“But this may change as one of the most important battles in the history of migrant labor is launched by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). If this battle succeeds it will nearly double the wages of the farmworkers who labor in the $600 million tomato-growing industry. A victory over the supermarket chains also would hold out the possibility of significantly alleviating the draconian conditions that permit forced labor, crippling poverty and egregious human rights abuses, including documented cases of slavery, in the nation's tomato fields. If the CIW campaign - which is designed to pressure supermarket chains including Publix, Trader Joe's , Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Ahold brands Giant and Stop & Shop to sign the CIW Fair Food Agreement - fails, however, it threatens to roll back the modest gains made by farmworkers. It depends on us.”—Tomatoes of Wrath
Proposed legislation would require farmworkers to have documentation
I love how in this recent article in the New York Times the reporter did not bother to speak to a single farmworker about the proposed farmworker legislation!
The problem is not the undocumented workers (note: undocumented, not illegal) who for the most part are seeking better future for their families and taking jobs that the majority of legal citizens do not want.
The problem is that because these workers do not have documentation wealthy landowners and agricultural corporations believe that they do not have to provide adequate compensation, establish workplace safety standards (like water and shade), or grant workers the right to unionize.
We can take a more humane approach to the farm labor issue by offering work visas in the short term and providing a path towards citizenship for the long term.
At an international level, we must reform NAFTA and other unjust trade agreements which impoverished Mexican campesinos and created the economic reasons why so many immigrants are forced to leave their family, friends, and homes in the first place.
A brief comment on the GOP debate...
..Is Rick Perry aware that most of those illegal immigrants he’s referring to who are being hired by American companies are migrant farm workers and slaughterhouse employees? These immigrants are doing the work that Americans refuse to stoop low enough to perform, not only because they are arduous and low paying jobs, but because they are extremely dangerous.
If Rick Perry wants to stop American companies from hiring illegal immigrants, he needs to first look at the state of our agricultural system and the conditions of it’s workplaces.
Crossroads. (Familiar Faces.)
Dogwood baked in the omnipotent light that seemed to have no real point of origin. Every dead weed, exposed stone and abandoned car part caught and absorbed the harsh sunlight, everything with an even coating of dust and kicked up earth.
An old, beaten Expedition rumbled along the lonely strip of road, a deep, concave dent on it’s left side making it more at home among the forgotten machine sheds and reliable-but-worn pickups the irrigators left at the far side of the fields they fed canal water. The driver’s face was set in a hard thousand-yard stare that was aware of place, but not time or purpose. His unfocused eyes stared out of the furrowed brow above it, accentuating the clenched jaw and slightly parted lips that mouthed along with the acoustic song wafting through the off-center speakers. His light earth brown skin betrayed the tense muscles underneath, his body trying to make up for the slack in awareness.
His few shifts in movement; dusting off his worn, fading jeans or scratching his short, heat irritated hair revealed the rigidity his body responded with. The mockingly indifferent tone of the song coming through the car’s sound system stirred some memory within the young man’s limited consciousness, his throat rumbling in a reflexive vocalization, “we will take everything away.” tears formed in the corners of his wind blown eyes, his hand rising to wipe them away. He sighed and let up on the gas, coming to a near crawl, no drivers in sight both in front or behind him. The car pulled to an uneven crossroads. On one corner was the thick, lush forest of evergreens and palms fenced off defensively from the far-reaching emptiness of the out of season and empty fields around it.
He pulled the car onto the gravel shoulder of the road, looking down at his lap for a moment, then looking up and taking account of the area. He immediately focused on the shaded orange stand on the opposite corner. He blinked the droplet of sweat that fell from his brow away and shook himself awake, a wave of cool numbness leaving him. He stepped out of this car and shut the door forcefully, tracing a finger along the steel grey edge of the dent on the driver’s side door. He looked back towards the stand and waited, not entirely sure exactly what it was he was expecting.
The crossroads was a vacuum of still air and absent sound, only the cautious crunch of the young man’s steps on gravel filled it. The old man sitting under the home-made canopy looked in the young man’s direction, his eyes hidden by the deep green lenses of his aging aviators. “Afternoon.” The younger man smiled, squinting in the abrasive light. “Yeah, hey.” He stepped into the shade and put his hands on his hips, looking over the bags of ripe, firm oranges, the heat somehow sparing them.
He looked at the older man, his head turned in his direction.
” I know, just, no one out today.”
“you look familiar.”
The older man moved around a bit, the canvas and steel lawn chair under him creaking and popping. He swept a hand through his curly salt and pepper hair, a V of sweat from the bottom fold in his neck to the mid-line of his gut, the button up shirt’s black buttons like strained bolts on an expanding tank of molasses.
“Yeah, you have a familiar face.”
“I pass here alot”
The young man looked back to his car, almost willing himself back to it.
“No, no, not that kind of familiar… are you related to … uhm.”
“I’m actually a bit busy.”
“Celeste Obre… Obregon?”
The young man was taken aback and locked his eyes on a dried orange peel near the rear tire of the old man’s pickup.
“that’s my Grandmother.”
“Ah, see, I knew it, it was probably your look.”
He mimicked the hard-set face and let out an amused laugh.
“Yeah, that’s it, Celeste always had that look, man she scared the heck out of me.”
“How do you know her?”
“Oh, me and her used to be good friends, hell I was almost her first-born’s Nino.”
The young man was completely awake now, his face softening and relaxing.
“whats your name?”
“Israel Linda, don’t mind the last name.”
“I’ve, I’ve never heard of you.”
There was a tired tone in his answer, tired and hurt, like there was no doubt in his mind and it was just more salt into a wound be thought had healed. Silence returned and ruled for a moment.
“I’m Saul, you already know my last name.”
The old man glanced over and shook his hand half-heartedly, looking back out into the endless empty fields.
“You said you were busy.”
Saul unconsciously recoiled from the statement. It wasn’t a question, or even a reminder, it was bordering an order.
“Yeah, I need to head to El Centro”
“Well, don’t let me keep you.”
Saul nodded, thrown off by the sudden change he felt from the old man.
“Well, actually, I’d like to buy a bag of oranges.”
The old man rose, his back and the back of his chair dark from sweat, and went to the back of the pickup, retrieving an almost bursting bag of oranges.
Saul pulled out his wallet and removed a crisp five and two crumpled and well-worn singles, putting them into the old man’s leather-rough hands.
He walked with the bag of oranges and tossed them into the passenger seat, climbing in after them. The car coughed to life and resumed the morose song it had been playing earlier. Saul put the car into gear and pulled off the shoulder, giving a quick wave to the old man as he passed.
The smell of the oranges filled the car and embedded itself in the air conditioner, most likely from the cracked and bleeding orange at the top of the bag. He pressed his finger against the portion of the bag that was over the orange and felt the cool, pulpy fluid underneath.