In solidarity with local farm workers, JUNTOS strives towards a community in which all workers can lead a dignified life. The Compañeros and Vecinos programs works with farm workers to acquire English skills and tools that promote farm worker independence. Through weekly visits, students and farmworkers form meaningful relationships and share experiences. JUNTOS promotes awareness about immigration issues on campus and statewide while also building a sustained movement for just living and working conditions.
Sometimes we practice English words and phrases and work on specific things like communicating with staff at the bank or post office to send money back to his hometown in Tabasco, Mexico. Other times we will talk about the movie he was just watching on his “dia de descanso” (rest day) and get into a conversation about pop culture, television shows, and our favorite fútbol (soccer) teams. Most of the time though, the conversation slips into how he is doing day to day. If he’s warm enough when he goes out to milk in the early morning in the winter. If his employer has increased his payment above minimum wage at all. He puts a face to the issue. As an undocumented migrant farmworker in Vermont he works long nontraditional hours, he is paid low wages, and he suffers hard conditions on a family dairy farm.
We are by no means solving the issues that he faces by just chatting. We are not confronting the crisis of immigration. We are not doing anything that would be published in the newspaper as revolutionary engagement in the community, but I think our little nuggets of conversation in broken English and Spanish provide some form of companionship and insight for both of us. It’s fun to talk about soccer and TV and our favorite foods. It’s two hours for him that don’t revolve around the farm’s milking schedule and two hours for us that don’t revolve around squeezing in lunch at Proctor between class and meetings. Just chatting lets us all take a break and just exist with one another for a while. It’s not the structural change that’s needed with immigration, but it feels like a little baby step to creating solidarity and a partnership across difference.
– Maeve Moynihan ’17