“Labor creates beautiful things. Let’s make work bring beauty and joy instead of working to bring harm to people and planet. This is an example of what is possible.” —Edgar Franks, labor organizer
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a month-long April festival where growers in the Mount Vernon, WA area can showcase their rainbow-colored fields of tulips. The event draws hundreds of thousands of tourists annually and brings in upwards of $65 million in revenue for the county. This year, on the eve of the festival, over 70 tulip and daffodil farm workers employed by the Washington Bulb Company went on strike.
As Portside reported, the majority Mexican-Indigenous workers: “labor in the fields for long hours in harsh weather, endure backbreaking labor, and are exposed to pesticides among other hazards. Some have reported sores and lesions on their hands… The cost of safety gear, such as gloves and goggles, was being paid for out of the workers’ pockets.” The tulip workers’ demands included guaranteed eight-hour work days, improved sick leave, access to safety gear, safer applications for pesticides, and bonuses calculated by bunches of flowers picked.
On March 22, eight days after workers went on strike with support from the independent farm labor union Familias Unidas por la Justicia, the Washington Bulb Company and its retail division RoozenGaarde agreed to offer higher wages and safer working conditions.
This week of May 1, as we celebrate International Workers Day, we are energized by the groundswell of farm and food chain worker organizing—and landmark victories—sweeping the country. From farm fields to supermarkets, Amazon warehouses to Starbucks coffee shops, workers are making their voices heard.
Workers create the objects we use every day, the food that nourishes us, and the beauty that inspires us. In fact, most of us are workers! As we see US companies making record profits during the pandemic, it’s high time labor was valued and recognized as the true heart of our economy and communities.
Learn more from our friends at Food Chain Workers Alliance and support their work and campaigns.
In community and solidarity,
Tanya, Tiffani, Christina, and Anna
P.S. As we were finalizing this editorial, the Supreme Court leak revealed what many predicted and feared: the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We are in solidarity with the outraged around the country calling for the protection of our fundamental right to bodily autonomy and reproductive justice—which are inseparable from our intersectional movements for racial, environmental, and worker justice. See you in the streets.
Featured image (c) Edgar Franks