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The Central Valley News Collaborative is a project of The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.

California farmworkers launch march for voting rights bill

California field worker picking strawberries.
Tim Mossholder
Field workers in California are almost exclusively immigrants who work at back-breaking labor to support themselves and their families.

Farmworkers throughout California will start marching up the Central Valley this week to support a voting rights bill.

The month-long march kicks off in Delano on Wednesday morning. Farmworkers from across the valley will be walking 335 miles to Sacramento to show their support for AB 2183, also known as theAgricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act.

The bill would expand how farmworkers can vote in union elections. The only option the workers have right now is to vote in person and on the property of their employer.

“It’s a very intimidating thing,” says Elizabeth Strater, the Director of Strategic Campaigns of the United Farm Workers. “Workers would compare it to calling it a democracy and [having] to vote inside the Republican headquarters.”

Democratic Assemblymembers Mark Stone, Eloise Reyes and Ash Kalra introduced the bill. Overall, the bill is co-authored by 33 assembly members and 14 senators.

“What we want to do is make it easier for these farmworkers to unionize,” says Kalra. “[We do that] by allowing [farm workers] to vote from their kitchen table - just like we do when we vote for elections.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year. But this time around, the authors of the bill are optimistic he’ll sign it. The United Farm Workers, the bill’s sponsor, is also optimistic that the legislation will become law.

These are workers that have never stopped,” Strater says. “Even when it's 110 degrees today, even when the air may be choked with smoke tomorrow.”

This story is part of the Central Valley News Collaborative, which is supported by the Central Valley Community Foundation with technology and training support by Microsoft Corp.

Esther Quintanilla reports on diverse communities for KVPR through the Central Valley News Collaborative, which includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.