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Union calls for Gallo boycott

The United Farm Workers union is appealing to the public to stop buying Gallo wine.

According to the Union, the giant California winemaker is not treating workers fairly in contract negotiations. The boycott was kicked off yesterday in front of San Francisco City Hall.

Several hundred UFW and other union members, mostly of Latino origin, chanted ‘Yes we can’, the slogan used in a highly successful campaign to fairly represent Gallo workers in the 1970s.

The latest boycott is reminiscent of one of the key tactics from the union’s protests against the nation’s largest winemaker over thirty years ago.

Arturo Rodriguez, the current UFW president invoked the memory of UFW co-founder and leader of the 1973 boycott against Gallo, ‘Cesar Chavez liked to say boycotts are better than elections because the polls never close and you can vote more than once’.

The UFW’s first boycott of Gallo’s wines began in 1973 as part of a part of a larger movement after growers failed to renew their UFW contracts but instead signed with the rival Teamsters. The boycott ended in 1978 after the UFW won a string of union elections under California’s new Agriculture Labor Relations Act and the Teamsters allowed the union to represent field workers.

According to the UFW it is now acting on behalf of 220 temporary workers employed by Gallo of Sonoma who are hired directly by farm labor contractors.

Contract workers currently represent about 75% of UFW Gallo employees around the US but receive no benefits such as health care or paid vacations.

The remaining 25% are full-time and receive benefits.

‘The Gallos abuse, cheat and deny the majority of their workers benefits, job protection and humane living conditions in the heart of California’s fabled wine country,’ SFGate.com reports Rodriguez as saying.

Gallo spokesperson John Segale said most growers follow the same employee practice when hiring temporary workers during peak season.

He added that the union is trying to pressure Gallo before contract negotiations resume on June 21. ‘We have formally requested the union return six separate times and each time the union refused our request’ he said.

The union is also promoting its cause on the internet to try and reach as many consumers and activists as possible. The proposed boycott affects some 40 of Gallo’s brands including Gallo of Sonoma, Indigo Hills, Louis M Martini, Napa Valley Vineyards and Rancho Zabaco Winery.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe

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