United Forest Voice
Newsletter of the Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters
“Together We Can Make a Difference”
Box 1257 Willow Creek, CA 95573 • (530) 629-3353 • firstname.lastname@example.org • number XII
Importance of Grassroots
“Together We Can Make a Difference”
Thank You! This Newsletter and the work of the AFWH this past year have been made possi- Projects Update
ble by the generous asssistance of the Ford Foundation, the Sociological Initiatives Foundation, Page 4
the National Forest Foundation, private donors, and AFWH members and volunteers.
The Power of Interviews
AFWH/Medford Project Monthly Membership meeting participants The Gear Gal
Clockwise from left : Santiago Calzada, Estreberto Camino, Juan Cervantez, Erin Halcomb, Enrique Santos, Page 11
Cece Headley, Estreberto’s lovely daughter, and Denise Smith.
Members and Board Members
Welcome to all the new members who joined the Alliance of Forest Workers and
Harvesters this year. The new faces and the experience you bring to this organization
excite us. A special thank you to our long-standing members as well for years of support 12 AFWH Strategies:
and contributions. Each year we hold board elections. Currently serving on the Board of
• Multicultural Multilingual Communication
Directors are Wayne Fitzpatrick, Renee Stauffer, Kenneth Baldwin, Cece Headley, Marko
Bey, and Carl Wilmsen. These members are actively involved in guiding the organization • Membership Development and Services
as well as participate in monthly meetings, review meeting minutes, budgets, strategic
ALLIANCE OF FOREST WORKERS & HARVESTERS planning, and help with fundraising efforts. We are very pleased to announce our newly • Community-based Organizing Projects
PO Box 1257 ~ Willow Creek, CA 95573 ~ (530) 629-3353 ~ email@example.com elected officers of the Board of Directors, which include: Marko Bey- President, Carl
Wilmsen- Vice President/Secretary, and Cece Headley-Treasurer. Any member can • Regional Participation
CALL TOLL FREE! 1- (866) 850-1110
serve on the board of directors, and we have board members who are willing to help
• Alliances and Partnerships
mentor newer members who would like to serve. Members are also encouraged to join
the monthly meetings and the annual membership meeting in the fall. • Organizational Infrastructure
• Funding Proposals
• Collaborative Research and Education
The Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters is a multicultural organization promoting social,
environmental, and economic justice. • National-level Participation
We exist to:
• Workforce Training and Certification
• Share and provide information and education;
• Encourage participation in decision-making processes that affect our lives; • Ecosystem Stewardship and Restoration
• Be mutually supportive and respectful of forest workers’ and harvesters’ cultures, • Economic Cooperation and Development
communities and individuals, and foster communication among all;
Please consider contributing to the AFWH. Your contributions are TAX DEDUCTIBLE
• Promote the understanding of each other’s struggles and issues throughout the Paciﬁc
Contact the AFWH ofﬁce to ﬁnd out how your donations can help! West.
The Importance of the Grassroots The Gear Gal
All of us who work in the woods depend on: the boots on our feet, the clothes on our backs, and the tools
Why a forest workers/harvesters organization is so in our hands. Many of us have learned tricks of the trade, what gear works and what doesn’t. For some
important: time now I’ve talked about writing a column dedicated to discussing forest worker gear. I envision it to be
interactive, a venue where workers write in to share both their experiences and recommendations.
In this ﬁrst article, I want to cover what I consider my most important piece of protective clothing
• Bringing the multicultural forest workers and NTFP harvesters
for the Paciﬁc Northwest climate: RAIN GEAR. My rain gear divides the thin line between happy me and
together to discuss issues important to them. cold wet misery. Several years ago, on a brutal ride home in soaked clothes, I swore never again to endure
• We are the only grassroots organization formed by the the wretchedness of leaky raingear. And I began my mission to ﬁnd the best rain gear for forestry work.
