WASHINGTON (March 31, 1998) -- Leaders of the U.S. Bishops' Conference urged justice for strawberry workers in a statement released March 30.
Their remarks echoed a call issued 10 days earlier by the Bishops of California and a 1997 statement by Bishop Sylvester Ryan of the Diocese of Monterey, California.
The conference leaders spoke as the Administrative Board of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC). They specifically cited concern for the communities of Watsonville/Salinas as farm workers return to the strawberry fields of California.
"The fertile land of the Watsonville/Salinas area of Northern California produces a major percentage of all the strawberries sold in the United States," the Board said. "Farm laborers who toil in these strawberry fields are being organized to secure better working conditions, better wages, and a better life for themselves and their families."
The Bishops called for all parties -- cooler owners, growers, and union organizers -- to come together "in any and every way" to reconcile the success of the industry and the working conditions in the fields.
The Board also repeated an admonition from Bishop Ryan, who last year said that "the use of threats, intimidation, deliberate misinformation, or violence will subvert the possibilities of a just resolution to the issues and negatively impact on the persons most vulnerable in these circumstances, the workers themselves."
The Administrative Board directs the actions of the USCC and met March 24-26 in Washington. It convenes quarterly and is comprised of about 50 bishops, including the USCC officers, committee chairmen, and representatives of each of the 13 USCC regions.