As American as Apple Pie. (Going Down the Road)

By Hightower, Jim | The Nation, September 30, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

As American as Apple Pie. (Going Down the Road)

Hightower, Jim, The Nation

The Powers That Be constantly try to keep the progressive majority divided: workers against environmentalists, enviros against farmers, farmers against consumers, consumers against workers, and around and around it goes. As we squawk and squabble with each other, they scoot off with ever more of our money and power, laughing all the way.

It's when we break this self-defeating circle that we put a little progress back in "progressive," much to the consternation of those Powers That Be, as we've seen recently with coalition efforts to pass everything from living-wage ordinances to public financing of elections. It's never easy to forge such coalitions--about like trying to load frogs in a wheelbarrow--but it's essential to the development of a true progressive movement that can be stronger than our separate parts.

If you were to map out a rational coalition strategy for a movement, you probably wouldn't start by trying to link farmers and farmworkers, two groups that have a long history of animosity and conflict. But organizing a movement sometimes has less to do with rationality than it does with creativity and opportunity, and, as Guadalupe Gamboa puts it, "In times of trouble is when people are open to new ideas."

A Different Way

* Lupe Gamboa is a regional director of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), and from his base in Washington State this grassroots union leader knows plenty about times of trouble. The number-one crop there is apples, mostly produced around the central Washington towns of Wenatchee and Yakima. The apples are picked and packed by some 60,000 farmworkers, of whom 95 percent are Mexicans, averaging only $7,000 a year in pay, with no benefits. They live in cramped and often squalid housing, are constantly exposed to pesticides and suffer everything from ruined backs to early death as they toil in one of America's most dangerous industries.

So, time to strike against the apple growers, right? [inverted exclamation mark]Huelga!

No, says Gamboa and the UFW, we need a different way, because family farmers are not really the power in this multibillion-dollar industry. Indeed, farmers are suffering too, typically getting less money for their apples than it costs to produce them, which means they're being squeezed out of business. It's not that they're inefficient producers but that, ironically, both the apple farmers and workers are literally at the bottom of a food chain controlled by massive, monopolistic middlemen dictating prices from far-away corporate headquarters.

In the big-business fresh-apple economy, those who do the most get the least, which is perverse since, after all, an apple is an apple. From tree to you, very little has to be done to it. Yet only a pittance of what you pay in the supermarket trickles back to the actual producers. Here's how today's apple dollar is sliced: Workers get 4 cents, the farmer gets 7 cents, wholesalers and transporters take 21 cents and then comes the hog. The retailers, dominated by Wal-Mart and Safeway, grab 68 cents of every dollar.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

As American as Apple Pie. (Going Down the Road)


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?