Quincy mushroom workers march to Tallahassee Oct. 21-24
Joe Courter
October 1996

Mushroom workers will march from Quincy to Tallahassee Monday, October 21 through Wednesday, Oct. 24, where they will present their grievances at the Florida Capitol. Last April the Iguana reported on the situation of mushroom pickers working for Prime Mushrooms (Sylvan Corporation) in Quincy. These 600 mostly Hispanic and African American workers have sought union representation from the United Farm Workers to redress their grievances with the company, which include unsafe working conditions, low pay and mistreatment. But when the workers held a brief demonstration on their lunch break March 14, 1996 the company fired 85 union supporters and arrested 24 workers for 'trespassing,' and even had the cars of those arrested towed from the job site, creating even more hardship and expense for the already underpaid workers.

The workers at Prime Mushroom have not quit their efforts, and have been gaining support from around the country. Even so, they still work for low pay and under hazardous conditions. A recently received fax from the United Farm Workers (Sept. 27, 1996) stated:

"To do the harvesting, workers must climb up beds 10 feet high, carrying baskets that can weigh up to 30 pounds. [It is wet and therefore very slippery.] The most common workplace accident occurs among the pickers who fall from the beds while harvesting, and hurt themselves. After they fall, the company then has them sign a statement where the worker takes full responsibility for the accident.

"The company sends the injured worker to their company doctor, who prescribes painkillers and returns them to work the next day. In a survey of workers, the UFW found that many accidents had occurred that lost them workdays and wages and some even suffered permanent disability. Even though the accidents happen at the workplace, the company or the workers comp system will not assist in any way. Many of the injured then must hire attorneys to get their medical expenses paid for by the company's insurance. Most give up and suffer the injury. . .

"To add to this dilemma, the company's medical plan is useless. Although the company proudly announces that it offers a medical plan, most of the workers don't sign up for itÑtheir reasons are that it is too expensive, and that after the premium is deducted from their paycheck, too little remains in their take home pay to make ends meet. For those who have had this medical insurance, their experience is that many doctors will not accept the plan, and the workers must pay up front and then be reimbursed by the insurance company."

To add visibility for their fight, the farmworkers and their supporters are staging a march from Quincy to Tallahassee, covering ten miles a day from Monday, October 21 to Wednesday October 23, when they will arrive at the Florida State University campus. The next day a larger march will do the final leg, which will be a three mile march to the Capitol for a rally, then one mile more to a selected grocery store for a demonstration.

Gainesvillians have especially been asked to come to that final day march. There will be an effort to arrange car pools. We have one van ready to go, and will expand as interest grows. Please call Joe at 378-5655 for info on carpooling for Thursday, October 24. We'll be leaving at about 7 am, and return that evening. If you want to go, and especially if you have a vehicle which can take a few folks, please call soon so we can plan ahead better.

And of courseÑdon't buy Prime Mushrooms. Ask the produce manager at the grocery store you shop at to get other brands. Consumer pressure can work if enough consumers learn of the fight in Quincy, and refuse to buy Prime Mushrooms. If Sylvan can get away with this injustice and mistreatment of workers in Quincy, you better believe it'll be a go ahead for corporations to inflict injustice and mistreatment on workers in Gainesville. If they win union representation, it'll be an inspiring example and help people see how they can get their rights throughout farmwork and in other industries all over Florida. Help build awareness and solidarity in Gainesville, so these brave men and women can get some justice. For more information, consult the April 1996 Iguana (back issues are available at the Civic Media Center) or by calling the UFW, the state office is at Avon Park 813-453-4662. The Quincy-area UFW office is in Greensboro at 904-442-4337.

Workers at Quincy Farms ask people not to buy Quincy Farms mushrooms to put pressure on the company to recognize their union. Eighty-five workers were fired and 24 arrested by the farm after holding a lunch break rally to show support for the union. Quincy workers will march from Qunicy to Tallahassee Oct. 21-24 and they are asking workers around Florida to come out and march in solidarity with them.

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