Saturday, May 28, 2016

Revolt of the ‘Chapulines’: After Strike, Indigenous Mexican Farmworkers Vote To Unionize

By David Bacon, In These Times
May 25, 2016

Sometimes they call themselves chapulines.

It's a Oaxacan inside joke. Chapulines are small insects, like grasshoppers. When they're toasted with lime and garlic, they're a delicacy that's as much a part of Oaxacan indigenous culture as mezcal or big tlayuda tortillas.

One worker standing in line in the edge of a San Joaquin Valley blueberry field laughed at the name. "We're very humble, like chapulines, and there are a lot of us, like we're all piled up together on a plate." Another reason he liked the similarity was the color: a plate of chapulines is reddish brown. Pointing down the line of workers, he gestured: "Look at all the t-shirts."

Hundreds of workers had lined up in two long rows in the pre-dawn darkness, ready to vote in a union election last Saturday morning. So many were wearing red t-shirts emblazoned with the black eagle of the United Farm Workers that the few people without them stood out conspicuously.

As the sun came up, the lines slowly moved toward the ballot boxes, and workers began to vote.

By 11:00 a.m., it was over. Blueberry pickers in their red t-shirts poured out of the rows of bushes, and then gathered in a semicircle to watch an agent of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board make the count.

As he announced it, 347 to 68 in favor of the union, the cheering started. The chapulines had won.

Workers may make jokes about their indigenous identity, but a far less pleasant reality led to their decision to organize a union.[...]

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