We care about the migrant grape workers and the dangers of their plight. We affirm our long-standing point of boycotting the California grape industry. Nevertheless, Alexandra McNitt, project manager at HDS, is right on target: "All I do is talk about grapes." We feel the same way. Last week the momentum was high: vigils, debates, posters, buttons--everyone had an opinion. And now that energy has been lost. For this reason we are disappointed with Harvard Dining Service's (HDS) handling of the "Great Grape referendum." We push HDS to keep the best option on the ballot: buying grapes only from farms staffed by the members of United Farm Workers (UFW).
Of course, it is true that there would be few grapes on Harvard's tables if the student body approved this option. Why? There are currently fewer than 300 workers who belong to the UFW. This is because employers do not like to hire union workers. UFW members cost more to hire than non-union members, and they have to be treated better since employers are subject to worker power. Nevertheless, if Harvard is determined only to buy UFW-picked grapes, more farmers might be encouraged to hire UFW workers.
Only one percent of the California grape industry currently belongs to the UFW and adheres to their standards because growers have routinely intimidated their workers with the threat of being fired in so-called "free elections." The facts, however, remain: Grape pickers in California work long days stooping close to the ground and are paid for the number of boxes they pick. UFW workers cannot find jobs in the grape-picking industry because they have requested humane treatment and refused to accept the lack of clean drinking water, health or accident insurance or basic sanitation.
The UFW-only option must be included in any HDS ballot, and we encourage all students to vote in favor of it. So, in the grape referendum, which has been postponed until after Thanksgiving, vote "I support only the serving of California grapes in the dining halls if they are picked by a UFW member," and tell a friend.