from its failures – and make it look relevant – the UFW will make a big deal out of non-issues.

Here’s the latest: The farming company, whose non-union workers make the highest wages in the industry, doesn’t care about those workers’ well-being and denies them medical care when some of them are accidentally sprayed with pesticide (that drifted over from another farm). The county agricultural authorities don’t care either, and wouldn’t act until UFW pressure saved the day. It’s the highlighted “hot issue” now on the UFW website.

Here are the facts, as we have reconstructed them from workers, employers, and county officials:

  • On February 22, 2016, an almond farm used organic pesticide spray, which drifted over to a Gerawan peach grove.
  • Gerawan’s crew chief took immediate action and moved the peach workers to safety.
  • Gerawan then called in medical providers to check the workers for any injuries or poisoning.
  • Gerawan’s medical provider examined every worker in the area, whether or not he or she reported any symptoms.
    • Only one worker reported any symptoms, and he was in the first group of workers sent in for a medical exam.
    • The medical provider confirmed that none of the workers was injured.
  • Gerawan called in the Fresno County agricultural inspectors.
  • The Fresno County ag inspectors arrived on the scene within 54 minutes.
  • The county inspectors oversaw Gerawan’s response to the incident. They determined that the organic pesticide spray was caused by a different farm, outside of Gerawan’s control, and without notice to Gerawan or its supervisors.
  • The UFW posted messages as if to pressure reluctant county authorities to intervene beforehand, and then to discredit those authorities afterward.
  • The Fresno County Agriculture Commissioner issued a statement on the UFW’s efforts to mislead the public.
    • “The United Farm Workers union (UFW) and Moveon.org have launched a protest of signed petitions targeting the Fresno County Ag Department,” the Commissioner wrote in his March bulletin, Harvest News.
    • The Commissioner said that the protest was “simply a tactic used by the [UFW] to create a crisis in hopes of increasing their donation stream.”
    • The Commissioner commented on a UFW/Moveon.org article that distorted the situation: “Their article has now made its way to the press via their activist network. It is misleading when they intentionally imply that the Ag Department needed pressure from them to begin an investigation – when in fact our staff was on site within 54 minutes of notification by the grower. As a public servant, I realize that we have to have big shoulders and let the myths portrayed on their ‘take action page’ slide off; and that these types of attacks on the Department’s credibility are not personal – but are simply a tactic used by these organizations to create a crisis in hopes of increasing their donation stream.”

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