workers/harvesters, the people whose hands touch the land, Over time I’ve tried many types, styles, brands, and qualities of rain gear. Alaska inspired me to buy a
in the nation. $50 pair of Helly Henson bib overalls. I ﬁgured rain gear made for ﬁshing would keep me dry. But within
• Forest worker/harvester empowerment four hours I shredded my gear by crawling through a brushy stand. Discovering later, these bibs are de-
• Bringing the people who are actually affected by policy signed to rip when pierced so ﬁshers are not hooked!
changes made by others to speak and engage in those policy Then I tried recreational gear made for city folk, Columbia rain pants from R.E.I. In two weeks
time, I blew out their seams. And do not even get me started on Gore Tex - a material that loses its wa-
discussions in order to provide real life experience and balance
terprooﬁng when dirty!? When was the last time you kept your raingear spotless while working in the
from the ground up. woods?
• Respecting Experiential Knowledge and Traditional Ecological Okay, you can see my mission was not easy. But I found one sure truth - look for gear made speciﬁcally
Knowledge and encouraging inclusion of this knowledge in for your job - and two decent brands.
land management practices. 1. Watershed: This brand makes a few different types. Most are the standard mid-weight rubber type.
• Cooperating, educating, implementing projects with Reasonable durability and price. Available at many stores.
multicultural forest workers, NTFP harvesters, and 2. Tingley: Iron Eagle is my all time favorite! It’s lightweight, waterproof, gas and rip resistant, and a
government agencies in public and private forests. fair price! Years ago Tim Sweet, an AFWH member and forest worker extraordinaire, recommended this
brand. I picked up a pair of black bibs and a jacket at Phil’s Saw Shop in Florence, OR. Miraculously,
• Recognizing and encouraging leadership in multicultural
they lasted me several seasons without a rip, tear, or worn spot. My spreading waistline necessitated
NTFP harvester and forest worker communities. a new pair. I called the Tingley company to order a larger size only to ﬁnd they did not make that type
• With the AFWH participation in Community Based Forestry, anymore. The company rep said they stopped making them because they never wore out, and were not
Dig it! (carefully!)
actual forest workers’ and harvesters’ ideas, questions and reordered. They had another Iron Eagle brand, so I got that one. They’re not quite as good. I ripped the
bibs after 2 seasons. Still, they’re better than most and the bibs and jacket are less than $40 for each.
That’s all from Gear Gal for now. Hoping you all stay warm and dry in the woods this wet, cold winter.
Next newsletter we’ll discuss work boots - caulks, rubber boots, etc. Let us know your favorites. Write,
call, or e-mail AFWH with your picks.
Why is immigration legislation so important to AFWH?
Many Latino forest contract laborers who work in the Paciﬁc West planting trees, conducting thinning
or fuels reduction, and ﬁghting ﬁres are unaware that there are laws which are supposed to protect all
forest workers. Because of the skilled labor involved in doing forestry work we believe it is important
to share information with those who do the work in the languages needed for understanding their for-
Spring Mushroom Harvesters est workers rights. Some are citizens, or legal residents, or undocumented and some are H2B workers
Meeting (Guest workers from other countries, much like H2A agricultural workers without the H2A protec-
at the Buddhist Temple in Stockton tions). Because of the large number of Latino workers in the forest industry, it is clear that whatever
laws are passed with regard to immigration will have a signiﬁcant impact on many forest workers
and the industry itself. Because this legislation is currently being debated both in the Senate and in
Congress, we have been able to discuss what is being proposed with forest workers and engage them
Richard Hart, Cece Headley , and Denise in dialog around these issues. We receive constant feedback and requests for current information. We
will continue to report on immigration to our members and others, as it is a very important issue to
United Forest Voice 2 forest workers in the Paciﬁc West. United Forest Voice 11
Greetings! This past year, I had the opportunity to interview forest workers across Southern Oregon. As a forest laborer, I loved discussing
the details of our work. The discovery of who is working in the woods and why, was inspiring.
Equally inspiring were the results of the interviews. A majority (51%) of the non-Latino workforce is native to Oregon. Also, the majority of this
workforce chooses to labor in the woods not because of the ﬁnancial gains – the average worker earns $11 hourly - but rather because of his or her
Yet, I lament the disconnection of this workforce. The spirit of competition, remote work sites and the need to work other jobs in order to live
comfortably, among other things, keeps us separate. And whether restoration ethics or family history is the genesis of the decision to work outdoors,
all of our values are at risk. We can not expect success in all our objectives: sustainable yield, beetle kill, safe communities, ﬁre management and labor
reform by working as separate entities.
