In 1977, the Willamette Valley Immigration Project (WVIP) was founded in Oregon as a response to raids by the Immigration & Naturalization Service. Its primary focus was to provide legal representation for undocumented farmworkers in the Willamette Valley. In April of 1985, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) was founded, and the work of the WVIP was continued under PCUN’s Service Center for Farmworkers. As PCUN grew, they eventually began to branch out to issues such as spreading awareness of the dangers of pesticide use for farmworkers, founding the Project to Stop Pesticide Poisoning in 1988. Additionally, PCUN started advocating for pay increases and collecting documentation of wage theft, collaborating with other organizations to support collective bargaining rights for farmworkers. These efforts led to the first unionized labor strike in Oregon history, the strike of cucumber pickers at Kraemer Farms in 1991. PCUN also began to support affordable housing with decent living conditions for farmworkers, helping to found the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation.
PCUN pursues a variety of goals through its large number of sub-groups—such as a community outreach organization, a lobbying/policy advocacy organization, a community radio station, and a healthy workplaces/collective bargaining group. PCUN focuses on supporting and giving a voice to Latinx working families, particularly protecting the rights of farmworkers and empowering them to take political action.
While PCUN’s primary focus centers around farmworkers, they are also involved in many other projects. Recently, their sub-organization Accion Politica PCUNista helped to elect Latinx candidates to the Salem-Keizer school board. Their lobbying and policy advocacy organization is working on immigration reform and related issues in the state and federal governments. In addition to their web of sub-groups, PCUN has many sister organizations including the CAPACES Leadership Institute, a non-profit which prepares local leaders on issues of social justice and political consciousness. They also partner with the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation, which builds and manages farmworker housing units, and Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas, a project that works with immigrant and farmworker women in economic and leadership development. One of PCUN’s current initiatives with their Healthy Workplaces program concerns the use of pesticides and the dangers they pose to farmworkers. They are lobbying for dangerous pesticides to be banned on farms, such as Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate with neurotoxic effects. This pesticide is significant because its legal use is currently being contested by the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB), which aims to protect their ability to use Chlorpyrifos to combat the invasive spotted lanternfly in the event it starts to damage crops throughout Oregon.
This publication can be found on the PCUN website under the section “Larry Kleinman’s Writings.” The article analyzes four events that happened in Woodburn on March 17, 2005: leaders persuaded the Woodburn School Board to get rid of the proposed timeline for the Small Schools Initiative, Board member Hernández didn’t file for election to his seat, the Board members would all be white despite the Latino majority of the student body, and Woodburn City Manager John Brown met with leaders of FHDC and PCUN about an expansion proposal. Kleinman argues that these four events can be seen “as indicators of the progress our movement had made—or failed to make—in changing the politics of Woodburn over a quarter century.” This article is relevant because it examines how effective PCUN’s movement had been and the kind of political power they had gathered.
This article is provided by Pew Research, a non partisan organization that intends to inform the public about trends and attitudes in the United States and the world. This article refers to Latinx concerns over their place in the United States under President trump. The sections on descrimination, immigration policy, and hispanic voting turnout seem most relevant to the efforts put forth by PCUN. With one of PCUN’s core programs focused on creating healthy workplaces for farm workers, discrimination in the workplace is always an issue. It is a feeling that many owners feel as though they can mistreat workers due to their immigration status. As a union member, PCUN helps with affordability and connections to immigration services. Additionally, PCUN’s 5th core program is better elections. Hispanic voting rights are central to change at their local level as well as the national level as outlined by Pew Research.
Nelson, Lise. 2007. "Farmworker Housing and Spaces of Belonging in Woodburn, Oregon." Geographical Review 97, no. 4: 520-41. Accessed February 27, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/30034198.
Lise Nelson’s publication examines farmworker housing in Woodburn, Oregon, where PCUN focuses its work. Nelson writes about the history of attempts to build subsidized housing for farmworkers in the 1990s. This article is really helpful to understanding the context in which PCUN has operated, because it provides a thorough history that gives a background to the experiences of farmworkers in the northern Willamette Valley and the political and economic transformations that spurred action. The success of the housing projects that Nelson details gives an example of effective action and successful activism that may provide a useful perspective when examining PCUN’s efforts and history.
Reddy, Raahi. 2016. "Oregon’s Fair Shot Coalition: Bridging the Divide between Racial, Gender, and Economic Justice." New Labor Forum 25, no. 1: 60-67. Accessed February 27, 2020. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26419962.
This publication looks at Oregon’s Fair Shot Coalition, of which PCUN is a part. This article helps situate PCUN’s work within the broader coalition and relationships with other organizations. It shows how these organizations and movements are working towards socioeconomic and gender equality in “an overwhelmingly white state with a deeply racist history.” This is a helpful publication because Reddy writes about some of the actions that the coalition has taken and the campaigns that have been effective, giving insight into how PCUN and its related organizations have created change in Oregon.
This article from Oregon Public Broadcasting is an overview of PCUN’s effort o create legislation banning Chlorpyrifos. It mentions how the goals of PCUN do not necessarily align with the farm owners and growers of the Chlorpyrifos Work Group associated with the Oregon Farm Bureau. PCUN is focused on banning the pesticide because of its negative health benefits on farmworkers while farmers are concerned about invasive species.
Snipes, Shedra A., Sharon P. Cooper, and Eva M. Shipp. 2017. “‘The Only Thing I Wish I Could Change Is That They Treat Us Like People and Not Like Animals’: Injury and Discrimination Among Latino Farmworkers.” Journal of Agromedicine 22 (1): 36–46. https://doi.org/10.1080/1059924X.2016.1248307.
This study looks at how descrimination in the workplace affects workers when injured. The study identifies immigration status as well as ability to speak the English language as two main reasons for perceived discrimination from employers. The lack of worksite protections is one thing that PCUN hopes to fight for among their members. As a member of PCUN, you receive help and direct service, such as filling out disability forms, or making work claims to the OSHA Department (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) and BOLI (Industrial Office and Labor). PCUN members also receive a translation, interpretation, or writing services in person and by phone depending on the type of need. This addresses two of the main causes behind workplace discrimination among Latinx farmworkers found in the study.
This publication is a complete history of the PCUN organization. Originally published by the University of Oregon in 2001, it was updated in 2012. It covers the history of Mexican labor in Oregon agriculture starting in the 1940s to the founding of PCUN in 1985. This source is particularly useful for situating PCUN within the greater history of the Oregon farmworker movement and how that came about. The newest addition also goes into detail about PCUN’s ever-broadening range of partner organizations such as Radio Movimento and the CAPACES Leadership Institute.