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Classified Documents reveal United Farm Workers made pact with Global Horizons in hope of profiting from Immigration Reform
By Andrew Walden @ 8:32 PM :: 7156 Views :: Agriculture, Labor

by Andrew Walden

According to immigration attorney Melissa Vicenty, the United Farm Workers union was among the leaders in exposing the alleged abuse of workers hired by labor contractor Global Horizons to work on California farms. These complaints became the basis for much of the ongoing criminal and civil litigation against Global Horizons—which is closely tied to the DoJ’s failed effort to prosecute owners of Hawaii’s Aloun Farms on similar charges.

But a July 3, 2008 memo from the US Embassy in Mexico—revealed earlier this week with the latest batch of classified Wikileaks documents—shows that the UFW had signed a contract with Global Horizons and was itself looking forwards to becoming a major labor contractor importing farm workers to the US under what they anticipated would be US Immigration reform enacted whether Barack Obama or John McCain won the Presidential election that year.

According to the memo:

The bedrock assumption underlying all of the UFW’s plans for organizing in Mexico is the union’s firm expectation that no matter which party win this year’s US presidential election the next administration will ultimately obtain some type of US immigration reform. Based on it conversations with US agro-business the UFW knows that many large and influential American companies are pushing for a significant expansion of the H2A visa program.

The UFW has no doubt that future US immigration reform will include some process that allows undocumented workers to legalize their status. According to the UFW officials, a large number of undocumented workers in the US are currently employed as farm laborers. The UFW, and according to the two officials who met with Mission Labor Counselor, is assuming that once immigration reform is passed history will repeat itself in that many farm workers employed in US agriculture will leave the fields and seek other, better paid opportunities. This, the UFW officials said, will create an incredible demand for replacement workers as US agro-businesses struggle to maintain a stable labor force. The UFW has no doubt that this demand for labor will be filled one way or another with foreign guest workers. When this happens the union wants to be able to offer prospective workers and potential employers a legal and fully reliable method for meeting both their needs.

But the UFW didn’t wait for immigration reform. The memo describes an April, 2008 agreement between UFW and Global Horizons:

As an indication of what it believes it can accomplish the UFW officials referred to a negotiation the union concluded this year with an agro-business in the United States. This past April the UFW concluded what the labor organization says is the first nationwide union contract protecting agricultural workers signed with Global Horizons. Global Horizons, which the UFW describes as, one of the US’s largest suppliers of imported foreign farm workers, operating in dozens of states. The UFW agreement allows Global Horizons to provide assurance to the American growers who contract its services that it is in full compliance with all relevant USG laws and regulations. In other words, the growers can devote themselves to the business of producing food while Global Horizons takes handles all the details associated with bringing in foreign guest workers in compliance with US law. Moreover, the workers who sign on with Global Horizons under the UFW contract will receive legal protection and full benefits such as employer paid medical care (while in the US), standard wages and seniority protections so workers are hired or laid off based on years of service with the company.

Below, read the entire US Embassy memo as posted on Wikileaks with key phrases highlighted.

---30---

[US Embassy Mexico, UNITED FARM WORKERS WANT A PIECE OF THE GUEST WORKER (H-2A) ACTION IN MEXICO, 7/3/2008]

Vicenty: Maui News, September 10, 2010

Neil Abercrombie's slavery problem

Green hypocrites: Case & Omidyar’s Maui Land & Pine tied to human trafficking case

Human Trafficking: Did the US DoJ Purposefully lose the Aloun Farms Case?

 

* * * * *

http://cables.mrkva.eu/cable.php?id=160806

US embassy cable - 08MEXICO2054

UNITED FARM WORKERS WANT A PIECE OF THE GUEST WORKER (H-2A) ACTION IN MEXICO

Identifier:
08MEXICO2054

Origin:
Embassy Mexico

Created:
2008-07-03 23:11:00

Classification:
 

Tags: ELAB CVIS EAGR PGOV SOCI PINR MX

VZCZCXRO9814
RR RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT RUEHNG RUEHNL
RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHME #2054/01 1852311
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 032311Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2454
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 002054 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR DRL/AWH AND ILSCR, CA/VO, WHA/MEX, USDOL FOR ILAB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB, CVIS, EAGR, PGOV, SOCI, PINR, MX 
SUBJECT: UNITED FARM WORKERS WANT A PIECE OF THE GUEST 
WORKER (H-2A) ACTION IN MEXICO 
 
