Religious leaders back striking dairy workers

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SALEM, Ohio – Striking dairy workers in Wayne County are getting support from the Catholic church.

A letter signed by 15 leaders in the Cleveland Diocese, including Bishop Martin Amos, asks Stoll Farms to negotiate with the 35 Hispanic workers. It was left up to individual priests whether to read the letter to their congregations Sunday or to place a copy in the weekly bulletins.

Immigrant workers’ rights and dignity are often ignored and someone needs to be watching out for them, said the diocese’s rural life director, Pat O’Bryan.

The workers went on strike Nov. 2 at the Marshallville, Ohio, farm and have since demanded respect, pay for all hours worked and an end to racially motivated harassment.

Resolution?

The church hopes there will be a resolution beneficial to both parties, O’Bryan said. This would mean the workers’ needs will be met and Stoll Farms will have good workers and high production, he said.

It’s not all about money, he said. Yes, the workers would like a guaranteed wage, but most importantly, they want respect, O’Bryan said.

Getting help

In addition to asking parishioners to pray for a resolution, the letter requests financial assistance for the workers and their families. Donations can be made to the United Dairy Workers of Ohio, Local 1, through Ohio Legacy Bank in Wooster. The church is also accepting food and phone card gifts.

Many workers had to get part-time jobs since the strike began so they could continue feeding their families, said Jeff Stewart, director of Canton’s Immigrant Worker Project.

Picketing at the farm continues, although not as often, Stewart said.

Stoll Farms’ attorney, Mark Skakun, did not return calls for comment.

Related coverage:

Dairy workers stay on strike (12/2/2004)

Dairy workers go on strike (11/18/2004)

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