Faith groups urged to support farm workers

DCIA creating worker justice curriculum
Feb. 19, 2014 @ 08:34 AM

Triangle Friends of Farmworkers is urging clergy to find ways of engaging their congregations with information and support of farm workers during March. Jennifer McGovern of TFF spoke at the monthly meeting of Durham Congregations In Action this week at Durham Mennonite Church.

Faith groups that support farm workers include the North Carolina Council of Churches and National Farm Worker Ministry, which recently moved its headquarters to Raleigh. An event will be held next month for local faith groups, “Putting Our Faith into Action: Supporting Farm Workers in NC,” to be held the evening March 18 at a yet to be determined location. McGovern also recommended congregations host screenings of “Harvest of Dignity,” or watch it as part of a DCIA-developed five-week curriculum on worker justice.

McGovern asked the clergy and faith community members at the meeting to draw a picture of his or her favorite fruit.

“Every single one of those involves some form of farm labor,” she said. “DCIA has a wonderful history of caring for the least of these among us.”

DCIA members shared their ideas of the challenges farm workers face: childcare, healthcare, language, consistent income, safe housing, restrooms on the job, vulnerability and weather.

McGovern talked about the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, comprised of farm workers themselves, and boycott campaigns including Mt. Olive pickles in North Carolina in the late 1990s. Now the focus is on North Carolina tobacco farm workers, she said, in particular the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company based in Winston-Salem. Reynolds has a lengthy farm labor statement on its website, www.rjrt.com/laborissues.aspx, and notes that farm workers are contracted rather than working directly for the company. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO has led protests at Kangaroo stores in North Carolina, asking the N.C.-based chain to support tobacco farm worker rights.

DCIA will discuss labor again, this time fast food workers, at its May meeting. For information, visit www.dcia.org. National Farm Worker Ministry: www.nfwm.org. Contact Triangle Friends of Farmworkers at tfarmworkers@gmail.com.