The Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) was selected as a 2021 California Nonprofit of the Year by State Senator Monique Limón.
MICOP has done substantial work with the farmworker community in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and is the only organization dedicated entirely to addressing the unique needs of Indigenous migrants on the Central Coast. Established in 2001, the organization’s mission has been to support, organize, and empower Indigenous migrants from the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
“What a coincidence. We are precisely celebrating 20 years of MICOP. This recognition is very important for our organization, but more important is for our migrant Indigenous community and leaders, because it represents visibility,” said MICOP Executive Director Arcenio Lopez.
Despite its success, the past year and a half in the pandemic has been hard on MICOP — though it persevered. Just as MICOP was launching its farmworker census campaign, the stay-at-home orders were put in place in California. Many worked in the agriculture industry and were considered “essential workers” but were not eligible to receive essential resources during COVID-19.
“During COVID-19 surges and losses, our team showed up every day and handled everything from domestic violence cases, deportations, labor strikes, and attending to the mental health needs of our Indigenous community,” said Genevieve Flores-Haro, associate director of MICOP.
“We adapted our farmworker census work that led to Ventura County being in the top 95th percentile in the nation for an accurate count. And in addition to our day-to-day work, we continually informed the community about COVID, COVID testing, and COVID vaccines in our Indigenous languages.”
This recognition comes at a time when the Supreme Court recently ruled that a California regulation that allowed union organizers to recruit agricultural workers in the field violated the constitutional rights of the employers. This move undid an earlier 1970s argument by the farmworkers movement — led by César Chávez — that said allowing organizers to enter the field was the only way to reach the often poorly educated workers and give them an opportunity to join a union.
Despite the ruling, MICOP will continue to “train and organize farmworkers around unjust working conditions” and advocate at the local and state level for stronger enforcement and grower compliance with the labor laws.