1.  SUMMARY: The United Farm Workers of America (UFW) sees a 
real potential for union organizing and growth in Mexico. 
This is especially true, the UFW concludes, if the next US 
presidential administration succeeds with some type of 
immigration reform. Consequently, a little over a year ago 
the union began preparing for what it believes will 
eventually be the establishment of more formalized ties 
between US agro-businesses and migrant Mexican workers.  As a 
part of this preparation two officials recently called on 
Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor to discuss UFW plans for 
expansion and organizing in Mexico.  The UFW,s Mexico 
initiative is still very much in the information gathering 
stages.  Nevertheless, the two officials made clear the 
UFW,s view that it will ultimately be able to show both US 
agro-businesses and Mexican migrants that better use of the 
H-2A visa Guest Worker program is in their best long term 
interest. End Summary 
 
 
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE 
------------------------ 
 
2.  On June 26, Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor had an 
extended meeting with two officials of the United Farm 
Workers of America (UFW).  The two union officials were the 
UFW,s International Director based in Tacoma, WA and its 
Director of Operations, Guest Worker Fund based in Keene, CA. 
 According to the two officials the UFW is in the process of 
re-assessing how it can be more effective as a labor 
organization.  For the UFW, part of this process means 
preparing itself for the future and taking full advantage of 
potential opportunities for growth.  For a variety of 
reasons, the UFW sees Mexico as an area where it can grow. 
 
3.  One aspect of the growth strategy the UFW is pursuing is 
a national effort to represent guest workers who enter the US 
on H2A visas. Based on what the two officials said during the 
meeting with Mission Labor Counselor, it appears that up 
until recent years the UFW did not do as much as it could 
have to look into the possible advantages of organizing 
workers before they arrived in the US.  The union is now 
trying to correct that shortcoming -- and Mexico, because of 
its proximity and the long established patterns of 
agricultural workers migrating to the US in search of 
employment, fits in very well with the UFW,s vision for 
future growth.  At this point the UFW is still every much in 
the information gathering stage and has confirmed what it 
(and everyone else) already knew anecdotally; that by far the 
vast majority of migrant farm workers in the US come from 
Mexico.  The officials made clear that there are also 
surprisingly large numbers of farm workers in the US from 
such diverse places as Thailand and the Philippines but for 
sheer numbers, Mexico and then Central America are 
respectively numbers one and two. 
 
4.  Once its organizing activities in Mexico begin to gear up 
the UFW believes it will be in a position to offer value 
added to both US agro-businesses and potential Mexican 
migrant workers.  As an indication of what it believes it can 
accomplish the UFW officials referred to a negotiation the 
union concluded this year with an agro-business in the United 
States.  This past April the UFW concluded what the labor 
organization says is the first nationwide union contract 
protecting agricultural workers signed with Global Horizons. 
Global Horizons, which the UFW describes as, one of the US,s 
largest suppliers of imported foreign farm workers, operating 
in dozens of states.  The UFW agreement allows Global 
Horizons to provide assurance to the American growers who 
contract its services that it is in full compliance with all 
relevant USG laws and regulations.  In other words, the 
growers can devote themselves to the business of producing 
food while Global Horizons takes handles all the details 
associated with bringing in foreign guest workers in 
compliance with US law.  Moreover, the workers who sign on 
with Global Horizons under the UFW contract will receive 
legal protection and full benefits such as employer paid 
medical care (while in the US), standard wages and seniority 
protections so workers are hired or laid off based on years 
of service with the company. 
 
 
 
MEXICO 00002054  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
MEXICO, LAND OF OPPORTUNITY BUT ( 
--------------------------------- 
 
5.  Given the large numbers of Mexican migrant farm workers 
in the US the UFW wants to position itself so that it can 
better organize these laborers.  The UFW officials indicated 
that their union believes Mexico provides significant 
opportunities for growth; both for their organization and 
with regard to improving the lot of workers who can benefit 
from a legal and orderly way of obtaining employment in the 
US.  In order to prepare itself to take advantage of these 
potential opportunities UFW officials have made a series of 
visits to Mexico in the past year.  One of the things the UWF 
has learned in visiting Mexico is that not everyone is 
enthusiastic about the union expanding its operations here. 
 
