UFW silent as robot readies to replace farmworkers

The first fruit-picking prototype robot proves that it is practical to harvest apples by machine.

This video of the prototype robot has been on YouTube for five months – but the UFW hasn’t said a word.

Robots can now harvest fruit. This will affect farmworkers, but UFW is silent.

Why has the UFW been silent about a technological breakthrough that promises dramatic changes in the livelihoods of farmworkers?

Is the UFW simply content to keep its members down, as the most humble people in the labor force, while it takes 3 percent of their salary as “dues”?

Or is the UFW’s entrenched leadership so stuck in its ways that it can’t think beyond primitive methods of farming?

Backward UFW leadership can’t address its members needs

It looks like the UFW can’t adapt to advance the skills of those it claims to represent.

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez has been living off union members’ dues for since 1972. In 44 years, Rodriguez has done nothing to help train union members to embrace technology – and earn the big salaries that go with operating such machines.

UFW First Vice President Irv Hershenbaum, on the union payroll for 41 years, remains as primitive as ever.

Instead of helping California farmworkers earn more money by becoming robot machinery operators, quality control technicians, robot mechanics, robot programmers, IT repair experts and other skilled jobs, the UFW is keeping its members stuck to centuries-old farming methods at minimum wage.

Instead of organizing in California for its members to earn high wages, the UFW leaders are off to Nicaragua to fight for people who aren’t even members to earn a “dignified wage” of $7.50 a day.

Instead of working collaboratively with farm owners to find common solutions – as it does in Nicaragua – the UFW provokes constant conflict between workers and employers, and lobbies the California state government to punish workers who want to de-certify the union.

Like it or not, robotic farmworkers are coming. And robots don’t pay union dues. The UFW has to change with the times or disappear.