Moreno v. Tankersley : The Migrant Class Action of 1969
Casas, Mary Ann
In the summer of 1969, Lupe Bustos, a part-time disc jockey for a local Spanish-speaking radio program, received a phone call from a group of Mexican-American farm workers with a plea for help. Bustos, who was also a Bureau of Labor employee, had been broadcasting radio communications aimed at local Hispanic migrant workers, urging them to stand up for themselves and speak up about the injustices taking place in the labor camps, an issue that the public had in recent years become increasingly aware of. The caller, an employee at Tankersley’s Spanish-American Berry Farm just outside of the small town of North Plains in Washington County, Oregon, had sneaked off of the labor camp premises to use the nearest pay phone to contact Bustos about the situation in which the workers had found themselves. In addition to complaining about wages and living conditions, these workers felt like “virtual prisoners” of their employer, Ronald Tankersley. A meeting was arranged at the local Catholic Church for the following Sunday, the only day the workers were able and allowed to leave the camp . This meeting would kick-off an arduous legal battle that lasted two years and proved to be a significant event in the lives of all involved, as well as a groundbreaking case in Oregon. It was not the first time issues in the migrant labor world would manage to gain the attention of both the general public and government officials, nor would it be the last.