Segregation in the workforce undermines and endangers the forest and many of the values for which we labor. Difference in opinion will always
Beverley Brown,4th from left, with just a few exist; and strength exists in compromise, not weakness.
Finally, nothing I write or rant can exceed the power of the interviews. Here is some of what was said:
Honoring a Dear Friend � When she was tired from running saw, the FS would commend her work and let her do something less strenuous. If she expressed being tired with
a private contractor she feared never running saw again.
This last fall AFWH lost a crusader for forest workers. Many of us also lost a dear friend. � “The F.S. used to be a way for people to gain forestry experience,” he says. “Now they are responsible for running the show and often private
Beverly Brown of Sunny Valley, Oregon passed on. contractors have much more ﬁeld experience.”
The importance of the many gifts forest workers have received from Bev could never be � She felt the government employees were overtly suspicious and critical during inspections of private contractors.
overstated. She promoted recognition of the hidden lives of forest workers and NTFP harvesters. She � He spoke about the schism between contract crews and government employees. Having worked on both sides, he tries to be a voice of unity. Pride
prioritized inclusion of workers and their issues, in the newly emerging Community Based Forestry for your work and your crew is important, but both sides have stereotypes about laziness and intelligence. This paralleled his experience in the Army.
Movement and other policy arenas. She founded and directed the Jefferson Center for Education and His platoon and other platoons were very competitive and would be kept separate in Afghanistan so they did not ﬁght each other.
Research. � She felt men compete to the point of ignoring their own health. She was always pushing herself twice as hard, trying to prove herself.”
In the mid-1990s Bev, through the Jefferson Center, began hosting Forest Worker and Harvester � He feels FS and BLM employees are very disconnected from the land. He says, “People who are in the woods understand the woods. Government
Gatherings throughout the Paciﬁc West. Here, many of us met for the ﬁrst time. And under Bev’s employees are no longer in the woods, learning. They are ofﬁce slugs. They ﬁght internally and are manipulated by political climates. It reﬂects
tutelage, we discussed our common experiences, and devised ways to work together for our common negatively on the ground, through poorly planned projects.”
good. From these gatherings AFWH was born. � He would like a liaison between the federal government and private contractors. He would like to see a gathering point for forestry topics such
Bev, our midwife, supported us for years thereafter. A very nurturing person,she always made as legislation, contractors, training, and environmental issues.
sure everyone was comfortable at the gatherings. She provided: real-time language translation radios, � He says the FS, or rather taxpayers, pay $1500 a day for him and his engine. He ﬁgures, “they might as well put me to
appropriate food and sleeping accommodations, and sensitive reimbursement of travel expenses. work.” But they don’t. He passes time playing cards and watching videos.
Beverly signiﬁcantly informed us how to work together as forest workers and harvesters, across � He has worked in the woods for 33 years, and has always been interested in teaching what he’s learned from the woods.
cultures and languages. He believes contracting ofﬁcials of both private and federal land know of undocumented workers. By looking the other way,
AFWH also owes Bev a great deal for her unreserved organizational support. Through many they perpetuate abuse.
desperate years, she guided us on ﬁnancial accounting, staff recruitment, hiring and oversight, board � He feels he is “ﬁxing the damage from the past.” The government should value the land for future generations and
responsibilities, and overall governance. The special signiﬁcance of this support beckons further health.
understanding. Beverly did not always agree with our analysis, decisions, or actions. She had misgivings � He wants a liaison between the government and private contractors to counter stereotypes and foster respect.
on our methods and choices. But, she always supported workers trying to empower themselves and � Annual change in ﬁscal funds creates an inability to implement ecosystem management.
attempting to organize. �He would like to see government ﬁre suppression tactics changed in order to protect the environment. Bulldozers are often
Lastly, no tribute to Beverly can be complete without recognizing her intellectual and academic used for efﬁciency when a hand line would be adequate. He would like to see more control burning and creative ﬁre use
talents. She served us further by authoring and publishing many books, articles, and bulletins. Many methods.
of Bev’s publications hold special signiﬁcance for forest workers including: “In Timber Country,” � He says “forming relationships over real, tangible, and physically demanding work is one of the greatest rewards,” of
“Voices from the Woods,” “Challenges Facing Community Forestry: The Role of Low Income Forest working in the woods.
