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Farmworkers March for Dignity in Northern WA

The Farmworker March for Dignity will start at a Customs and Border Patrol station in Ferndale, Wash. (Edgar Franks/Community to Community Development)
The Farmworker March for Dignity will start at a Customs and Border Patrol station in Ferndale, Wash. (Edgar Franks/Community to Community Development)
August 2, 2019

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Farmworkers and their supporters are marching in northern Washington this weekend. Environmental and racial justice groups will walk alongside laborers in Bellingham for the 2019 March for Dignity.

Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of the farmworkers' rights group Community to Community Development, says the march will in part expose what she calls the exploitative conditions of the federal H-2A program, which allows farms to recruit workers from other countries and give them temporary visas.

She says one Whatcom County farm was recently banned from using the program.

"They're not the local family farmers that we know, and consumers know,” says Guillen. “These are outside corporate entities that have bought land in Whatcom County and brought in the federal H-2A program. There's one left, and we want them to know that as farmworkers, we do not approve of the way that farmworkers are being treated."

Guillen says Sarabanand Farms is no longer allowed to use the federal program, but notes that Crystal View Raspberry Farm still has about 80 H-2A workers.

The march begins at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday at the Customs and Border Patrol station in Ferndale, and marchers will travel roughly 14 miles to the First Christian Church in Bellingham. Members of the farmworker union Familias Unidas por la Justicia are marching and speaking at the event.

Guillen describes the march as a continuation of the struggle Cesar Chavez started for farmworkers' rights in the 1950s in California.

"The idea is for farmworkers to march in reflection, honoring the legacy that we have continued to try to improve conditions in the food system and in the fields,” says Guillen. “But it's also a reflective march for consumers and other supporters to march with farmworkers."

Guillen says marchers also are protesting the Trump administration's treatment of immigrant families.

On Saturday, a "Dignity Dialogue" event at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship will feature ACLU of Washington Legislative Director Eric Gonzalez, speaking about the Keep Washington Working Act.

The bill passed this session and restricts state agencies from aiding federal immigration enforcement.

Disclosure: Community to Community Development contributes to our fund for reporting on Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues, Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA