thepeoplesrecord:

Stealing pennies from Chileros: Green chiles a hot commodity, but fields are overgrown with wage theftDecember 19, 2013
In the early morning darkness, Susana Lopez, backpack slung over her shoulder, heads off to a stretch of discount stores on El Paso Street, one of the main gathering places for farmworkers in El Paso, Texas. Here she joins dozens of other exhausted laborers who woke up at 2 a.m. in the hope of being hired by a contratista, the contractors who provide labor for the region’s farms. Some of the workers pick up a pastry at the bakery half a block away; others grab a burrito from a sidewalk stand. They take their breakfast and sit on a curb or lean against a wall of the Payless ShoeSource and wait. It’s a life of uncertainty. “You never know if there’s gonna be work,” Isidro Mancha, 63, who was born and raised in Albuquerque, tells me.“[You] work with different contratistas almost every day.”
On this late September day, Lopez only has to wait a half an hour before getting picked to hop into a contratista’s van bound for a green chile field in Deming, New Mexico, 119 miles away. On other days she has waited as long as an hour and a half. Advocates and workers say contratistas choose people they know—those who work fast and, especially, those who don’t complain. Workers call the system, “Tú sí, tú no.” “You yes, you no.”
Sometimes Lopez gets lucky and gets work in Las Cruces, an easy 45-minute drive, but today the trip takes nearly three hours each way. Once in Deming, she and her companions wait in the van or stand at the top of the chile rows, anxious to get started. It will be another 30 minutes before the contratista finally signals that it is light enough to work. Then it is nonstop movement.
By the time Lopez gets back to El Paso that night, she’ll have spent 13 hours just to get paid $47 for six hours of work. And while it’s legal for the contratista not to pay her for those hours spent waiting on El Paso Street and traveling to and from the fields, I find that he may have broken the law in several other ways to keep her day’s pay that small. For New Mexico’s chile pickers, I soon discover, wage theft is as common as sore backs.
Lopez’s pay is too low to afford an apartment, so she stays at a shelter in El Paso run by a farmworker advocacy group, the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project. It houses up to 125 laborers, many of whom have some type of legal status. All of those I spoke with were legal permanent residents, and several were U.S. citizens. To call the shelter bare bones would be generous. Lopez and several other women share a tiny room next to the reception area that also houses a water fountain; the men sleep nearby in the large main room. There are no beds or cots; everyone sleeps on blankets or thin mattresses placed right on the linoleum floor. The shelter is crowded, often noisy, and there’s no privacy. With only a few small windows, the air quickly gets stale. But it’s free. “I live here out of necessity,” says Lopez. “If I had an apartment, I couldn’t send money to my family”—a 6-year-old daughter and two ailing parents right across the border in Ciudad Juárez.
When I arrive at the chile field with Lopez at dawn on a late September day, the air is surprisingly cool, although southern New Mexico is still seeing highs in the upper 80s. A faint smell of chiles hangs in the air. In the dark, I can barely make out the neat green rows that stretch out for acres. Green chiles grow low to the ground, so Lopez and the other workers kneel to harvest them, pushing buckets ahead of them as they scoot forward on their knees. The plants are wet with early-morning dew, and workers’ clothing quickly becomes covered in mud.
“You get all dirty,” says Eduardo Martinez, 46, who picks chiles to support a wife and two children back in Ciudad Juárez.“You’re like a pig.”
Each time Lopez fills a bucket, which holds about 20 pounds, she hoists it onto a shoulder and hurries to the large crates where she’ll deposit her chiles. Workers are paid piece rate, and most New Mexico farmers were paying 85¢ a bucket for green chiles this year. (“You wanna make money, you gotta move your fingers quick,” says José Valentes, a slight man of 65 who’s been working the fields for almost 50 years.) Every time Lopez dumps her bucket, a small plastic token, a ficha, is tossed in; she tucks it in a front pocket and hurries back to her row to continue picking.
In the cool of the early morning, the crew of about 60 workers moves quickly down the rows, rushing back and forth to the crates. Lopez, a big woman, is soon breathing heavily. As the day progresses, the temperature rises, hitting 88 degrees. Exhaustion kicks in, and everyone slows down.
Lopez was told that the crew would work until noon that day. Then 12:30. Finally, at 1 p.m., she calls it quits. “I work until my body says, ‘Stop,’ ” she says. Her legs hurt, her arms hurt; she is spent. She holds out her right hand. It is shaking.
Soon, more workers leave the field. But the tractors keep coming, bringing more empty crates waiting to be filled. No one gets paid until the day’s quota is met, so Lopez waits. At around 2 p.m., there’s a long pause between tractors and she’s convinced she’ll finally get paid. Then another one pulls up. She shakes her head and mutters “pendejo,” a profane word for idiot. By the time she’s paid, she’s lost yet another hour. For filling 55 buckets, she’s paid $46.75.  She worked 6.25 hours and waited another two.
She should have earned much more. With rare exceptions for very small farms, state law mandates that when workers are paid hourly—for example, when weeding a field or picking chiles—they must receive the New Mexico minimum wage of $7.50 an hour. If Lopez’s wait time is factored in, her hourly pay falls far below $7.50. That means that, in effect, her wages were stolen.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Mexico ranked first in the nation in acreage in 2012, with nearly 10,000 acres planted and 78,000 tons of chiles harvested. That crop was valued at $65 million, but the true market value of those New Mexican chiles—when they are used in restaurants, sold in stores or made into salsas—was estimated at $400 million in 2012 by the New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA), a group comprised of farmers and processors.
Full article
Centro Sin Fronteras is an invaluable place in El Paso because they have organized countless migrant farmers along the border & have provided so many workers with a safe refuge when they aren’t being exploited in the fields. Carlos Marantes & many other groups, such as women’s collective La Mujer Obrera, are doing vital social justice work along the borderland with workers’ rights at the forefront of the struggle. 
This is what a true oppression-free food justice movement must look like: non-GMO, healthy, sustainable & affordable food for all communities, including the farmers who work the fields, as well as a living wage for our agricultural workers. 

thepeoplesrecord:

Stealing pennies from Chileros: Green chiles a hot commodity, but fields are overgrown with wage theft
December 19, 2013

In the early morning darkness, Susana Lopez, backpack slung over her shoulder, heads off to a stretch of discount stores on El Paso Street, one of the main gathering places for farmworkers in El Paso, Texas. Here she joins dozens of other exhausted laborers who woke up at 2 a.m. in the hope of being hired by a contratista, the contractors who provide labor for the region’s farms. Some of the workers pick up a pastry at the bakery half a block away; others grab a burrito from a sidewalk stand. They take their breakfast and sit on a curb or lean against a wall of the Payless ShoeSource and wait. It’s a life of uncertainty. “You never know if there’s gonna be work,” Isidro Mancha, 63, who was born and raised in Albuquerque, tells me.“[You] work with different contratistas almost every day.”

On this late September day, Lopez only has to wait a half an hour before getting picked to hop into a contratista’s van bound for a green chile field in Deming, New Mexico, 119 miles away. On other days she has waited as long as an hour and a half. Advocates and workers say contratistas choose people they know—those who work fast and, especially, those who don’t complain. Workers call the system, “Tú sí, tú no.” “You yes, you no.”

Sometimes Lopez gets lucky and gets work in Las Cruces, an easy 45-minute drive, but today the trip takes nearly three hours each way. Once in Deming, she and her companions wait in the van or stand at the top of the chile rows, anxious to get started. It will be another 30 minutes before the contratista finally signals that it is light enough to work. Then it is nonstop movement.

By the time Lopez gets back to El Paso that night, she’ll have spent 13 hours just to get paid $47 for six hours of work. And while it’s legal for the contratista not to pay her for those hours spent waiting on El Paso Street and traveling to and from the fields, I find that he may have broken the law in several other ways to keep her day’s pay that small. For New Mexico’s chile pickers, I soon discover, wage theft is as common as sore backs.

Lopez’s pay is too low to afford an apartment, so she stays at a shelter in El Paso run by a farmworker advocacy group, the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project. It houses up to 125 laborers, many of whom have some type of legal status. All of those I spoke with were legal permanent residents, and several were U.S. citizens. To call the shelter bare bones would be generous. Lopez and several other women share a tiny room next to the reception area that also houses a water fountain; the men sleep nearby in the large main room. There are no beds or cots; everyone sleeps on blankets or thin mattresses placed right on the linoleum floor. The shelter is crowded, often noisy, and there’s no privacy. With only a few small windows, the air quickly gets stale. But it’s free. “I live here out of necessity,” says Lopez. “If I had an apartment, I couldn’t send money to my family”—a 6-year-old daughter and two ailing parents right across the border in Ciudad Juárez.

