April 5, 2002

Farmworking Women a Hidden Force

VISALIA - Despite the fact that women represent “almost 50 percent of the population that holds farm worker or related jobs, there still exists plenty of discrimination towards us,” said Milly Treviño Sauceda, executive director of the Farm Worker Leaders Inc. Women farm workers face “lower wages than men, we are not allowed to hold certain jobs men can, our work is more often pert-time, and we do not have access to vacations, medical insurance, or any other type of benefits,” added the leader of more than 500 farm workers in California who are affiliated to the organization. The organization is now beginning to represent people in Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida.

Treviño said that many of the women farm workers are not even accounted for “because a lot of times they use their husband’s social security number, so we become like a lost number. That is part of the discrimination we face.”

She adds that “there are things that happen to women farm workers that deny us access to opportunities and development, not to mention the fact that many of us are the ones who sustain the household and the family.”

The Farm Worker Leaders Organization met during the weekend in Visalia for the fourth time, and held 16 workshops in the three days. General working conditions were analyzed. In addition to labor topics, the workers spoke to each other about women’s health issues, domestic violence, sexual assault and family relations in order to improve relationships with their children, such as detecting alcohol and drug use, and participation in gangs.

“We are going to create a statement that will document the conclusions we came to during this meeting and we will send it to Washington (to different committees in Congress) to let them know the conditions under which we work and they can realize what kind of needs we have,” said Sandra Garcia, president of the meeting, who represents farm workers’ interests in the county of Tulare.

Farm Worker Leaders Inc. was born as a project in 1992, but it was not until 1997 that it became a non-profit organization that is recognized by the state of California to look after the interest of women that work in the fields and related areas.

Reprinted from Vida “En El Valle”, March 18, 2002

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