Can the United Farm Workers of California Rise Again?

While the impact of the law remains unclear, it has buoyed the spirits of some farmworkers.

Asuncion Ponce started harvesting grapes along the rolling green hills of the Central Valley in the late 1980s. Through the decades, Mr. Ponce has worked on several farms with U.F.W. contracts. Bosses on those farms, he said, seemed aware that if they harassed or mistreated workers, the union would step in.

“They don’t mess with you any more,” he said, “because they think there could be problems.”

Even so, he has seen his financial security decline. He averaged $20,000 a year in the 1990s and 2000s, he said, but these days he brings in around $10,000 a year picking grapes and pruning pistachio trees. His eight-hour shifts are no longer supplemented by overtime, as growers have cut hours — partly as a result of the overtime bill U.F.W. leaders supported.

Occasionally, Mr. Ponce said, he relied on third-party contractors, who growers sometimes employ, to find him available work. But he said he was optimistic that with the new legislation he would land a full-time job on a union farm.

On a recent evening, the 66-year-old sipped coffee and decompressed after a shift at a farm outside of Fresno. His feet ached and his flannel shirt was stained with fertilizer, but he is happy that his job lets him spend all day outdoors — a passion born in his hometown in the Mexican state of Puebla, where he harvested corn and anise.

He smiled softly under his white mustache as he spoke about the legacy of Mr. Chavez, which inspired him to join for several legs of the pilgrimage last summer.

“I marched for many reasons,” he said in Spanish. “So we are not as harassed and mistreated as we are now in the fields, so benefits and better treatment come our way.”

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