6.  One of the UFW,s first stops when it began visiting 
Mexico was a call on the Mexican Foreign Ministry (SRE) to 
both inform them of their activities and to seek GOM support 
for their organizing activities.  Since their initial contact 
with the Foreign Ministry the UFW has concluded that, despite 
verbal assurances of Mexican government interest, there has 
been no meaningful follow-up on the part of SRE.  Mission 
Mexico Labor Counselor opined that while it was certainly 
well worth the effort to inform the SRE of the UFW,s 
activities there are other GOM agencies that might be a 
better fit for what the US union hopes to accomplish.  Labor 
Counselor offered to share with the UFW officials some of his 
contacts at the Secretariats of Labor and Agriculture. 
 
7.  In addition to a lack of follow through from the SRE the 
UFW is now aware that it can expect considerable resistance 
from an assortment of recruiting agencies that specialize in 
contracting agricultural workers for US growers.  The 
recruiting agencies have, what is probably, a well deserved 
reputation for charging potential farm laborers exorbitant 
fees for finding them work in the US.  Currently it is not 
unheard of for these recruiters to charge workers seeking 
employment as farm laborers in the US as much as  USD 3,000. 
For this the laborer,s name may or may not be placed on a 
list of persons being legitimately contracted for employment 
in the US as an agricultural worker.  In a large number of 
cases the recruiters have already been paid by the US growers 
to hire potential laborers and have received assurances that 
no additional fees will be collected from the prospective 
workers. 
 
8.  These recruiters also often have a reputation for 
threatening and abusing prospective workers.  It is also not 
unusual for these recruiters to place intending immigrants on 
their lists of prospective laborers. From what the UFW 
officials learned (and a significant amount of anecdotal 
information reaching Mission Labor Counselor) these 
recruiting agencies will not look kindly on a US union coming 
to Mexico to organize farm worker.   The UFW officials 
expressed awareness that their union could face violent 
opposition once it begins actual organizing activities in 
Mexico. 
 
 
UFW BELIEVED HISTORY WILL REPEAT WITH IMMIGRATION REFORM 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
9.  The bedrock assumption underlying all of the UFW,s plans 
for organizing in Mexico is the union,s firm expectation 
that no matter which party win this year,s US presidential 
election the next administration will ultimately obtain some 
type of US immigration reform.  Based on it conversations 
with US agro-business the UFW knows that many large and 
influential American companies are pushing for a significant 
expansion of the H2A visa program. 
 
10.  The UFW has no doubt that future US immigration reform 
will include some process that allows undocumented workers to 
legalize their status.  According to the UFW officials, a 
large number of undocumented workers in the US are currently 
employed as farm laborers.  The UFW, and according to the two 
officials who met with Mission Labor Counselor, is assuming 
that once immigration reform is passed history will repeat 
itself in that many farm workers employed in US agriculture 
will leave the fields and seek other, better paid 
 
MEXICO 00002054  003 OF 003 
 
 
opportunities.   This, the UFW officials said, will create an 
incredible demand for replacement workers as US 
agro-businesses struggle to maintain a stable labor force. 
The UFW has no doubt that this demand for labor will be 
filled one way or another with foreign guest workers.  When 
this happens the union wants to be able to offer prospective 
workers and potential employers a legal and fully reliable 
method for meeting both their needs. 
 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. The UFW is not the first American union whose main focus 
is agricultural workers to set their sites on Mexico.  The 
AFL-CIO affiliate FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) has 
been in Mexico for some time and event has a permanent office 
in the northern industrial city of Monterrey.  As noted above 
the UFW is still gathering information as it develops a plan 
of action for organizing in Mexico.  A lot of what the UFW 
hopes to accomplish in Mexico as based on the assumption that 
the US Congress will pass some type of immigration reform in 
the not too distant future.  The UFW does not appear to be in 
a particular hurry to begin its Mexico expansion.  The 
officials who met with Mission Mexico Labor Counselor seemed 
much more concerned with doing things right as opposed to 
doing them fast.  That said, once this well established US 
union gets going in Mexico they could play a significant role 
in helping to ensure that migrant agricultural workers 
seeking employment in the US do so in a form that is fully in 
compliance with relevant American law and regulation. 
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American 
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap / 
GARZA 
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