Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno joined the United Farm Workers last week for a portion of the union’s march through California’s Central Valley to support a union voting rights bill.
The more than 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento is in support of Assembly Bill 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. The bill would allow farmworkers to use mail-in ballots for union elections.
The march passed through Fresno Aug. 11. Bishop Brennan, along with his predecessor, Bishop Armando Ochoa, joined the march at St. Anthony Mary Claret Church, and then spoke at a rally at Calwa Recreation & Park District, where Bishop Brennan also gave a blessing to the marchers.
“Our diocese is almost all agricultural land … and many people, many of the faithful here within our diocese, people sitting in the pews, have some ties to farm workers or to agriculture,” Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Diocese of Fresno, told CNA.
“Farmworkers here and their rights are very important because they’re the ones who make the harvest happen for us.”
The Fresno diocese has long had warm relations with farmworkers, Marquez added. After the 1948 crash of a DC-3 killed the 32 persons aboard, most of whom were migrant farm laborers, the diocese covered their burial costs, and in 2013 aided in erecting a memorial with their names.
Regarding AB 2183, Marquez explained that “right now, the way the farmworkers vote [on unionizing] is on grower land, which could cause some intimidation, from performance supervisors and so forth. So this bill would actually just let them vote in the comfort of their own home without fear of that retaliation.”
He added that the California Catholic Conference “decided that they were going to support, back this bill to further the vote union voting rights of the farmworkers here in California.”
When the UFW was founded by Cesar Chavez in the 1960s, their marches “almost always led with an Our Lady of Guadalupe flag,” Marquez said.
“And so because farmworkers are primarily Hispanic, and Catholicism is so prevalent within the Hispanic and Latino communities, the two, the Church and and the farmworkers, are kind of organically linked in that way.”
Each day, the march begins with Mass or a blessing from a cleric….
She said 30 farmworkers had committed to walking the entire march, which lasts Aug. 3-26, and that daily numbers of participants vary widely from day to day, but that 250 or 300 were participating in the Fresno area….
A bill similar to AB 2183 was vetoed last year by Governor Gavin Newsom, who wrote to the state Assembly that it “contain[ed] various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards.”
The above comes from an August 18 story on the site of the Catholic News Agency.