Going the Distance

For the past six months, eighty-some homeless people have squatted under the Fremont Bridge. A few weeks ago, however, the city said they must leave. Not a group to go silently, the homeless have revealed a secret weapon: Cathy Freeman, the Australian Aboriginal gold medallist (400 meters).

No stranger to fights for property rights, Freeman raised Cain and national consciousness when she unraveled the Aboriginal flag after winning the 400-m. race at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. The intrepid runner is spending the summer with her husband, a Portland resident, and read about Dignity Village in a local newspaper. Inspired, she pledged to spend several hours a day working with the tent dwellers.

But if Freeman is not as quick with political change as she is on the track, she may find herself part of a shopping cart parade moving out of Dignity Village; the homeless have until July 1 to find a new location. COURTNEY SHERWOOD

Pickers Revolt

Standing in front of a small group of reporters, Enrique Diaz Lupian explained how an untrained forklift driver had pinned him against a wall at a local mushroom farm. The impact shattered one of his arms, and several days later, he had to have his hand amputated.

The Willamette Valley is a veritable salad of strawberries, asparagus and mushrooms. Every year, an estimated 100,000 low-wage workers flock here to grab temporary jobs as pickers and canners. But farm workers--many Latino immigrants--have, at best, a weak voice to use against farm owners. Every summer, hundreds of accidents at local farms, strawberry patches, and mushroom canneries go unreported.

However, over the past several years, PCUN, a labor union, has slowly coalesced and is forcing Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) to pay closer attention to the loose safety precautions. Already, OSHA has fined Pictsweet Mushroom Farms nearly $8000.

On Monday, June 18, PCUN will begin a weeklong march through the Willamette Valley. Rebecca Saldana, a local union organizer, hopes the march will raise field workers' awareness about labor unions. For more information, contact PCUN at 541-746-7971. PHIL BUSSE