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Sea Mar CHC - La Posada East and West
Home | Background
La Posada East and West Background
 
 
Sea Mar — proud to be part of solution for housing farm workers
Sea Mar Community Health Centers is proud to provide affordable housing for farm workers in Washington State.

La Posada East and La Posada West, scheduled to open prior to September 2010, provides temporary motel-style residency for more than 150 farm workers in Pasco/Tri-Cities in eastern Washington. The housing is a direct result of a three-year effort (1997-1999) to improve living conditions for farm workers.

For decades, housing for farm workers in Washington State was all but ignored, even while the agricultural industry was undergoing unprecedented growth.

In 1997, a bill in the state legislature, approved by both the House and Senate (SSB 5668), would have allowed for construction of substandard housing for farm-worker families that was without insulation, running water, or bathroom and cooking facilities.

Sea Mar joined with the United Farm Workers of Washington, El Centro de la Raza, and Concilio for the Spanish Speaking, to convince then Governor Gary Locke to veto SSB 5668. The veto came after much heated debate because everyone understood there was a severe shortage of housing for farm workers.

Following Governor Locke’s important veto of SSB 5668, a farm-worker coalition emerged, including the above organizations, some conscientious Seattle business people, and other interested individuals. The coalition sought affordable, decent housing for the nearly 40,000 farm workers who picked apples, cherries, and other handharvested crops in Washington.

Coalition members believed farm workers deserved to live in housing that met state and federal housing standards, just like everyone else. Based on this principle, the farm-worker coalition set out to convince the state to invest in community-based housing.

In a May 21, 1997, op-ed published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sea Mar CEO and president, Rogelio Riojas, wrote, “… community-based housing could provide decent, affordable dwellings that are up to current codes. The units would be centrally located and integrated with the general community, enabling workers not to be tied to any one farm but, rather, to be available to work on a number of farms.”

The coalition embarked on a public-education campaign, believing that the majority of the general public, if made aware of the deplorable living conditions of farm workers, “would be just as appalled as were at the time,” Riojas recalls. “We knew we needed to show the inhumanity of allowing thousands of men, women and children to live on riverbanks, fields, or in delapidated, unsanitary housing—right here in Washington
State.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was among the first of the state’s major news media to respond. On November 23, 1997, the P-I used the entire front page of its Sunday editorial page to depict and comment on the “housing” endured by entire families—a man outdoors, protected only with cardboard walls and no roof; a child living on a river bank in eastern Washington with a makeshift plastic tent in the background, among others.

The photos shown in the P-I (and on this page) were taken by professional photographer, Jeff Corwin, of Seattle. After being recruited by the farm-worker coalition, Corwin, at his own expense, traveled to eastern Washington to chronicle the conditions.

The commentary accompanying the photos, provided by associate editor of the P-I, Sam Sperry, stated in part.

A public education campaign was in full swing by early 1998. Throughout the year, several of the state’s daily newspapers, as well as major television networks, portrayed and commented on the housing conditions of farm workers, which even drew national attention.

Prior to the 1999 legislative session, Governor Locke, after having toured areas in the Columbia Basin where farm workers lived, declared farm-worker housing the state’s number one housing priority. That year, Governor Locke succeeded in convincing the legislature to begin a 10-year, $40 million investment in farm worker housing.

By 2010, the state and federal governments have invested more than $80 million for farm-worker housing in Washington State. With additional leveraging of these funds, estimates are that the total invested easily exceeds $100 million since 1999.

 

The living conditions of farm-worker families, depicted by Jeff Corwin in the photos above, contrast sharply with housing provided by La Posada East and La Posada West (left), in Pasco, Wash.
Sea Mar is proud to be part of the solution to help farm workers live in safe, affordable, and decent housing in Washington State.

Sea Mar appreciates the work of the farm-worker advocates and coalition members (1997-98):

Jeff Corwin, Photographer, Seattle
Guadalupe Gamboa, United Farm Workers of Washington, Sunnyside
Jack Faris, Cole and Weber, Seattle
Roberto Maestas, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle

Darlene Madenwald, ambientalista, Seattle
Don Stark, Gogerty Stark Marriot, Seattle
Glenn Pascal, Consultor, Seattle
Rogelio Riojas, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Seattle
Ricardo Sanchez, Concilio for the Spanish Speaking, Seattle Joel Van Etta, Gogerty Stark Marriot, Seattle

 
 
 

“Pictured here are the workers, and their children, who reach up and stoop down to pick the fruits and vegetables for our tables. Their living conditions are a moral outrage for which we all should take
responsibility. We enjoy the product of their labor and allow them to live like animals—if that well.”

 
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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