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?


Vicente Duque said...

Arizona Republic Editorial : "SB 1070 has been a costly failure", "Colossal mistake", "A big, expensive con. It brought us boycotts, lost business, a sullied reputation, another court battle and a betrayal of Arizona's heritage"

Slowly, gradually, unhurriedly, leisurely, in a retarded tempo, People are discovering that SB 1070 harms Arizona.

The Arizona Republic
SB 1070 has been a costly failure
April 23, 2011

Some excerpts :

Illegal immigration is a national problem this state law could not begin to address. SB 1070 was so clearly an intrusion into federal jurisdiction that key provisions were halted by federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton before they took effect. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction, with noted conservative Judge John Noonan agreeing that provisions of SB 1070 are unconstitutional.

More legal battles lie ahead. They will sap state resources and keep Arizona in an unflattering spotlight.

Arizona's sense of unity also took a beating because of SB 1070.

Latinos make up nearly a third of the state's population. They are part of Arizona's heritage and its future. But SB 1070 made even third-generation Arizona Latinos feel like targets for enhanced law-enforcement scrutiny.

The law created an atmosphere so ugly that Republican state Sen. Lori Klein felt justified in reading a letter full of anti-Latino slurs on the floor of the Senate.

This is where SB 1070 brought us.

Sixty executives from major state business interests successfully called on lawmakers to reject a new round of immigration bills this year.

This is where the horrible experience of SB 1070 should take us. Arizonans have to continue to speak out against the SB 1070 approach.

Lessons are being learned elsewhere.

The wave of copycat bills in other states has largely fizzled - even in Kansas, where SB 1070 architect Kris Kobach is secretary of state. He couldn't sell his state this poison.

Meanwhile, Utah took a look at what Arizona did and crafted a comprehensive approach that includes a state guest-worker program. It acknowledges the complexity of illegal immigration and makes a humane commitment to family values and children. Arizona considered - and rejected - a similar approach several years ago.

Instead, the state bought into a false promise that remains a colossal mistake a year later.

Vicente Duque said...

Miami Herald : "Immigration bill dies in Florida Legislature" - "An immigration crackdown proposal died in the annual lawmaking session", "House and Senate lawmakers reached the end of the 60-day session without an agreement"
The proposal was so thorny that even Sen. JD Alexander, the budget chief tasked with shepherding the bill on the floor, ultimately voted against the bill.

“I should have probably voted for it,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, told reporters. “As I got into it more and more, I got more and more uncomfortable with it. I didn’t feel morally I could make that choice.”

The Miami Herald
Immigration bill dies in Florida Legislature
An immigration crackdown proposal died in the annual lawmaking session, but looks likely to come back next year.
By Patricia Mazzei
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
Friday, May 6, 2011

Immigration bill dies in Florida Legislature

Some excerpts :

TALLAHASSEE -- The fierce fight to crack down on illegal immigration ended — for this year — in the Florida Legislature on Friday when House and Senate lawmakers reached the end of the 60-day session without an agreement.

State senators signed off on their more lenient proposal on Wednesday. But by then, it was too late for the House to take up the measure.

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott told a Fox-affiliated radio station in the Florida Panhandle that lawmakers should have passed an immigration bill — but there’s always next year.

“Weve got the next session, Scott said in an appearance on “Freedom in the Morning with Wolfe and Andi.” “We’ve got to get ready for the next session and let everybody we elect know that it’s important to us.”

Scott campaigned heavily in last year’s Republican primary — even suggesting a special lawmaking session — for an Arizona-style proposal, giving law enforcement broader power to check a person’s immigration status and requiring businesses to use the federal government’s E-Verify system.

Scott mentioned his executive order forcing agencies to use E-Verify. “There’s limitation on what you can do through executive order,” he added. “I’ve done what I can.”

The bills drew staunch opposition from a powerful and wide-ranging set of interests, from big business to religious groups to immigration advocates. Yet Republicans are already taking flak from tea-party types for failing to pass any reforms — a political liability for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is running for U.S. Senate.