Workers,” and “Contract Forest Laborers in Canada, US, and Mexico.”
By Erin Halcomb, Forest Worker
It is with great sadness and love we say good bye to Beverly Brown - our dear friend, mentor,
sister, and comrade. You will be missed, but never forgotten. Your legacy will live on when workers
come together to build solidarity and empowerment.
United Forest Voice 10 United Forest Voice 3
Projects (continued from P 8 )
¤ Medford Project: This project began after two years of conducting interviews in Oregon with Spanish-
speaking forest workers through our workforce assessment study. Medford was identiﬁed as a good area for meeting workers
and their families and to set up an outreach program. Our outreach program targeted Latino forest workers. We hired Enrique
Santos as a trainer, Braulio Maya, a forest laborer, and Crystal Reyes as outreach workers. They worked for the past year
conducting interviews, holding meetings, and making presentations at community meetings. The Crescent Lake Crew
Our next phase in the project has been to partner with Oregon State University extension ofﬁce to continue to hold monthly
meetings in the Medford area. We have also been working on developing a Community Garden for use by Latino forest
workers and their families. The garden was identiﬁed earlier in meetings as a project the community wanted to pursue. Another
success from the Medford project is the development of a clearinghouse of information on contracts and contractors. Through
identifying known contractors’ positive as well as negative qualities, forest workers are better able to make informed decisions
about who to apply to for work, and to educate other forest workers about the qualities of contractors. Another valuable skill
that the members received was training in Non-Timber Forest Product harvesting and adding value to restoration by-products.
The project was to make and sell Christmas wreaths created from restoration by-product material, i.e. boughs, pine cones etc.
This project has beneﬁted both rural and urban mobile forest workers and their families. The outreach worker trainees were
empowered, family stress was lowered, and forest workers gained access to local work with positive contractors. One of the
most important issues for the families was the amount of stress put on the family with forest workers are away from home.
Finding local work for some of the year has been very valuable.
� Community based Alliance for Training and Sustainable Stewardship – CATSS
Because of the workforce assessment interviews and interviews by outreach workers, we recognized the desire for skill building in the woods was a high
priority for forest workers. CATSS is a forest worker-training project in partnership with Lomakatsi Restoration project. This year the program focus
is in Tiller, Oregon. The project involves on the ground multilingual skill training in ecological forest restoration, including biophysical monitoring,
prescription layout and implementation, participating agreements, MOUs, timber stand exams, technical training, and skills building. Current work
with FS includes meetings, ﬁeld tours to develop a Demonstration Project on a Stewardship Contract site. This is unique in that it will be labor, the
workers, who are the leaders “at the table” and are educating a dwindling FS staff with little to no budget. This project is a National Forest Foundation
MAP Grant and has been matched with Ford and Sociological Initiatives Foundation funding. The ﬁrst trainings were conducted in the summer of
2005. The next trainings are scheduled for spring of 2006. This program is creating a unique model that can be used nationally. It focuses on local
capacity building for displaced workers and encourages local contractors to participate in Stewardship Contracting. It has also beneﬁted FS with little
to no funding as the AFWH has funded training, implementation and education on how to best do Stewardship Contracts which (maybe for the ﬁrst
time ever) has the forest worker/laborers involved in the process from the beginning.
� Workforce Assessments
We are in our third year of conducting interviews with the forest contract laborers in Oregon in partnership with the Ecosystem Workforce Program of
the University of Oregon. The ﬁrst two years’ focus was on interviewing Spanish-speaking contract forest laborers. This year the focus was on English-
speaking contract forest laborers. Products to come from these interviews include a working paper and a policy brieﬁng paper. There are many reasons
this project is necessary and many reasons it has been successful. Two of the most important reasons for success were Enrique Santos of the Oregon
Medford Project participants discussing Law Center, and Erin Halcomb, a forest laborer and writer. These two individuals were able to gain the trust of the workers they interviewed. They
their Community Garden Project accurately gathered information and shared their experiences to further everyone’s’ understanding of the people, the work, and the passion of working
in the forests. There were many similarities in the Spanish and English interviews. Things like love for the forest, low wages, changes in the
industry over the past 30 years, lack of health care, the toll taken on families when workers are away from home, the work is dangerous, skill building is
desired, labor laws are not known or enforced to name a few. Virtually nobody ever saw the department of labor on the job site. FS contract inspectors’
focus was on J roots (not planting the tree straight) rather than workers not getting food or water during the workday. Unsafe crummies (vehicles used
to transport forest workers) and unsafe drivers to the work sites were also common threads. Some of the differences noted were fear of complaining
about not getting food or water breaks (which are legally required) would result in Spanish-speaking workers getting deported or ﬁred. There was a
fear of reporting injuries for the same reasons. English-speaking workers were more likely to quit if not treated fairly. Spanish-speaking workers were
¤ Crescent Lake Mushroom Monitoring Project (CLMMP) limited on accessing other forest work when contracts ran out. English speaking workers were more likely to ﬁnd small local jobs from neighbors.
For ﬁve years we participated as a partner in the Crescent Lake Mushroom Monitoring Project. We gave ﬁnancial as well Both English and Spanish speaking workers had issues around how different races are treated, access to work, and feeling like they are all being
as technical support, including putting on Spring Mushroom Meetings in harvesters’ home communities. This year harvesters pushed to perform work and production at levels which are dangerous and unsafe and getting paid less for it. They all felt like the forest as well as the
and the CLMMP monitors, who represent English, Cambodian, Lao and Mien speaking harvesters, asked us to take the lead workers suffer from this sort of treatment. Imagine ten years ago being expected to plant 800 to 1,000 trees a day (backbreaking work) and now being
on the project. We hosted, co-funded with Forestry Action Committee, and facilitated spring meetings in both Redding and expected to plant 2,000 per day for the same pay. This year’s assessment project was funded by the Sociological Initiatives Foundation, and has also
Stockton, California. Participants were in Mien and Cambodian harvester communities. We invited the Deschutes Forest Service informed our priorities and organizing efforts. Due to the way the study was set up, when workers were interviewed and they were asked if they knew
including the District Ranger and six other staff. We also invited Bill Otani, the former FS liaison with the Asian Americans. The of any forest worker organizations and their answer was no, we were unable to disclose information speciﬁcally about AFWH. When all interviews
meetings in the home communities were lead by the monitors and harvesters. AFWH staff gave technical support by facilitation, were completed we were able to invite and meet with many of the forest workers that were interviewed at a meeting that shared ﬁndings and informed
communication, and note taking. Local food was prepared by harvester families and paid for by the AFWH. the working and brieﬁng papers. This is a valuable example or model in Participatory Research as it was the forest workers who thought of the study,
came up with the questions, conducted the interviews and informed the working and brieﬁng papers. It has been a powerful organizing tool. It has
also informed our testimony to Congress.
continued on P.8
United Forest Voice 4 United Forest Voice 9
¤ Crescent Lake Mushroom Monitoring Project (CLMMP)
(Projects continued from p. 4)
The harvesters set the agenda to address their concerns and questions, gave the FS the opportunity to listen and respond to
issues raised, and shared information on the coming season.
