Why Campesinos Sometimes Win: Leadership, Organization, Strategy and Indigeneity in the Western Washington Farm Worker Movement
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There is a revolution against oppression occurring on this side of the Cascade Mountains. An epic struggle for farmworker justice in Seattle’s backyard. Indigenous Mexican farmworkers from Western Washington’s Whatcom and Skagit Valley have had enough maltreatment from the Sakuma Brothers and have taken it upon themselves to change the current structure. They have requested for wages that are above the current underpaid position of 30 cents per pound, better living conditions and basic human rights. Farm work is incomprehensible difficult to understand for many people. Personally I have seen the struggle and have lived in the situation of many people who make a living off of this decent livelihood. My parents have made it possible for me to be where I am today because of their hard work as campesinos (farmworkers) and being one takes a strong soul. Agriculture work is “one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, with a mortality rate more than eight times the average of all other industries”1. This job is truly hazardous and unwanted by many people in America but someone has to do it and trust me the risks are high. In fact, one of my friends recently chopped off her finger while working on a machine that dispensed bags of a vegetable product. Coming from a family that has always been supported by the hard work and sweat of farm work, I understand the struggle on living off of the minimum wage and taking on the hardest of jobs. My dad has supported himself and my family, along with my mother, on this type of labor, in fact he has lost teeth because of his job and suffers from terrible hearing because there is a misconception that farm work involves only field work which in fact is a wide ranging occupations. They are just different stages that lead to the final product of food everyone consumes at breakfast, lunch or dinner. In this article I plan on examining why is it that this campesino, farm worker, which may be my dad, my mom, my neighbor, myself or anyone in my community, sometimes is victorious. I will briefly examine the farm worker in the Pacific Northwest as not only being the standard “face of field work” but in fact the large presence of indigenous Mexicans in the region. Furthermore, I will provide a framework using Marshall Ganz’ concept of strategic capacity that occurred during the California Farm Worker Movement. Then I will proceed with examining the farm worker labor movement occurring in Western Washington’s Whatcom and Skagit Counties to prove the impacting role of indigeneity in each section of strategic capacity that has enabled the campesino to win.