When I arrive at the chile field with Lopez at dawn on a late September day, the air is surprisingly cool, although southern New Mexico is still seeing highs in the upper 80s. A faint smell of chiles hangs in the air. In the dark, I can barely make out the neat green rows that stretch out for acres. Green chiles grow low to the ground, so Lopez and the other workers kneel to harvest them, pushing buckets ahead of them as they scoot forward on their knees. The plants are wet with early-morning dew, and workers’ clothing quickly becomes covered in mud.

“You get all dirty,” says Eduardo Martinez, 46, who picks chiles to support a wife and two children back in Ciudad Juárez.“You’re like a pig.”

Each time Lopez fills a bucket, which holds about 20 pounds, she hoists it onto a shoulder and hurries to the large crates where she’ll deposit her chiles. Workers are paid piece rate, and most New Mexico farmers were paying 85¢ a bucket for green chiles this year. (“You wanna make money, you gotta move your fingers quick,” says José Valentes, a slight man of 65 who’s been working the fields for almost 50 years.) Every time Lopez dumps her bucket, a small plastic token, a ficha, is tossed in; she tucks it in a front pocket and hurries back to her row to continue picking.

In the cool of the early morning, the crew of about 60 workers moves quickly down the rows, rushing back and forth to the crates. Lopez, a big woman, is soon breathing heavily. As the day progresses, the temperature rises, hitting 88 degrees. Exhaustion kicks in, and everyone slows down.

Lopez was told that the crew would work until noon that day. Then 12:30. Finally, at 1 p.m., she calls it quits. “I work until my body says, ‘Stop,’ ” she says. Her legs hurt, her arms hurt; she is spent. She holds out her right hand. It is shaking.

Soon, more workers leave the field. But the tractors keep coming, bringing more empty crates waiting to be filled. No one gets paid until the day’s quota is met, so Lopez waits. At around 2 p.m., there’s a long pause between tractors and she’s convinced she’ll finally get paid. Then another one pulls up. She shakes her head and mutters “pendejo,” a profane word for idiot. By the time she’s paid, she’s lost yet another hour. For filling 55 buckets, she’s paid $46.75.  She worked 6.25 hours and waited another two.

She should have earned much more. With rare exceptions for very small farms, state law mandates that when workers are paid hourly—for example, when weeding a field or picking chiles—they must receive the New Mexico minimum wage of $7.50 an hour. If Lopez’s wait time is factored in, her hourly pay falls far below $7.50. That means that, in effect, her wages were stolen.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Mexico ranked first in the nation in acreage in 2012, with nearly 10,000 acres planted and 78,000 tons of chiles harvested. That crop was valued at $65 million, but the true market value of those New Mexican chiles—when they are used in restaurants, sold in stores or made into salsas—was estimated at $400 million in 2012 by the New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA), a group comprised of farmers and processors.

Full article

Centro Sin Fronteras is an invaluable place in El Paso because they have organized countless migrant farmers along the border & have provided so many workers with a safe refuge when they aren’t being exploited in the fields. Carlos Marantes & many other groups, such as women’s collective La Mujer Obrera, are doing vital social justice work along the borderland with workers’ rights at the forefront of the struggle. 

This is what a true oppression-free food justice movement must look like: non-GMO, healthy, sustainable & affordable food for all communities, including the farmers who work the fields, as well as a living wage for our agricultural workers. 

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

Dustin Barca helping stoke the fires against GMOs in Hawaii. Standing up against agricultural demons is not only the right thing to do, it’s becoming the cool thing to do!

Finding [naturally raised chickens] prove[s] a challenge…in the age of Tyson and Perdue, massive, high-volume operations whose pen-raised chickens, like San Fernando Valley porn, [offer] consistency and enormous breasts but little in the way of lasting satisfaction.

David Kamp, The United States of Arugula

Mayor Kenoi Signs Bill 113 | Office of Mayor Billy Kenoi

GMOs are going down!!! I love the Big Island!

This is huge news and a big step towards eliminating GMOs from threatening our precious, diverse ecosystems. More direct focus on developing a resurgent class of sustainable agriculturalists is the right road to take. Thank Mayor Kenoi!

