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Washington Farm Workers Rally

August 7, 2000

TRI-CITIES, Wash. (AP) _ Some 2,000 farm workers called for better wages and working conditions during a 4 1/2-mile march between two south-central farm towns.

With temperatures in the mid-90s, the marchers _ including a troupe of drum-beating Aztec dancers from Oregon _ were joined Sunday by about 2,000 religious, civil rights and political supporters.

The demonstrators want higher apple-picking wages, amnesty for undocumented workers and protection for labor organizers from reprisals by employers.

``We have literally millions of Latinos and people of other ethnicities performing the work that other people don’t want to do,″ said Arturo Rodriguez, the national president of the United Farm Workers of America, ``and they’re treated like second-class citizens.″

Rodriguez is the son-in-law of farm workers union founder Cesar Chavez.

In February, the AFL-CIO Executive Council passed a resolution calling for federal legislation granting amnesty to the 6 million undocumented workers in the United States. Most of Washington state’s more than 100,000 agricultural workers are undocumented.

Many marchers on the way from Desert Aire to Mattawa, about 165 miles southeast of Seattle, said they make $6.50 an hour. Others said they got paid $9 or $10 per bin of apples _ about $5 less than they got three years ago.

``We cannot feed our families with these low wages and we will stop working if necessary to get a fair wage,″ said farm worker Arnulfo Ramirez.

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