A series of meetings with the mushroom monitors, AFWH, and the Forest Service, especially the District Ranger, followed the
initial spring meetings. These subsequent meetings were valuable for sharing information on the harvest, the CLMMP, and biophysical
For those of you who have not already done so, check out the Sacramento Bee articles called “The Pineros- Men of
the Pines”. The web site is:
monitoring. The participants reviewed the Deschutes National Forest land management plans using maps and information gathered by the
FS. The information was integrated with harvesters’ knowledge to affect the plans by changes in management practices in high Matsutake
mushroom producing areas. The AFWH was, for the ﬁrst time since the project started, able to bring in a Forestry Technician to be a bridge
for understanding and disseminating information for the harvesters regarding land management and biophysical monitoring. We developed Tom Knudson, the writer, did an excellent job in highlighting some of the issues facing H2B (Immigrant guest
protocols to be used in the biophysical monitoring of Matsutake production in different treatment areas. Monitors, forestry technicians, and workers) in the US, as well as Latino NTFP brush harvesters from Washington State. Documentation was gathered
FS worked together to identify the best plot locations. by interviews with actual Forest Workers and NTFP brush Harvesters and their families, Forest Service personnel, FS
The mushroom monitors also worked throughout the season on social monitoring. They arrive at mushroom camp records from the inspections from the woods as well as information about a few of the companies who exploit these
weeks before the season starts and communicate to harvesters on conditions and season dates. They also have maps prepared by FS Forest Workers and Harvesters and calls for protection and enforcement of regulations to protect these workers and
to use to discuss the proposed logging/thinning (management) activities and to gather feedback from harvesters in all languages. This harvesters.
information is gathered before, during, and after the season ends. This is a good example of real multiparty monitoring. This year the AFWH Since these articles and letter to the editor have been published in the Sac. Bee hearings were held in Washington
and the monitors played a very important role in dispersing information in multiple languages. During the Matsutake season in Oregon, all
DC to begin to address current conditions, problems and solutions which need to be addressed for real change to
National Forests were shut down due to the use of Categorical Exclusions. Three out of the ﬁve forests in the mushroom gathering areas
covered by permits sold in Crescent were closed for harvest. The actual Matsutake harvest season is two months. The shut down of the
happen on the ground in the woods. We are very proud that AFWH board member/ forest worker Cece Headley
forest happened three and a half weeks into the permitted season. AFWH staff talked daily with FS NTFP representatives and updated was invited to witness the hearings where our workforce assessment partner, Dr. Cass Moseley of the Ecosystem
harvesters and monitors until harvesting reopened. We received voluminous calls in that short period of time from harvesters in the woods Workforce Program, Lynn Jungwirth of Watershed Research Training Center, Michael Dale of Northwest Workers
and in home communities. Having an 800 toll free number was essential for traveling harvesters to access us. Work continues with FS on Justice Project, and Cindy Wood a forest contractor all gave verbal presentations. Following is the letter AFWH sent
adapting their management activities in Matsutake high production areas. The latest information we have is the FS will likely drop many to the editor and AFWH written testimony that was submitted into the congressional record. A special thank you to
of the high production areas slated to be been logged or thinned with this plan. The challenge of course is that nothing is protected for the Maia Enzer of Sustainable Northwest for supporting Cece Headley to attend. And a big thank you to Cece, Cass, Lynn
next plan. This is an ongoing process, as new plans will be drawn soon. (continued on p. 9)
and Michael for sharing their written testimonies as well.
Pineros article response: Letter to the editor of the Sacramento Bee
As the only membership organization of forest workers and harvesters in the Paciﬁc West,
we would like to commend Tom Knudson and Hector Amezcua on their excellent investigative
series, The Pineros, that reveals the realities of our work and lives. We also appreciate the ﬁne
editorials calling for enforcement of existing labor laws and reforms to address working and living
conditions that are often unsafe, unfair, and dehumanizing. In honesty, we were initially reluctant
to cooperate with Mr. Knudson and some of our members outright refused to speak to him.
Unfortunately, there is a long history of forest workers being misrepresented, misinterpreted, and
misled by journalists, researchers, academics, and others who claim they want to “help” us or tell
As the series so aptly describes, there are myriad difﬁculties and dangers inherent in
working in the woods. Many of these will not change…mountain slopes will continue to be steep
and rocky, rain, snow, icy winds and unbearable heat will continue to beat down on our hardhats,
and crummy rides to work will continue to be lengthy and on dangerous roads. Recognition of
these adversities is a good ﬁrst step in promoting the need for better investment in and oversight
of occupational safety for forest workers.
