PROGRAM 4: 1990’s to the present

The Future of Farm Labor


What does it mean that the vast majority of California farm workers are illegal immigrants? As border control efforts close off the pipeline for workers, who grows the crops? Will a guest worker program be any different from the Bracero program? Is California’s growing organic industry any more just to its workers? Where are the unions in all of this? In this program, we hear from berry pickers and flower workers about border crossings, unions, immigration, and living beneath the radar. Jim Hightower speaks about American farm worker policy, and we meet a farmer, Delphina Corcoles, who has moved from being a farm worker, to owning her own organic farm. We also hear from a college graduate who chose to go back to berry picking rather than leave the land and work in an office.

protester with Cesar Chavez picture

A protester marches with a picture of Cesar Chavez in Salinas, CA, March, 2006. Photo: Jay Melena.

  Eleuterio Vega

Eleuterio Vega, Union Berry picker, Coastal Berry, Salinas, CA

"There are people I talk to who don’t even know what the union means, and I try to explain how it works and how it can help them out. That way they can try to organize other workers in their company."

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  Gabriela Lara

Gabriela Lara, Flower arranger, Monterey Bay Flowers, Watsonville, CA

"I was in Mexicali, and this lady was supposed to help me out, with a letter from a doctor saying my husband was sick. She just left me there with no money, no housing, just me and my daughter. I was all alone for a whole month. I tried to cross the border several times, but they caught us and sent us back."

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  Alba Farms

Dephina Corcoles, ALBA farm owner, Salinas, CA

"I feel more independence. When I have somebody who is helping me, they’ve become part of my family. We get to share knowledge and support each other."

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  Jackie Olivaras

Jackie Olivaras, employee, Swanton Berry Farm, Santa Cruz County, California

"I don't mind being the only woman on the crew. The men are like my uncles."

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