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Baja farmworkers' strike crimping US supplies

Thousands of laborers in the San Quintin Valley 200 miles south of San Diego went on strike Tuesday, leaving the fields and greenhouses full of produce that is now on the verge of rotting. Though they stopped blocking the main highway to export markets, the road remains hard to traverse as rogue groups stop and, at times, attack truck drivers. ‘

Juan Oliva, Del Cabo’s operations manager said several trucks had been delayed, causing damage to shipments of zucchinis and cherry tomatoes. Del Cabo’s farms are located in southern Baja California, but must usually go through San Quintin to reach export markets.

Costco reported that organic strawberries are in short supply because about 80% of the production this time of year comes from Baja California. At the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, importers reported shortages of tomatoes and chile peppers. Produce market stalls in Tijuana were also affected.

Negotiations were set to re-launch Friday afternoon, and farmworker leaders expressed some optimism. They said the government had agreed late Thursday to let them break away from unions that they say favor the interests of growers over pickers.

Leaders are now moving to establish their own union specifically for farmworkers that will enable them to negotiate directly with agribusinesses. Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega de Lamadrid drew praise for showing up at the negotiations at a San Quintin restaurant on Thursday.

He pledged his support, but some laborers remained skeptical, saying that a massive strike had been necessary to focus the governor’s attention on labor issues that had been festering for years.

The clash could be an early test of a new alliance of produce industry groups dedicated to improving conditions for farmworkers in Mexico.


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