State Supreme Court, on May 24, 1973, dismisses charges against attorney and labor organizer convicted of trespass for entering migrant worker camp.

  • By Kit Oldham
  • Posted 2/14/2003
  • Essay 5201
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On May 24, 1973, the Washington Supreme Court holds that labor organizers and attorneys cannot be convicted of trespass for entering a migrant worker camp on private property to meet with workers and provide requested legal advice. The Court dismisses the charges against Michael J. Fox and Guadelupe Gamboa, who were convicted and fined $25 each after they refused to leave a camp where migrant workers had asked to meet with them.

Labor's Invited Guests

Fox, then an attorney for the Seattle-King County Legal Aid Bureau and now (2002) a long-time King County Superior Court judge, and Gamboa, an organizer for the United Farm Workers, went to the labor camp, located on private land near Walla Walla, on June 19, 1971, after some of the workers told Gamboa that they wanted information about their rights regarding their contract, a bonus, and other matters. About 220 migrant workers who had come from Texas to work in the asparagus harvest paid $2.75 per day to live in the camp.

When Fox and Gamboa arrived at the camp, they were told that they did not have permission from the company that leased the property to be there, and were asked to leave. They responded that they did not need the company's permission, remained on the property, and were arrested. After being convicted, Fox and Gamboa, represented by attorneys Charles Ehlert of the ACLU of Washington and Mario Obledo of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, appealed to the state Supreme Court.

A Lawful Right

In its decision, the Court noted that the workers were tenants who paid to live in the camp, and therefore had the right to invite others onto the premises. The Court stated that under the constitutional right to counsel, Fox had a lawful right to remain on the property to consult with potential clients. It added that under statutes and earlier decisions regarding the rights of labor organizers, Gamboa had a right to meet with workers in a reasonable manner. By holding that Fox and Gamboa had a lawful right to be at the labor camp, the Court decision recognized "the right of migrant workers to meet with people of their own choosing" (Honig and Brenner).


Douglas Honig and Laura Brenner, On Freedom's Frontier: The First Fifty Years of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington State (Seattle: American Civil Liberties Union, 1987), 77; State v. Fox, 82 Wn.2d 289, 510 P.2d 230 (1973).

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