“I believe that in every strike we gained something. Above all, workers gain some respect from their employers. Unfortunately employers still have not learned to listen to their workers concerns and … fear that if workers unionize they will lose control, rather than seeing it as a benefit to both employers and employees alike.”
-Tomas Villanueva, Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project
The state depends on the grueling work of foreign labor to export apples, a top crop. At peak harvest, 150,000 on-thefarm workers scale tall ladders and haul heavy fruit. Many come from Mexico. Their history here is long and complex, influenced by controversial immigration laws, difficult working conditions and labor shortages that can throw the entire industry into a lurch. “Without migrant workers, we wouldn’t have an industry,” said a spokesperson for the Washington Apple Commission.
History is filled with stories of the Mexican-born Tomas Villanueva. Inspired by his personal journey and by labor leader Cesar Chavez, Villanueva gave up his life to the rights and benefits of the agricultural labor force.