This afternoon we received the following statement from the United Farm Workers, after we originally contacted them on May 25 to ask about the placement of a Budweiser logo under its iconic ¡Sí se puede! image at the organization's 50th anniversary celebration.
After several emails and phone messages, we got a response from the UFW this past Wednesday, letting us know that they would be more than happy to clarify our initial questions and answer them. Here is what they shared with us today:
Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding. We wanted to make sure our facts were correct and that we carefully listened to both United Farm Workers’ members and supporters. We know the UFW is not just a union; it is part of a larger movement embraced by many people. Managing the tension between running a union and being part of a bigger movement has always proved difficult, but it has also helped lead to transformational change.
The local Bakersfield, California Budweiser distributorship was among many sponsors of the recent UFW convention celebrating our 50th anniversary. These sponsorships helped pay the costs of meals three times a day over four days for the hundreds of farm worker delegates, their families and thousands of guests who joined us for the convention. These sponsorships meant the UFW was able to spend the union’s other scarce resources—specifically our members' hard-earned dues money—on organizing workers, helping them win union contracts, sponsoring key legislative reforms and getting more money into farm workers’ pockets.
There are some 700 local Budweiser distributorships across the nation. The UFW has maintained a 30-year relationship with the local California-based Budweiser distributor that helped sponsor the convention. That relationship began when Cesar Chavez led UFW. We understand that the wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, who supports SB 1070, owns an interest in one of the 700 local Bud distributorships, in Phoenix, Arizona. We appreciate that some people therefore believe that distributor supports SB 1070. However, the local California distributorship that made the donation to the UFW convention neither supports SB 1070 nor the politicians who support that Arizona law.
While UFW delegates debated and discussed many issues during their convention and in subsequent meetings, no UFW delegate complained about this sponsorship. Some UFW supporters did express concerns about the sponsorship, although not always for the same reason. Many farm workers who are protected by UFW contracts labor in wine grape production and we represent workers at both small and large wineries. They, and we, are very proud of their work.
We have heard and will continue listening to concerns brought to the UFW by supporters who are committed to building the union over the next 50 years. At the same time we don't want this discussion to detract from the most pressing issues for farm workers today. They include the following:
- Fighting for and winning first contracts and contract renewals that provide pay increases, health coverage and other vital protections for workers and their families.
- The UFW’s bill to prevent further deaths and illnesses from extreme heat (AB 2346) that just passed the California state Assembly.
- UFW legislation to end the shameful 74-year exclusion of farm workers from receiving overtime pay after eight hours a day or 40 hours per week (AB 1313) that we publicly launch on June 25 at the state Capitol in Sacramento.
- Leading the fight for immigrant rights, including the UFW’s landmark AgJobs bill, the most broadly supported bipartisan immigration reform measure before Congress allowing undocumented farm workers to earn the legal right to permanently stay in this country by continuing to work in agriculture.
- Providing immigration legal services and education programming to vulnerable immigrants in the Phoenix area through the UFW Foundation and Radio Campesina, the farm worker movement’s popular educational radio network.
We understand not all of our allies and supporters agree with our decision to accept the Bud sponsorship, often for different reasons. We also know that in building a broad coalition of support for farm workers there will be supporters who disagree with each other in major ways. Our hope is that all UFW supporters recognize the larger picture of what is at stake for the campesino community and continue contributing through their direct actions.