Quincy mushroom workers take their case to Tallahassee
What began March 14, 1996 as a lunch-hour demonstration advocating workers rights at Quincy Farms has now become a sustained effort supported by people across the southeast. When nearly 90 workers were fired for participating in the demonstration--and 25 arrested for "trespassing" at their job immediately thereafter--it strengthened the resolve of the mushroom workers to form a union.
The 450 workers at Quincy Farms, which produces "Prime" label mushrooms, had endured low pay and unsafe working conditions for years. Raises, when given, had been doled out in 2 cent increments. Company doctors were minimizing worker's injuries (common because workers have to climb elevated, slippery mushroom racks and other hazards) and supervisors were telling people to work injured or risk their job. In 1995 they asked the United Farm Workers to help them get their rights on the job.
On October 26, a group of workers from Quincy Farms concluded their "Crusade for Justice" march at the Old Capitol building in Tallahassee. Red United Farmworkers flags waved proudly during the last leg of the march, which led from a Publix parking lot, past the FSU campus, then to the Capitol for a rally on the steps, then on to a Bruno's supermarket to challenge the management to stop carrying the "Prime" brand mushrooms produced by Quincy Farms.
About 150 people gathered on the steps of the Old Capitol, including Quincy Farms workers, labor activists, students from UF and FSU, including representatives from FSU student groups including the Hispanic Student Union, the Black Student Union, the Center for Participant Education and FSU National Organization for Women. Three carloads of people came from Gainesville.
United Farm Workers organizers from Birmingham, Alabama and Texas have been working with the Quincy farmworkers, as well as ministers from area churches. Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, was the main speaker at the rally at the Capitol, as well as James Orange of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and Chair of Jobs with Justice. More actions are planned in various cities around Thanksgiving, and farmworker support groups are getting going in Tallahassee and Gainesville.
Huerta said she "We're going to stay one day longer than Mr. Lazzarini. We're not going away." Quincy Farms president Richard Lazzarini, as one of the signs carried at the march stated, makes $235,000 a year, but he has refused to negotiate and denies that the wages are low or the working conditions dangerous.
Delegations have been asking supermarkets all over the state to stop stocking "Prime" label mushrooms until Quincy Farms recognizes the union and redresses the workers grievances.
You can tell the management at the store you shop in that they should not buy mushrooms from Quincy Farms and why. Sylvan, Inc. is Quincy Farms parent company.
You can write expressing your opinions to:
Dennis C. Zensen, Sylvan, Inc.,
828 S. Pike Road (County Road 65)
Sarver, PA 16055
Ph.: 412 295-2910
Fax: 412 295-4111
Route 4, Box 245
Quincy, FL 32350
Ph.: 904 875-1600
Fax: 904 627-3493
United Farm Workers vice president Rebecca Flories-Harrington speaks at the October 26 rally in Tallahassee.
James Orange, chairman of Jobs with Justice in Atlanta, speaks on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee at a rally concluding a four-day march by 150 mushroom workers and their families and supporters. He invited the mushroom workers to march at the head of the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Atlanta in January.
North Central Florida Central Labor Council president Elsie Allen (center) and United Farmworkers co-founder Dolores Huerta (l) discuss the boycott of Quincy Farms mushrooms with Bruno's store manager Steve Summer in Tallahassee October 26. They urged Bruno's to stop stocking "Prime" brand mushrooms from the Quincy grower, which fired 84 workers for organizing to redress their grievances with low pay and dangerous working conditions.
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