As important though is the recognition that this work of planting, thinning, and other
forestry tasks demands real skills and competencies. To state that our work in the woods has been
The beautiful Buddhist Temple, it’s greatly undervalued is an understatement. Respect and much more appropriate compensation
colorful monks, and some happy would go far towards addressing many of the workers’ issues. The Federal agencies have the
participants at Crescent Lake. opportunity to lead this effort by honestly addressing how their contracting practices have created
and continue to maintain an underclass industry.
Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters
United Forest Voice 8 United Forest Voice 5
Denise Smith, Director
Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters U.S. Department of Agriculture
Forest Service U.S. Department of the Interior
Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, 1323 Club Drive Bureau of Land Management
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Oversight Hearing on Vallejo, CA 94592 2800 Cottage Way
Guest Workers on Public Lands and Forest Service Guidance Sacramento, CA 95825
March 1, 2006
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony on issues related to Forest Workers on Public Lands. My organization, the
Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters, appreciates the subcommittee directing attention to the health, safety, travel, and working conditions
workers encounter while working on forestry contracts on Public Lands. We believe that congressional action to direct the oversight of Federal
land management agencies can result in improvements in conditions for workers and their families, small businesses, rural communities, and forest Subject: Development of Interagency California Indian Traditional Gathering Policy
The Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters is a multicultural, grassroots organization promoting social, environmental, and economic
justice in the Paciﬁc West. Our membership includes contract workers who implement land management goals on the ground through reforestation, Dear Tribal Community Leader or Organization Director:
restoration, fuels reduction, timber stand improvement, ﬁre-ﬁghting, and other forestry service activities. Many of our members have been working
on Public Lands for many years, if not decades, and bring a wealth of experience and insight. Several were interviewed and quoted in Tom Knudson’s The USDI Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the USDA Forest Service (FS) are developing a joint policy for
“Pineros” series in the Sacramento Bee. Prior to submitting this written statement we met and communicated with our members speciﬁcally to inform lands administered by the two agencies in California. The purpose of this policy is to promote consistency in our
agencies’ support for traditional gathering.
our testimony. What we present to you here is from those whose livelihoods and wellbeing are directly affected by Federal Land Management and
Labor policies. Our local ofﬁces are currently working with traditional practitioners, spiritual leaders, basketweavers and others, but
On March 29, 2001 Alliance member Celia Headley, testiﬁed to this same Subcommittee at an oversight hearing on the National Fire there are recurring inconsistencies due to the lack of an interagency statewide policy or direction. We want to ensure
Plan. At that time she described the historical role of federal agencies with respect to the service workforce and the government’s role in creating an that traditional practitioners have access to plants and such plants are managed in a manner that promotes ecosystem
underclass industry. She also suggested some strategies for the federal agencies to address the resulting worker exploitation and abuse. Unfortunately, health.
ﬁve years later, many of these same conditions still exist and her suggested strategies have not been implemented. If anything, we see that workforce
conditions have deteriorated as evidenced by the continuing inability of ethical contractors and rural businesses to successfully compete for Service In order for this policy to be effective for your members, we need your participation throughout the process. We are
Contract awards and by the steep rise in the use of unprotected H2B guest workers in forestry work. initiating formal consultation with this letter and would appreciate comments within 60 days of the date of this letter.
We are also working with the California Indian Basketweavers Association and the California Indian Forest and Fire
Land Management Agencies Policies that Promote Worker Exploitation and Abuse Management Council, to assist us in reaching traditional practitioners as we develop this policy. Consultation has been
initiated earlier with federally recognized Tribes.
Non Enforcement of Labor Laws
It has been a long-standing policy that Federal land management agencies do not monitor or enforce compliance with labor laws, service contract We respectfully request your initial comments on the attached draft policy outline. By providing your comments
within 60 days of the date of this letter, we can address your concerns early in the process. We anticipate completing
provisions, or health and safety requirements. This has been perceived as the responsibility of the Department of Labor or State Labor departments.
and implementing this policy by the summer of 2006. We will continue to consult with you on future drafts.
Unfortunately, these Agencies are without the capacity and the mandate to address this task in any meaningful way.
