Rosalinda Guillen: Farm Workers Justice and the Food Sovereignty Movement
Rosalinda Guillen is a widely recognized farm worker and rural justice leader in the state of Washington. The oldest of eight, she was born in Texas and spent her first decade in Coahuila, Mexico. Her family emigrated to LaConner, Washington in 1960, and she began working as a farm worker in the fields in Skagit County at the age of ten.
Guillen has been a warrior for economic and social justice for farm workers and for the food sovereignty movement for the last 28 years. She has worked with the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO as a farm worker organizer and NVP as an elected member of the National Executive Board. She has represented farm workers in ongoing dialogues of immigration issues, labor rights, trade agreements and the food sovereignty movement.
Guillen is known for her efforts to build a broader base of support for rural communities and sustainable agriculture policies that ensure equity and healthy communities for farm workers.
Presently, Guillen is the Executive Director of Community to Community Development, a nonprofit women-led grassroots organization that works for a just society and healthy communities.
When we talked about the present conditions of farm workers in her area, she told us that, “Politically, today is the worst of times for farm workers, family farming and food production. The major reason is that corporations control all major aspects of our food system.”
She firmly believes that, “Farm workers have to be key stakeholders with leading voices in the food system, giving input in all decisions made on food production in the United States. We have never been recognized as such. In the 60s, Cesar Chavez, among others, fought for recognition as an equal partner in the food production in the United States.”
Yet, in spite of farm workers’ victories, she says, “Power for farm workers hasn’t grown to the significant level needed to impact policies and practices, especially around the use of toxic pesticides and chemicals. And, today farm workers face the added blow of harsh immigration law enforcement, since the majority of the farm workers are new immigrants from Mexico and Latin America.
Guillen also informed us of the importance of educating Latinos on the issues faced by farm workers, “Latinos are a consuming community. Yet they’re not up to date on what justice for farm workers means or what that even looks like.
Justice for farm workers means domestic fair trade and union contracts. It means buying products with the union label or the domestic fair trade label. Because this means that they were produced and packaged under safe and fair working conditions; it means they have a voice in the workplace; it means farm workers have a living wage and possibly benefits. This is what we mean by justice. It also means Latino consumers are willing to pay a little more for these food products.”
In December Guillen and C2C organizer Joaquin Martinez will attend the 2011 Domestic Fair Trade Association’s Annual Meeting to be held in December 7-9 in San Diego, California. Through her leadership,
Community to Community is one of the founding members of this association, bringing farm workers from Washington State and Oregon to voice opinions and give input towards the development of the domestic fair trade standards. This annual meeting is open to anyone interested in collaborating for health, justice, and sustainability in agriculture.
She ended our talk with the following, “I remember my father, Jesus Guillen, who was a farm worker all his life and then I think of Cesar Chavez who fought to improve the lives of families like mine, and I feel a strong commitment to continue his efforts by transforming the food system to one that recognizes the farm worker as a valuable and equal stakeholder and to ensure food sovereignty in all of our communities.”
Below is a list of organizations and websites Guillen is a member and supporter of:
~ The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA)
~ The Agricultural Justice Project
~ The National Domestic Fair Trade Association
~ Food First
~ Grassroots Global Justice