Ramon Ramirez, President of the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United (PCUN) and CAUSA brought a message of the importance of community engagement and solidarity among unions. AFT-Oregon delegates will consider a resolution this weekend in support of PCUN’s campaign to ensure safety on Oregon’s roads by expanding access to driver’s licenses to all Oregonians, 16 and older.
Ramirez shared a collaborative event where members of PCUN and Local 2278 (WOUFT), who represent faculty at Western Oregon University sold strawberries tended by PCUN members on the WOU campus last summer. The goal was to show connection and solidarity and to promote the labor movement in a university setting.
Ramirez recognized and thanked Local 2278 (WOUFT) members, including Emily Plec and Peter Callero for working with PCUN. “We were thankful for their help because that’s what union solidarity is all about—helping each other out. By the way, the PCUN members at the farm where the strawberries came from are the highest paid strawberries workers in Oregon.”
Ramirez talked of opportunity created with the recent release of a movie on the life of Cesar Chavez, a farmworker, civil and union rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association. “Chavez was truly a trade unionist in every sense of the word. He lived every day by those values of commitment, sacrifice, community service and union solidarity. We have a moment in history where we can use Chavez’s movie to educate our youth and build political activism and union solidarity—make them trade unionists.”
Ramirez shared ways PCUN is working to connect with members. They have opened their membership to workers outside of farmworkers. Some of these ideas include building housing for farmworkers and running its own radio station. He said community engagement, and relationships with other unions is also necessary for the movement. “Union solidarity is important. That we stand shoulder to shoulder, hand-in-hand working on each other’s issues.”
“Immigrants celebrated the most important victory in our political history when, after 11 years we celebrated the passage of the Tuition Equity,” he said, of a bill passed during the 2013 legislature which makes many immigrant children eligible for in-state tuition at Oregon’s colleges and universities.
Ramirez said PCUN is launching a targeted voter registration and education campaign. “At the end of the day, this campaign is about the hearts and minds of the immigrant and Latino community. We are connecting with community groups. And, we know if we can count on the support of other unions, then we will win.” “Si, se puede!” (Yes, we can!)