May Day with Mushrooms
I went to a demonstration this afternoon in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Farmworkers Support Committee (CATA) based in South Jersey and the Kaolin Workers Union in Kennett Square. This part of rural (but increasingly exurban) southeast PA is a mushroom-growing area; it supplies 40 percent (!) of the United States' mushrooms. CATA and the Kaolin union are both fantastic worker- and immigrant-led organizations that, beginning with the Kaolin Strike in 1993 and culminating in successful unionization in 2002, have kept up the pressure both for workers' rights and migrant laborer and immigrant rights.
I forgot to bring my camera this year, but here are some photos from last year's demonstration:
The crowd was decidedly smaller this year; it had been threatening to rain all day (and did, a little bit). There also seemed to be much less turnout from organizations — last year there were visible representatives from SEIU, IWW and faith communities as well as a few different folks running for local office (on a platform of workers' rights, yay!); this year it seemed somewhat more subdued.
I was actually interviewed for some of the press coverage last year; though there were TV crews and some print reporters at the demonstration none of them apparently spoke Spanish, as they only seemed interested in interviewing English speakers. Some students from Swarthmore had the fantastic idea this year to go along as translators, and it was announced at the beginning that any of them were available to translate for media interviews of the workers.
I'll end with some photos from La Primera Marcha back in April of 2006 in DC. Though it seems in some ways there is less pressure and organizing going on along these issues today — partly as a result of the splintering of groups with the "compromise" immigration bill last year — I think if successful organizing can continue to happen in places like Kennett Square then there's still a lot of potential.