Environmental Concerns

MedFly Billboard

In addition to agriculture concerns related to labor and land use, the CWA also defended the agriculture industry on issues concerning water use, energy use, pesticide use, and farm animal health.

MedFly Map

For example, the Mediterranean fruit fly, commonly known as the medfly, was considered the most destructive fruit fly in the world impacted California agriculture. The cause of its destruction was due to female medflies drilling holes into fruit skin and depositing eggs. In fact, a single medfly was capable of laying up to 800 eggs in its lifetime. Typically during the summer, the medfly eggs hatched and formed into maggots. The maggots burrowed into the fruit’s pulp, leaving behind a decaying inedible mass. This cycle repeated as the maggots grew into mature medflies. 

"Attention Kids MedFly"

In June, 1980, an infestation of medflies consumed crops first in Canoga Park in Los Angeles and Santa Clara County, and continued to spread throughout California. Not only were crops destroyed, but the medfly infestation economically impacted agribusiness as 200 fruits and vegetables were susceptible to damage, an estimated cost of $4 billion. On December 24, 1980, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Santa Clara and Alameda counties as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an medfly eradication campaign. Still, the CWA argued that Governor Jerry Brown did not do enough and even showed a lack of concern, especially when he rejected an aerial pesticide spraying to destroy the flies. CWA members response to the medfly infestation was going door-to-door in communities impacted by the medfly infestation to strip infected trees of its fruit, which was meant to prevent further spread of medflies.

"Lord of the Flies" Governor Brown

Additionally, on a number of occasions the CWA protested for the right to utilize chemical pesticides. CWA members argued in their campaigns that defending this position would ensure the production of an abundance of agricultural crops. The CWA demonstrated this position in protests, including demonstrations in opposition to Propositions 128 and 135.

"Local Farmers Rally for No on Prop 135"

Additionally, the CWA protested the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a law enacted in 1973 when in 1994 a Kern County farmer was arrested for destroying the habitat of the Tipton Kangaroo Rat, an endangered species. The CWA claimed that the arrest of the farmer was Endangered Species Act abuse. Later in 1997, Governor Pete Wilson signed into law two ESA reform bills, SB231 and SB879, which established guidelines for “incidental” killing of endangered species and destruction of habitats. The bill also included legislation to create a program that would encourage farmers to voluntarily set up protection for animals on their farms. 

"Filler Up"

Furthermore, the CWA protested the ESA again when the state of California allocated water to saving endangered salmon, and did not ration enough water to farmers. The CWA argued that a decreased distribution of water would lead to layoffs of farmer employees. CWA members demonstrated at the Capitol, in what they described was a “water awareness rally.” In fact, one of the rally banners read, “jobs first, fish second.” To follow up after the protests, founding member, Lynn Skinner sought to educate the public about water usage in a series of workshops. 

"Fill the Dam" Flyer

Related Collections: 

1. "CWA Activism"


2. "CWA Activism: Medfly"


Environmental Concerns