Over 93% of Americans support GMO labeling laws. Here is how money is winning over our voices.

Over 93% of Americans support GMO labeling laws. Here is how money is winning over our voices.

Symphony of the Soil - New York Times Review

Refreshing to wake up this morning and read that my wonderful Cal professor, Dr. Ignacio Chapela, was deservedly mentioned in the New York Times movie review section this week: 

"And when images of parched earth and desiccated corn make us anxious, we can luxuriate in the fabulous hair and poetic flourishes of the microbial ecologist Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose crooning homage to the “dialogue of nutrients” between soil and water belongs on everyone’s meditation mixtape.”

Truly excited to watch this movie, which is a movie of celebration, rather than of turmoil (which certainly already exists in a rich catalogue when it comes to the environment and food). 

"Infused with an infectious love for its subject, “Symphony of the Soil” presents a wondrous world of critters and bacteria, mulch and manure. Maintaining this layer in all its richness and diversity is, the film argues, perhaps our most critical weapon against climate change. At the very least, you will leave with the profound understanding that feeding our soil is the first step in feeding ourselves.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/11/movies/symphony-of-the-soil-a-salute-to-what-feeds-us.html?ref=movies&_r=1&goback=.gde_948507_member_5796273784428179456&#%21

Banksy takes cuddly farmyard toys to the New York slaughterhouse

The “casual cruelty” of factory farming has been masked by the industry (even since Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” days) for far too long. Leave it to Banksy to stir the public with another unnerving and all to real art installation.

thepeoplesrecord:

Photo by Jenna Pope: Last night, farmers on the Brooklyn Grange Farm, the largest rooftop farm in the world, took up their pitchforks and shovels and sent out a “stop Monsanto” message to the world. This Saturday, October 12th, is a worldwide March Against Monsanto.
Click here to find events in your area

thepeoplesrecord:

Photo by Jenna PopeLast night, farmers on the Brooklyn Grange Farm, the largest rooftop farm in the world, took up their pitchforks and shovels and sent out a “stop Monsanto” message to the world. This Saturday, October 12th, is a worldwide March Against Monsanto.

Click here to find events in your area

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

f4t15:

Occupy activists at federal hall in New York City …

Happy Birthday 
#OccupyWallStreet!  Thank you 2 years of reminding us what democracy looks like. Follow #S17 day of action events here: http://occupywallst.org/ 

Occupy never dies, no matter what shape or form.

(via thepeoplesrecord)

The People's Record: 5,250 gallons of oil spill into South Platte River

thepeoplesrecord:

September 19, 2013

Industry crews have placed absorbent booms in the South Platte River south of Milliken where at least 5,250 gallons of crude oil has spilled from two tank batteries into the flood-swollen river.

The spill from a damaged tank was reported to the Colorado Department of Natural…

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

thepeoplesrecord:

Agribusiness exploitation & new bracero Program will hurt farm workers
September 19, 2013

Most media coverage of immigration today accepts as fact claims by growers that they can’t get enough workers to harvest crops. Agribusiness wants a new guest worker program, and complaints of a labor shortage are their justification for it. But a little investigation of the actual unemployment rate in farmworker communities leads to a different picture.

There are always local variations in crops, and the number of workers  needed to pick them. But the labor shortage picture is largely a  fiction. I’ve spent over a decade traveling through California valleys and I have yet to see fruit rotting because of a lack of  labor to pick it. I have seen some pretty miserable conditions for workers, though.

As the nation debates changes in our immigration laws, we need a  reality check. There is no question that the demographics of farm labor are changing. Today many more workers migrate from small towns in southern Mexico and even Central America than ever before. In the  grape rows and citrus trees, you’re as likely to hear Mixtec or  Purepecha or Triqui - indigenous languages that predate Columbus - as  you are to hear Spanish.

These families are making our country a richer place, in wealth and culture. For those who love spicy mole sauce, or the beautiful  costumes and dance festivals like the guelaguetza, that’s reason to  celebrate. In the off-season winter months, when there’s not much  work in the fields, indigenous womenweavers create brilliant  rebozos, or shawls, in the styles of their hometowns in Oaxaca,

But the wages these families earn are barely enough to survive. As Abe Lincoln said, “labor creates all wealth,” but farmworkers get precious little of it. Farmworkers are worse off today than they’ve been for over two decades.

