Boycott of California Table Grapes

Adopted on May 28, 1989, at the CSJO Business meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Whereas: It was not so very long ago when our people came to America from Eastern Europe. Here they worked in sweatshops and factories for long hours at low pay in the most dangerous and unhealthful environments. When they tried to organize for better conditions, they were fired or beaten up by thugs hired by the owners. Even when union elections were allowed, workers were threatened, terrorized and beaten. It took long years and the support of others to make the great strides in labor conditions so that many workers today are protected from these abuses.

Among the workers who are not yet protected are the farm workers. They work long hours and low pay in the most dangerous and unhealthful environments. There are no sanitary facilities in the fields and no water for washing or drinking. Over fifty different known teratogenic (birth-defect causing), carcinogenic (cancer-causing), or mutagenic (causing changes in genes) chemicals are sprayed on fields within hours of picking. Often fields are sprayed as workers are harvesting adjacent fields, usually with their children either working with them or nearby on the edges of the fields.

Even the houses the workers and their families stay in often border heavily sprayed fields. When the farm workers try to organize for better conditions, they are threatened, terrorized, beaten up. Union elections are disrupted by thugs hired by the growers. Ballot booths are overturned and workers are attacked.

Farm workers, who have called a boycott of California table grapes, are making three demands. Two affect farm workers' rights: that growers bargain in good faith and that they allow workers to vote in free and fair elections. The third -- protection from dangerous pesticides -- affects both farm workers and consumers. As a first step, the United Farm Workers Union (UFWU) is asking that five of the most toxic chemicals (Captan, Dinoseb, parathion, Phosdrin and methyl-bromide) be banned from use in agriculture. Western Grower and Shipper magazine admits that the boycott "is being used successfully," and it is growing.

As Jews, we have an ethical and historical commitment to the fair treatment of laborers and have the responsibility of speaking out on this issue.

Therefore: Be it resolved that the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations supports the boycott of California table grapes, will not buy or use them at CSJO functions and urges all constituents and members likewise to support the boycott.