California Solar Electric Company has joined in supporting the Western Farm Workers Association, an independent, private membership, volunteer organization covering the Sacramento Valley region that includes five counties: Yuba, Sutter, Colusa, Yolo and Butte.
“Our mission is to eradicate poverty in all its forms,” said association Operations Manager Juan Meleza. “We focus in large part on working men and women.”
Meleza says that is especially true in the summer months, as this includes the many low-income farm and seasonal workers.
“Some members are very transient, like the migrant workers,” Meleza said. “We’ve averaged about 1,000 members a year over 33 years. But we have 200 to 300 that we’re in contact with.”
Other members include house cleaners, fast food workers, retail workers. Voluntary membership dues are 62 cents a month.
“It’s tradition here,” Meleza said. “There is an organization of our type on the East Coast. Back in 1972 they decided to give an hour’s wage for dues for their organization. They were potato graders. It is held in tradition.”
Further support, whether monetary, supplies or service donations, are welcome.
“We have a free of charge benefit program,” Meleza said. “So what we need first is food, clothes, doctors and other businesses to provide care and services.”
BOOTS ON THE GROUND
The Cal Solar team has collected and delivered items to the association and plans to continue to do so. After hearing Meleza speak at this year’s May Day event in Nevada City, Cal Solar Electrician Mark Cousino was moved to share with the team what he described as truly reprehensible working conditions that some harvesters of our food can face.
“I went to the rally and what Juan said left an indelible mark on me,” Cousino said. “We need big improvements as to the needs of the farm workers.”
This is not the first time that Cousino has stepped forward to help people. He has gone to Haiti and Kenya to help build water filter factories, worked with people to stop fracking in Appalacia and with the Fight for 15 in Kansas City.
“I am working with WFWA because it is important that workers of all stripes not only organize in their own workplace but also for those workers who suffer the most in this capitalist world,” Cousino said. “It is important to me that we stand strong by supporting those organizations that are providing material relief for the most oppressed.”
Western Farm Workers Association operates daily, year-round and does not take any government funding.
“Cal Solar did a collection because this time of year in the valley, agriculture being the main industry in the region, there is a lot of farm work right now, it’s the season,” Meleza said. “Yuba County farming season opens the first of May and goes to about late September or mid-October. People come here to work from all over the world.”
Meleza said there are farm worker housing camps. “California owns and operates these migrant centers,” he said. “Due to the nature of the pay, the state of California has acknowledged that farm workers don’t make enough to be able to afford housing. So, it’s interesting, which is why I’m drawn to this work… my life is dedicated to this effort. At the end of the day it’s an economic thing, you need labor that will work for that pay … cheap labor. In the summer months, our teams go out to the camps with food, clothes and supplies they can’t afford to buy for themselves.”
“Donations of businesses like Cal Solar are really remarkable, it’s really amazing,” Meleza said. “We are building a small constituency of supporters in Nevada County. Businesses can join our members through donations.”
HOW TO HELP
To donate, volunteer or join call:
Western Farm Workers Association
364 Wilbur Ave.
Yuba City CA 95991
Long Sleeved Shirts
Rice and Beans
Link to the article in the Union Newspaper