Twenty-five years ago, at the height of the influence of the United Farm Workers, union contracts guaranteed twice the minimum wage of  the time. Today, the hourly wage in almost every farm job is the minimum wage — $8.00 an hour in California, $7.25 elsewhere under the Federal law. If wages had kept up with that UFW base rate, farmworkers today would be making $16.00 an hour. But they’re not.

If there were a labor shortage so acute that growers were having a hard time finding workers, they would be raising wages to make jobs  more attractive. But they aren’t.

And despite claims of no workers, rural unemployment is high. Today’s unemployment rate in Delano, birthplace of the United Farm Workers, is 30 percent. Last year in the Salinas Valley, the nation’s salad bowl, it swung between 12% and 22%.

Yet growers want to be able to bring workers into the country on visas that say they have to work at minimum wage in order to stay, and must be deported if they are out of work longer than a brief time. The industry often claims that if it doesn’t have a new contract labor program to supply workers at today’s low wages, consumers will have to pay a lot more for fruit and vegetables. But low wages haven’t kept prices low. The supermarket price of fruit has more than doubled in the last two decades.

Low wages have a human cost, however. In housing, it means that families live in cramped trailers, or packed like sardines in apartments and garages, with many people sleeping in a single room. 

Indigenous workers have worse conditions than most, along with workers who travel with the crops. Migrants often live in cars, sometimes even sleeping in the fields or under the trees.

Housing is in crisis in rural California. Over the last half-century, growers demolished most of the old labor camps for migrant workers. They were never great places to live, but having no place is worse.

In past years I’ve seen children working in fields in northern Mexico, but this year I saw them working here too. When families bring their kids to work, it’s not because they don’t value their education or future. It’s because they can’t make ends meet with the labor of adults alone.

What would make a difference?

Unions would. The UFW pushed wages up decades ago, getting the best standard of living California farmworkers ever received. But growers have been implacably hostile to union organizing. For guest workers and undocumented workers alike, joining a union or demanding rights can mean risking not just firing, but deportation.

Enforcing the law would better workers’ lives. California Rural Legal Assistance does a heroic job inspecting field conditions, and helping workers understand their rights. But that’s an uphill  struggle too. According to the Indigenous Farm Worker Survey, a  third of the workers surveyed still get paid less than the minimum. Many are poisoned with pesticides, suffer from heat exhaustion, and  work in illegal conditions.

Give workers real legal status. Farmworkers need a permanent  residence visa, not a guest worker visa conditioned on their work status. This would ensure their right to organize without risking  deportation. Organization in turn would bring greater equality,  stability and recognition of their important contribution. It would  bring higher earnings.

But growers don’t want to raise wages to attract labor. Instead, they want workers on temporary visas, not permanent ones - a steady supply of people who can work, but can’t stay, or who get deported if they become unemployed. This is a repeat of the old, failed bracero  program of the 1940s and 50s, or the current failures of today’s H2A  visa program that succeeded it.

With a temporary labor program, farm wages will not rise. Instead, farmworkers will subsidize agribusiness with low wages, in the name of keeping agriculture “competitive.” Strikes and unions that raise family income will be regarded as a threat.

We’ve seen this before. During the bracero program, when resident workers struck, growers brought in braceros. And if braceros struck, they were deported. That’s why Cesar Chavez, Ernesto Galarza and Bert Corona finally convinced Congress to end the program in 1964. The UFW’s first grape strike began the year after the bracero law was  repealed.

Today immigrant workers who already live in the U.S., like those who recently went on strike at Washington State’s Sakuma Berry Farms, are being pitted against modern-day braceros brought in under the H2A  program. The H2A wage sets the limit on what growers will pay. 

Workers fear that if they protest, they won’t get hired for next year’s picking season, and others will take their places.

Farmworkers perform valuable work and need better conditions and security, not an immigration reform that will keep them in poverty.  Giving employers another bracero program is a failed idea, one we shouldn’t repeat. Farm labor that can support families is a better  one.

Source

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

thepeoplesrecord:

Protesters get repressed by the Enrique Peña Nieto’s government in Mexico City, on Septembrer 13th 2013.

(Source: lactato, via thepeoplesrecord)