Beginning in 1994, The Jefferson Center convened numerous multilingual gatherings of forest workers, non-timber harvesters, and other stakeholders throughout the Pacific West.
Empowering forest workers and harvesters of non-timber forest products in northern California, Oregon and Washington to improve their lives and livelihoods
In 1997, an independent organization was formed to address many shared common concerns: low pay for forest work and lack of health insurance; health and safety on the job; workplace abuse; sustainability of forest resources; and having a voice in natural resource policy decisions.
Bylaws and an organizational structure were developed, and in 1999 the first Board of Directors was appointed, representing multicultural forest workers and NTFP harvesters from California, Oregon, and Washington.
From 1999-2005, the Board and staff continued to promote and support work in the Community-Based Forestry Movement as one of the 13 Community-Based Forestry Demonstration Projects supported by the Ford Foundation.
Testifying to Congress on working conditions among forest workers led to a forum in 2007 with US Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor officials which, in turn, led to greater coordination between USDA and DOL on issues relating to forest labor.
In 2009, the Board of Directors engaged in a strategic planning process and developed the Sí Sé: Salud y Seguridad en el Trabajo program, which employs women from the forest worker community in Medford, Oregon, as promotoras (community health workers) to train forest workers in preventing on-the-job injuries and educating them about their rights.
In 2010, a longstanding dream of members of the Northwest Forest Worker Center to start a community garden came together when Dr. Barbara Sibley and her husband, Will Prust, started leasing one acre of their property just outside Ashland for $1.00 per year to the NFWC to use for the garden.
Collaboration with the Low Wage Worker Legal Network led in 2011 to the Department of Labor substantially revising the regulations governing the H-2B (guestworker) visa program to include greater protections for the thousands of workers who enter the U.S. every year with these visas to work in the forest restoration, landscape, seafood, and many other industries.
The Gifford Pinchot Huckleberry Monitoring Project began in 2012 to improve communication between huckleberry harvesters and the Forest Service, and to help huckleberry harvesters serve as monitors, educating their fellow harvesters about how to minimize their impact on forest resources.
In 2013, the Board of Directors changed the name of the organization from Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters to Northwest Forest Worker Center, in part to highlight a commitment to working collaboratively toward the stewardship of forest resources that is firmly rooted in social and environmental ethics.
Since the fall of 2011, NFWC promotoras have trained hundreds of forest workers in southern Oregon using the educational materials developed for this purpose. Training modules offer ongoing education in health and safety around pesticides, rights and responsibilities, on-the-job injury, chainsaw operation, and outdoor work.