Me and José (and Murphy) Down By the Huelga!   Leave a comment

My friend,  José Carrillo and I drove up Bellingham last Thursday morning where I was to be a guest on Joe Teehan’s “Joe Show” on KBAI AM 930.   José, just a few days removed from his 81st birthday, is an actor, poet, musician, and newly-ordained Universal Church of Life minister who recently performed his first nuptials.  I met José via the cultural world of The Couth Buzzard in Seattle and we have been friends ever since.  It is through him that I became involved with the Latino community in both the art and social justice worlds.

Joe Teehan

Joe Teehan

Joe Teehan broadcasts an hour of sanity per day from the same building that spews the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck (Skagit Valley boy who made bad).  His local show is sandwiched neatly between the syndicated Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann programs.  Joe is, as the saying goes, a good head.  And a great audience.  He laughed in all the right places.  We chatted about the creative process, social issues, and the efficacy of the liquid bandage I had used to enclose a deep cut I had made to my right index finger that only hurt when I picked.

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Meanwhile, other pickers are  on strike.

The berry pickers at Sakuma Farms in Skagit County are embroiled in a bitter huelga.

They are striking over wages that when factored into the number of hours they work per week…around 50…average out to about $7.00 per hour, well below the state’s minimum wage.

They are striking because they are crammed into living quarters designed to house a fraction of their numbers, causing both adults and children to alternate sleeping on floors, when floor space is available.  They are striking for dignity…for respect.

Strikers listening to update from negotiators

José and I then headed back south, to meet our friend Angelica Guillen at El Campo, the site of the strike negotiations near Bow, WA…which neither of us ever heard of.  We arrived amid the latest update on the progress of the talks.  Apparently, as Angelica translated, sufficient community support had been provided the workers, in the manner of proposed boycotts, that the owners had agreed to negotiate in good faith and the workers were ready to return to work the followingday

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Oh yeah, I forgotHuelga kids and Murphy2 to mention the third member of our company…my dog, Murphy,  Actually, Murphy is technically my wife’s dog as he is too small, cute, and fluffy to suffer a macho guy like me.  As soon as some of the children of the workers got a glimpse of Murphy, my dance card was filled for the day.  From then on, I spent not a single moment with an adult the remainder of our visit.

The kids wanted to know everything about Murphy; was he friendly?  Did he like to fetch?  What does he like to eat? They asked if the could walk him…I handed over the end of the leash to one…then another…and another.

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It mattered not who was actually driving, passengers began boarding  the Murphy bus and soon all were scooting around the grounds, a flurry of brown-skinned boys and girls seemingly being pulled along by a white ball of lint attached by a blue leash.  They were tireless.  Murphy was tireless.  I wasn’t…and pretty soon it was time to go.  But not until the kids and Murphy assembled for a group portrait.Huelga kids and Murphy

As I write this, the workers are still on strike.  Their representatives are negotiating wages, accommodations, sanitation…all the things that only collective action can achieve.  Action not only by the workers and their representatives but, as we have learned, the community as a whole through direct financial support and donations of food and water, but through boycotts and threats of boycotts.  We, as a community must decide that poverty wages and cramming workers and their families into insufficient housing is not acceptable.  These workers are not looking to decrease their workload…they work hard and will continue to work hard…all they ask for is a liveable wage and equitable living conditions.  They deserve no less.  Neither do their kids.

Posted July 29, 2013 by garykanter in Uncategorized

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