Alliance members who work on Forest Service contracts inform us that one of the greatest obstacles to better safety, travel, and working You can send comments to Sonia Tamez, Forest Service or Ken Wilson, BLM at the addresses noted in the letterhead.
conditions lies in the government’s refusal to act upon labor law violations, non compliance of contract provisions, and blatant worker abuse. We If you need further information or want to discuss, please contact Sonia at 707-562-8919 or Ken at 916-978-4648. The
have heard numerous reports of contract inspectors looking the other way when workers are not provided proper safety gear or tools, are hurt on the local BLM and FS managers will be following up with you to discuss the draft policy outline further. You can also
job and not given medical care, transported in unsafe vehicles, provided unhealthy and unsanitary camping or lodging conditions, denied lunch or mid contact them at the numbers on the attached lists. We appreciate your participation in this effort.
day breaks, and required to perform unpaid overtime. In the interest of achieving higher production rates government personnel have been known to
undermine workers efforts for better conditions. One of our members was a work supervisor who routinely had his crew do stretching exercises before Respectfully,
beginning a day of arduous physical work. This is a practice highly recommended by OSHA. A Forest Service inspector viewed this practice as time /s/ James Wesley Abbott (for) /s/ Thomas L. Tidwell (for)
taken from production and reported it to the company owner. The supervisor subsequently was ﬁred from his job.
Below Cost Awards Mike Pool Bernie Weingardt
In the interest of accomplishing work in what appears to be a least-cost fashion, Federal agencies award labor intensive contracts, such as tree planting California State Director Regional Forester
and thinning, on a low bid basis. A distressing tendency for these awards to routinely be below the true costs required to comply with labor laws, service Bureau of Land Management Paciﬁc Southwest Region, Forest Service
contract provisions, or health and safety requirements has evolved. This has resulted in a downward spiral in the industry, creating a business climate
DRAFT POLICY OUTLINE
where ethical contractors cannot compete and worker exploitation is required to get the job done. Our members report that individual production
quotas have increased signiﬁcantly to adjust for the lowering of bid prices. Laborers are forced to work harder, longer, and for less compensation than
∑ The BLM and FS supports traditional native cultural practitioners in gathering culturally utilized botanical species at sustainable subsistence
they did some years ago. These very low awards are also indicating the existence of an abundance of workers. This runs contrary to the claims of
levels for personal, ceremonial or noncommercial use.
some contractors of the need for foreign guest workers, which fuels the H2-B forestry program.
∑ No fees or permits are required for traditional gathering.
To address the above we propose the following actions on the part of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management:
∑ Gatherers have access for traditional practices to lands managed by the BLM and FS. As applicable, this policy is implemented in concert with
1. Institute safety and working condition inspections by the COR or CO of Service Contracts within 3 weeks of commencement.
other management direction. Conﬂicts will be addressed locally.
2. Instruct all Agency personnel to monitor for and act upon safety, contract, or labor violations. Contract work should be immediately
suspended until violations are corrected. Repeat offenders should face default and eventual debarment.
∑ This policy encourages the use of tribal traditional management practices to enhance culturally utilized ﬂora and promote ecosystem health.
3. Institute a policy of not awarding any contracts for less than 20% below the government estimate.
4. Institute collaboration between land management agencies and the Department of Labor to share information on violators.
∑ This policy also encourages local managers to work in collaboration with Tribes, groups and traditional practitioners to identify and enhance
5. Institute a review of the H-2B program with particular emphasis on determination of need for guest workers in forestry and the lack of
traditionally important plant resources.
recruitment of local workers for contracts that are using H-2B workers.
∑ This policy shall be reviewed periodically through consultation and coordination to ensure policy effectiveness.
In conclusion we want to acknowledge our appreciation of the Subcommittee’s interest in the conditions for those who toil on
Public Lands. We support the testimony of the hearing witnesses and agree with many of their conclusions and recommendations. We
hope to see implementation by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management of many of these recommendations in the near future.
We encourage continued oversight by the Subcommittee of Federal Land Management and Labor Agencies to monitor the progress of this
6 United Forest Voice 7