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Farmworker union holds Fresno vigil to pressure Gavin Newsom to sign union voting bill

A portrait of Cesar Chavez sitting beside a crate of handpicked grapes
Laura S. Diaz
The Fresno Bee
An artistic portrait of Cesar Chavez was showcased at an uninterrupted vigil on Aug. 30, 2022, along with handpicked grapes by farmworkers. United Farm Worker supporters camped outside California State Government offices in Fresno to pressure Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a bill that could grant farmworkers the flexibility to vote by mail in union elections.

The United Farm Workers is hosting 24-hour vigils in Fresno, as well as Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles, to pressure Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Assembly Bill 2183, which would expand voting rights for farm workers in union elections.

The bill passed Monday afternoon and is headed to Newsom’s desk Thursday. He issued a statement last Friday to the Fresno Bee which stated that in its current state, he cannot sign the bill. Since then, the UFW has continued to urge the governor to approve the measure.

On Tuesday afternoon, the UFW and supporters gathered outside Newsom’s Fresno office, across the street from City Hall. Supporters said they plan to stay at Newsom’s offices until he makes a decision about the bill that would give farmworkers the right to vote from home in union elections.

“We're not going to stop until farmworkers have the right to vote in union elections from the safety and comfort of their homes,” says Camila Rivera, a political organizer for the UFW.

Community members brought fresh fruit, sweet bread and hearty meals for the group.

“It's a lot of community coming out together to support the [farmworkers],” Rivera says. “Farmworkers themselves are coming out here, spending hours of their day after working out here in the vigil.”

Rivera and a group of 10 union supporters spent the night on the corner of Tulare and P Street. She says they felt comfortable and safe in their camp.

“We had our chairs. We had a blanket. Some didn't sleep at all. Some just stood up telling stories, talking,” Rivera says.

Among the group was Jesus Garcia. He walked the first 19 miles of the UFW’s 335-mile “March for the Governor’s Signature,” which aimed to pressure Newsom to act on the legislation. Like for many Latino immigrants, he says the cause hits close to home.

“I am not a farmworker, but my dad was,” says Garcia. “My uncles, my cousins, my grandfather and my grandmother. I represent the next generation. The hope of farmworker families.“

Garcia is continuing to support the UFW by attending the vigils in Fresno and Los Angeles. He believes there is power when the community comes together.

“Our message is to the governor,” says Garcia. “Governor, sign that bill.”

Newsom has until the end of September to sign or veto the legislation.

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.