Alianza Nacional de Campesinas holds first large gathering in DC

Posted in Events

When people think of farmworkers organizing, their thoughts often turn to Cesar Chavez, the 1960s, and the iconic black eagle of the United Farmworkers. For those more familiar with contemporary movements, perhaps their mind will drift to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a present-day group of tomato growers from Florida who are engulfed in their own battle for better wages and more respect in their work. The common thread, however, is that the public tends to consider “farmworkers” as one distinct group, united around a common, fairly narrow, goal of improving working conditions in the fields.

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas is a new group of farmworkers that has set out to take both a broader and also more targeted approach to worker organizing. Alianza is composed solely of women farmworkers, which allows them to focus on the many unique issues that face women working in the fields – sexual assault, domestic abuse, the effects of pesticides on pregnant women – issues that organizations controlled by men have never given proper weight. On the other hand, the breadth of issues that Alianza organizes around is incredibly broad and all-encompassing. They recognize that, especially for women, life at work and life at home are inextricably connected. Because of this, Alianza unites farmworker women not only to improve their work life, but also their home life. They focus on issues as wide as breast cancer and immigration, while still keeping their common thread of fighting for the rights of farmworker women present.
From April 6-9, 2013, Alianza held their first large gathering in Washington, D.C. At the gathering, about 60 farmworker women from over 10 states came together to share their stories and fight for their rights. In breakout sessions the women discussed the key issues that they face while working in the fields, and strategized ways that they could creatively deal with those issues. With the support of organizations such as the Kalmanovitz Initiative, Rural Coalition, Farmworker Justice, and others, the women from Alianza lobbied their congressional representatives to better protect their rights, and met with representatives from a variety of governmental agencies.
While this agenda alone is impressive, what makes Alianza truly unique is their inclusive and creative methodology. Meetings and strategy sessions are highly participative, because the group recognizes that their strength comes from the individual stories and strength of its members. The group calls attention to serious issues through jovial means – skits, storytelling, and songs – that touch the heart in a way that a serious conference never could. It is clear that Alianza is here to stay and that they are going to make some serious changes.

In preparation for this gathering, Alianza held a meeting at Georgetown University in October of 2012. Check out a video here: