Thursday, March 31, 2011

Farmworkers lack legal protections and rights that others take for granted

Americans are asking questions about where their food comes from, but few worry about who picked it. Farmworkers remain in the shadows. Today--on Cesar Chavez day--a new report shines a light into these dark corners of our nation's food system.

The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States is the product of a unique for-profit/NGO joint venture. It yields a comprehensive picture of the reality America's least-valued yet critically important workforce face.

Key issues faced by the nation's 1.4 million crop farmworkers:

·         Farmworkers are exempt from most federal wage and hour standards, and even existing regulations are rarely enforced, leading to rampant wage theft and other abuses.

·         Children as young as 12 are legally allowed to engage in farm work, although it is one of the most dangerous employment sectors.

·         Widespread use of subcontractors leads to lack of transparency and difficulty enforcing existing laws.

·         Health and safety standards are inadequate, and even those that exist are rarely enforced.

·         Most farmworkers are ineligible for unemployment insurance and workers' compensation insurance that is granted to employees in other sectors.

·         Farmworkers are explicitly excluded from laws that protect collective bargaining and free association.

Our U.S. food supply depends on the labor of a socially and economically marginalized population working in often appalling, sometimes abusive conditions.

The publication, timed to release on Cesar Chavez day in honor of the labor leader who fought tirelessly for farmworker rights, is a joint venture of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation with support from Oxfam America

All participants hope it will bring justice to the millions of workers who toil in our fields by leading to the development of verifiable and enforceable standards for farm work that can be supported by both individual consumers and socially responsible corporations. Consumers can make agricultural employers treat farmworkers with dignity by buying from stores and restaurants that are fair.

"Thirty-nine years ago, Cesar Chavez coined the phrase 'Si se puede!' ['Yes, we can!'] — a reminder that each of us is the keeper of Cesar's legacy," said UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez. "The greatest monument to Cesar Chavez isn't on a street sign or an official holiday. It's having the courage to work for change that he instilled in his own people and in millions of others who never worked on a farm."

America's cheap and abundant food system is the envy of the world, but it can’t continue to rely on an invisible underclass of exploited laborers. Until we acknowledge this and get farmworkers the same legal protections any other U.S. occupation enjoys, we will never have a food system that is truly sustainable, fair, and healthy for all.

And who can stomach that?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Immigration Forum, El Paso, TX--April 2, 2011

In conjunction with the 2011 Voice of the Voiceless Event,

Catholic Daughters Hall
801 Magoffin Avenue
El Paso, Texas

There is no cost to attend.
Translation will be provided./ Habrá traduccion.
Light refreshments will be served

The Forum will 

  • explore the reality facing the immigrant in both Mexico and the United States, 
  • offer new ways of conceptualizing immigration, and 
  • outline the communal imperative to work for immigrant justice – to bring the immigrant down from the cross.

 Friar José Raúl Vera López, OP
 Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico
 Presenter: Rev. Pedro Pantoja
 Director, Belén, Posada del Migrante of Saltillo,
Coahuila, México.
 Presenter: Ms. Elizabeth Flores
 Director, Pastoral Obrera, Diocese of Juárez, México
 Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C
 Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
 Producer of the Documentary: Dying to Live – A
Migrant’s Journey
 Presenter: Ms. Kat Rodriguez
 Program Director, Coalición de Derechos Humanos,
Tucson, Arizona
 Presenter: Kathleen Erickson, RSM
 Sisters of Mercy Justice Team West-Midwest Regional
Community and Co-founder of the Omaha Immigrant
Detainee Accompaniment Program
 Presenter: Anonymous Undocumented Immigrant
 The Honorable Jose F. Rodriguez
 Texas State Senator

Friday, March 25, 2011

U.S. can thank Spanish-speakers for majority of its growth in last decade

Census 2010: 50.5 Million Hispanics:
Accounting for More Than Half of Nation's Growth in Past Decade
The 2010 Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States: that's 16.3% of the total population. The nation's Latino population grew 43% over the decade. That group also gets the credit for most of the nation's growth:  56%----from 2000 to 2010.

Among children ages 17 and younger, there were 17.1 million Latinos, or 23.1% of this age group, according to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center. The number of Latino children grew 39% over the decade. If you are foresighted at all, I won't have to draw you a picture on the implications of this data.

According to these latest Census estimates, Latinos now make up 18% (50 million people) of the nation's population. To put that into perspective, the U.S. Hispanic population is more numerous than the entire population of Canada.

Although the numbers of the Hispanic population since 2000----more than 15 million----was more than the totals for the last two decades, the growth rate of 43% was a bit slower than previous decades. Growth rates topped 50% in the 1980s (53%) and 1990s (58%).

Geographically, most Hispanics still live in nine states that have large, long-standing Latino communities----Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Texas----but the share living in other states has been growing. 

Despite the pattern of dispersion, however, there are more Latinos living in Los Angeles County (4.7 million) than in any state except California and Texas.

The states with the largest percent growth in their Hispanic populations include nine where the Latino population more than doubled, including a swath in the southeast United States----Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina. The Hispanic population also more than doubled in Maryland and South Dakota.

The report includes state rankings and totals for the size, share and percent growth of the overall Hispanic population and the population of Hispanic children under age 18. Also available on the Pew Hispanic Center's website are Excel files containing Hispanic and non-Hispanic population totals in each of the nation's states.

The report, "Hispanics Account for More Than Half of Nation's Growth in the Past Decade," authored by Jeffrey Passel, Senior Demographer, Pew Hispanic Center, D'Vera Cohn, Senior Writer, Pew Research Center, and Mark Hugo Lopez, Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center, is available at the Pew Hispanic Center's website,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A mission of love by guest blogger Anna Lucas

Anna Lucas: Honduras-January 2011
Childless myself, I'm particularly fond of my nieces and nephews--each for different reasons. Because I was present for Anna's birth, I was honored to be her godmother, and we had a special relationship throughout her girlhood. Now I proudly share her account of how she spent some of her Christmas vacation from the University of Iowa:

January 13th. I arrived home from a 10-day trip to Honduras as a member of the 2011 Sister Water Mission Team. Through this life-changing experience I witnessed tragedy and beauty, hardships and triumphs, people coming together and then being separated again. I witnessed the spoken  language barrier, but even more I realized the nonverbal language breakthrough. I witnessed strangers becoming dear friends; and people separated by borders, becoming family. I saw joy, love and eloquence: all offset by the nearby pain, sadness, and heartache.
Coworkers cutting a water path through the timber.
Our team of twenty left with the mission of water, but soon we realized that our mission encompassed so much more. We spent our days working along with or along side Hondurans in the villages of Cosire and Cataulaca. We spent nights in companionship with our team and our Honduran neighbors. Together we cooked, played cards, soccer and dice; we danced, and even did yoga! 
Everywhere we voyaged we were greeted with open arms and were shown appreciation for our contribution to the project. In collaboration with Catholic Relief Services, and a local offspring organization, COCEPRADII, this project will make clean water accessible to nearly 800 families, spanning the range of seven rural villages.

All families who will benefit from this project have been equally responsible in their monetary and physical contributions. They are each required to give three-hundred U.S. dollars, in addition to the grueling labor they must provide in the trenches themselves. 
Two of Anna's best worker-friends show the labor in trench digging.
The collaboration and organization of the Hondurans was inspiring to our team, as was the courage which was required in undertaking a project of this magnitude. Although what was perhaps the most inspiring was to witness those who seemingly have very little, give in incredible abundance, from our kind neighbors who left their doors open all night in case we needed to use the restroom, to the numerous meals that were given to us out of gratitude. 
We were shown generosity from the day we arrived until the day we departed. This spirit of generosity is something that we all can carry with us. I witnessed first-hand on this trip that it isn’t what is given, but rather, how it is given.

The people of Honduras taught me to treasure companionship. They not only showed me a reality that I’ve never seen, but they invited me to share it with them. They exemplified the beauty of family; in fact, they exemplified beauty in every sense of the word. They showed me what really matters, and what doesn’t matter at all. They made me feel appreciative for all I’ve been blessed with. Most of all, the people of Honduras showed me God. After all, God is love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Juarez Human Rights Activist Cipriana Jurado: U.S. asylum-seeker

Jurado's eyes reflect pain and hope, as she faces her greatest political hurdle.
Numerous human rights groups from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border joined the press today for a conference in El Paso in support of Human Rights Activist Cipriana Jurado's request for political asylum in the United States.

The plight of the activist is not understood in the U.S., particularly by its government. Activists face death by the hand of the Mexican army, yet the U.S. government grants asylum only the tiniest percentage of cases. When asylum is denied, the applicant must return to face a very uncertain fate.

Jurado left her country of origin with regret. Her pain was evident, as her voice choked back tears at times. Clearly she was forced out by threats because of her work. What will be her fate?

The border is united in her support.

Above is a recording of the press conference in El Paso, Texas on March 15, 2011.

Enjoy sports? or Recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker?

Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker recommended cutting state spending on building projects for the next two years. He proposes putting off many large projects and spending only $1.1 billion, a 28.8% reduction.
Walker's capital budget is lower than the $1.2 billion approved in the 2007-'09 capital budget, says the Wall Street Journal. What made the cut? Among the projects he "green lights":
• Athletics house. One of the bigger projects forwarded to Walker is a request by UW-Madison for a new $76.8 million building that would house programs for the Athletic Department, the College of Engineering and a clinic for the UW Hospital and Clinics. It would be paid with borrowing and $27.6 million in gifts or grants.
The project - to be called the Badger Performance Center...would provide space for the Athletic Department, with a sports medicine clinic operated by UW Hospital and Clinics on the third floor. The fourth floor would provide space for the College of Engineering's Computer-Aided Engineering Center.
Space in the new building's lower level would house new locker facilities for the football team. The first and second levels would also house a new strength and conditioning center...

Perhaps taking a tip from Nero's Rome, Walker's plan may try to entertain the populace, to distract the public with sports spectacles and wining games from strong and conditioned teams (who have nice locker facilities). Might Wisconsin forget that they are losing their financial lives to their corporate owners--the ones who no longer owe them any negotiations over wages and benefits?

From what I've seen from Wisconsin so far, if that's Walker's plan--it ain't gonna work.

from Ballot Access News » Wisconsin Preparations Already Being Made for Recall of Governor Scott Walker

"... even though the petition can’t start to circulate until January 3, 2012. An anti-Walker web page says already 149,000 people have signed a pledge to sign the petition, as soon as it can circulate. The petition will need about 540,000 signatures."


"In the meantime, recall petitions are circulating now for half the Wisconsin State Senate. Senators have four year terms and half of them are subject to recall petitioning now."

Image credit:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wisconsin Senator Scott Fitzgerald disenfranchises Wisconsin 14 (& citizens of 14 WI districts)

Breaking News from Wisconsin: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has disenfranchized the Wisconsin 14 by removing their voting privileges in standing committees. He has thereby removed elected representation from the citizens in their districts. His email below appears on the site:

Sen. Fitzgerald: Email re: Senate Democrat voting privileges in standing committees


From: Sen.Fitzgerald
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 3:52 PM
To: *Legislative Senate Republicans
Subject: Senate Democrat voting privileges in standing committees

Dear Members,

With the return of the Senate Democrats this weekend, questions have arisen regarding Democrat members’ participation in Senate standing committee public hearings and executive sessions.

Please note that all 14 Democrat senators are still in contempt of the Senate. Therefore, when taking roll call votes on amendments and bills during executive sessions, Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the Records of Committee Proceedings or the Senate Journal. They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact my office.

Thank you,

Scott Fitzgerald
Senate Majority Leader
13th Senate District 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Response to "8 Murders a Day" movie

Truthfully, I anticipated that attending 8 Murders a Day, Charlie Minn's new documentary on the last four years of unrelenting violence in Juarez and throughout Mexico, was simply a duty I needed to do. I braced as I anticipated the pain of watching on the big screen the unrelenting horror that I experience in little pieces every day simply by living a mile away--safely positioned on the other side of the border wall.

I had the opposite experience.

To see truth, to hear truth so freely and unequivocally expressed was liberating and exhilarating. The movie validated the perspectives I've formed over the last four years living in El Paso (albeit part-time)--in the front row seats to the horror show that is the so-called "drug war" in Juarez.

The "drug war" is a totally f**ked up economic and political phenomenon that is killing thousands of innocent people.

I give 8 Murders a Day my heartiest recommendation. Do not miss this documentary if you get a chance to see it. If you can't view it, at least you can watch the trailer here:

and another short clip that features the director:

from the movie website--the abstract:
Since January 2008, the Juarez drug cartel, led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, has been in a turf war against the Sinoloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. This war is for the coveted smuggling routes into the USA. The Americans demand for illegal drugs has led countless weapons and cash to enter into Mexico in exchange for these drugs. This documentary investigates the current situation in Juarez, which has now become the murder capital of the world because of this turf battle. In 2007, the city of Juarez averaged less than one murder per day. Today, it is over 8 murders a day and counting. Interviews with print and television journalists, acclaimed authors, and college professors help look into perhaps the greatest human-rights disaster in the world today, with no apparent end in sight.

Finally: A real movie review of 8 Murders a Day--from the New York Times.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Activist Marisela Ortiz, under narco (government?) threat, flees Juarez, Mexico

Marisela Ortiz, co-founder of  the organization "That Our Daughters Return Home," a group dedicated to bringing justice to the reality of femicide (the misogynist and systematic  killing of women), fled her home in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico after receiving threats from organized crime groups, according to the State Commissioner for Human Rights (ECHR), Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson. The news appears in El Diario de Juarez this afternoon.

Ortiz joins social activists--most recently the family of Josefina Reyes Salazar and another member of the organization she founded, Malú García Andrade, who fled to other cities or abroad to protect themselves and their families.

Given the seriousness of these attacks, de la Rosa Hickerson announced that next week he will ask the Interior Ministry to activate the defense mechanism for human rights defenders, says El Diario. It is a mechanism used in Columbia and other countries, explains Hickerson in El Diario.

The threat against the co-founder of the association "That Our Daughters Return Home," was made on a narco-banner posted on the Federal Secondary School No. 60, located in Colonia Juarez, Nuevo, on Thursday, the school where Ortiz taught.

Drug cartels would have little reason to bother themselves over a feminist activist, I would dare to suggest. On the other hand, the Mexican government itself would have a great deal to gain from eliminating a fly-in-their-ointment: a woman who draws embarrassing notice to the state of the Mexican society. The Mexican government, that no longer can guarantee the right to life or basic justice to its citizens, would much prefer that the world does not notice this disturbing omission.

Could it be that the Mexican drug cartels are acting as paramilitary arms of the Mexican government? 

Or, in this nightmarish world of hidden realities, could it be that the Mexican government rids itself of activists by using the methods of the narcos, posting threatening banners like narcos do?

I really don't know. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Capirotada

I like the Latino take on Lent.

When visiting our favorite Mexican grocery today, I noticed a sign on the bakery announcing "Toasted bread for Capirotada" was available. That today is Ash Wednesday coupled with knowing the Latino (heck--the universal) penchant for special foods connoting special times, I looked this up when I arrived home and learned that Capirotada is a sort of bread pudding that is traditionally eaten during Lent.

Border exploring--mmm, delicious!

Here's a recipe from Cooking Light 2002:

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 1/4  cups  packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4  cups  water
  • 2  (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 4 1/2  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed French bread (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/4  cup  golden raisins
  • 1/4  cup  slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2  tablespoons  butter, cut into small pieces
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese


Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks.
Combine bread, raisins, almonds, and butter in a large bowl. Drizzle with warm sugar syrup, tossing gently to coat. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with cheese. Cover with foil; chill 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Serve warm.

Nutritional Information

313 (27% from fat)
9.3g (sat 4.4g,mono 3.6g,poly 0.9g)
Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2002

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A blogger meet-up with Spadoman of Round Circle!

The very best benefit of blogging is the relationships we make with wonderful people we never even get to meet. Well, almost never! Last month I had one of those best-of-all-experiences: a blogger meet-up! Spadoman of "Round Circle"  stopped in for a visit in El Paso...and then returned the following week with his wife. Very cool.

Peace activists from way back, the Spadomans joined us on the peace corner where we meet a dozen or so others each Friday at a vigil for peace from noon until 1 PM. The Spadomans are Wisconsonites--fellow Midwesterners--and we hit it off famously (as I fully expected we would).

Spadoman joined Mr. B.E. and I for lunch on the first of his visits. For the second visit, the activist community all met up at the Tejas Cafe for lunch together and a chance to meet and greet. It is a distinguished group, of a sort (they would never claim any distinctions) with many of them resisters of brutal dictators in Latin American countries and of the military-industrial complex here in the good ol' U.S.of A. Mr. and Mrs. Spadoman fit right in!

They left more than happy memories behind. Spadoman, a great friend of the indigenous peoples of this nation, gifted us with a bundle of sage. It hangs in our entryway now, lending a blessing to us as we come and go--and a blessing to all who visit us.

If you're reading this post, consider yourself invited. And--Mr. & Mrs. Spadoman: you're definitely invited back again next year! :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm from Wisconsin, so I oughta know

I claim Wisconsin. My mom was born and raised there, I spent some childhood there, and I married a man from Green Bay. I'm Wisconsin enough to know the old beer commercial the title of this post came from.*

And I'm proudly related to the school teachers, fire fighters and public hospital employees (among others) who are fighting for the right to collectively bargain. I hear them demonized as "union thugs" by critics who aren't from Wisconsin and who don't know diddily except the lies Fox News and talk radio spews.

It makes me angry.

I fanatically watch the occupation of the Capitol in Madison, the live-streaming video from an iPhone that skips and freezes--but it is live and it's immediate.

I searched out YouTubes of the rally Saturday--100 thousand people peacefully gathered. Not one arrest. Classy.

And I'm proud to say that when my sister-in-law spoke to the press, her convincing and heartfelt witness had people in tears--because the budget proposed will cut medical benefits to her son and other kids with special needs. Few knew that. Two reporters later promised her they'd call the governor personally.

I saw Facebook friends from around the nation in the photos they posted this weekend from solidarity rallies in every one of the fifty states. They know that we are all Wisconson. Wisconsin is fighting for us all. 

Democracy is vaporizing. It may be too late.

But these brave warriors are waging a valiant fight. Rachel Maddow says they are winning. I hope she's right.

This beautiful movie, made this week by Madison, Wisconsin media producers Finn Ryan and David Nevala, features some of the people to whom we owe a debt of thanks. Give them a minute of your time and hear why they are battling for us all. Really. It is worth it.

We Are Wisconsin from Finn Ryan on Vimeo.

*[Full disclosure] Actual commercial lyrics: "I'm from Milwaukee, so I oughta know: it's draft-brewed Pabst beer where ever you go..."