In the last ten years, PCUN, an advocacy group for farm workers, began using a new strategy for out maneuvering stubborn employees. PCUN demanded that NORPAC--Oregon's largest distributor of foods and manager of farms--provide better conditions and pay for workers. But instead of directly lobbying against the giant corporation, they organized boycotts of NORPAC's food products, like Gardenburgers. Called secondary boycotts, this form of collective bargaining proved effective, and PCUN successfully convinced NORPAC to consider and implement their demands.

But now, a year later, PCUN is afraid that secondary boycotts--one of their most effective tools for leveling the playing field between workers and corporate farms--will soon be illegal. Two weeks ago, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill 4025, which essentially limits the rights of farm workers to use collective bargaining. While Kitzhaber is expected to veto the bill, PCUN is warning that bills such as this one have the potential to undermine major gains, such as the NORPAC agreement, and limit PCUN from using collective bargaining in the future.

In light of the recent success with NORPAC, Ramon Ramirez, President of PCUN, is not surprised that the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB)--a group of advocates for farm owners, and the force behind the bill--have tried to disable PCUN. "We're not surprised, because when people start getting power that they've never had before, the rules of the game change," said Ramirez.

According to Dave Dillon, Deputy Executive Director for OFB, "This [bill] had nothing to do with the NORPAC agreement. In fact, we started working on it before the agreement took place." Dillon argues that secondary boycotts place too much distance between bargaining power and the workers. By boycotting Gardenburger, Dillon argues, the decision is no longer one between worker and employer. The OFB also argues that secondary boycotts are illegal in non-agriculture and therefore should be illegal for agriculture, as well.

Even though Dillon acknowledges the likelihood of Kitzhaber's veto, he promises that OFB will return. "This is an issue that has really galvanized the agricultural community," said Dillion. "We rarely move with this much speed, but it is unusual that we have this much support. If there is a veto, we'll certainly be back."