the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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celebrate with farmworkers in vermont

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migrantjustice.net

As part of Food Week of Action, today we are celebrating with farmworkers in vermont and as we recognise the huge milestone that was reached in the food and farming world earlier this month.

On Tuesday October 3, farmworker leaders from Migrant Justice and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s jointly signed the Milk with Dignity agreement.  The legally-binding contract establishes Ben & Jerry’s as the first company in the dairy industry to implement the worker-driven human rights program.  This momentous occasion marks the beginning of a new day for dairy, one that provides economic relief and support to struggling farm owners, in the form of a premium paid by Ben & Jerry’s, while ensuring dignity and respect for farmworkers.

Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique “Kike” Balcazar spoke to those assembled before he signed the agreement himself to mark the historic moment:

“This is an historic moment for dairy workers.  We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now we move forward towards a new day for the industry.  We appreciate Ben & Jerry’s leadership role and look forward to working together to implement a program that ensures dignified housing and fair working conditions on dairy farms across the region. And though this is the first, it won’t be the last agreement of its kind.”

Read the full article by migrant justice HERE.


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support farmworkers – boycott wendy’s

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credit: coalition of immokalee workers/vimeo

As part of today’s Food Week action, support farmworkers by delivering a manager’s letter to a Wendy’s near you.

Dear Wendy’s Manager,

As a Wendy’s consumer and supporter of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) groundbreaking Fair Food Program, I urge Wendy’s to join with the CIW and the Florida tomato industry as they work to eliminate the forced labor, poverty wages and other human rights abuses historically faced by Florida farmworkers who harvest your tomatoes.

For decades, Florida’s farmworkers endured poverty wages and daily violations of their basic rights in order to harvest the food on our plates:

• Stagnant, sub-poverty wages: Florida tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The prevailing piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes a worker picks, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick nearly 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday. Most farmworkers today earn less than $12,000 a year.

• Absence of fundamental labor rights: Florida farmworkers have no right to overtime pay, no benefits and no right to organize in order to improve these conditions.

• Modern-day slavery: In the most extreme cases, workers have been forced to labor against their will through the use or threat of physical violence.

The good news is that a new day has dawned in the fields. The Fair Food Program, an historic partnership among farmworkers, tomato growers, and eleven leading food corporations is building a new tomato industry that advances the human rights and dignity of farmworkers while strengthening the sustainability of the entire industry. By joining the Fair Food Program, corporations require more humane working conditions from their Florida tomato suppliers, pay a small premium to help support those improved conditions, and commit to purchase exclusively from growers who meet the Program’s higher standards. These commitments are monitored and audited by the Fair Food Standards Council, a nonprofit third party organization, to ensure accountability and transparency.

Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the Fair Food Program. Sustainable restaurant leader Chipotle Mexican Grill also participates.

Wendy’s has responded to consumers’ calls to join the Fair Food Program by saying “[W]e pay a premium to our tomato suppliers in Florida, and expect them to take care of their employees. All of our Florida tomato suppliers participate in the Fair Food Program.”

The truth is, whatever premium Wendy’s may be paying is not the Fair Food Premium, it is not being monitored by the Fair Foods Standards Council, and it is not going to address farmworkers’ grinding poverty. Wendy’s statement that its suppliers belong to the Fair Food Program is both unverifiable and meaningless because Wendy’s, unlike its competitors in the Fair Food Program, does not have to, and does not, tell anyone who its tomato suppliers are. Nor does Wendy’s have to suspend its purchases from any participating grower found out of compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. These are the dual linchpins that give the Program its teeth, and Wendy’s simply is not doing its part.

The Fair Food Program is a proven model, recognized by both the White House and the United Nations, that offers Wendy’s a tremendous opportunity to become, without incurring any competitive disadvantage, part of the human rights advances in Florida’s fields.

As a Wendy’s consumer, I look forward to your company working with the CIW and with Florida’s tomato growers through the Fair Food Program to ensure human rights for Florida farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes used in your restaurants.

For more information, please contact the CIW at 239-657-8311 or workers@ciw-online.org.

Sincerely

You can download, a copy of this letter to print and mail HERE.


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proposed immigration legislation could have devastating effects on agriculture.

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President Donald Trump has today endorsed legislation proposed by two republican senators (David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas), which would introduce new limits on legal immigration. The new system would be based on merit over any other criteria, which means that highly skilled workers will receive priority over lower skilled workers or potential immigrants who have family members already residing within the United States. If passed, it would also reduce the number of refugees accepted by half, at a time when the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since WWII due to a complex combination of factors which include climate change and conflict.

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wages, immigration, and a labor shortage on california farms

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According to a recent article in the LA Times, wages are up for farm workers in California and some farms are even offering perks (think 401(k), health care, vacation days, and profit-sharing bonuses) that were often unheard of in the world of agriculture. So why, then, are farmers struggling with what sounds like a crippling labor shortage? Paired with an increasingly restrictive immigration policy, the article suggests that it’s because native-born Americans simply don’t want to work in the fields:

But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields. Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.

What do you think? Although the article has its holes and shortcomings, it’s a great start to a debate that must be had in California and throughout the country. Give the entire piece a read by clicking HERE.


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ice detained migrant farmer activists: thousands responded.

Though those who live farther away from the muddy melting snow of Southern New England, may not have caught wind of the migrant rights struggle that has been playing out between farms and courthouses around the region, it’s worth everyone’s attention.

Since the ICE arrest and detention of farmworkers and Migrant Justice leaders Jose Enrique “Kike” Balcazar Sanchez and Zully Palacios Rodriguez on March 16, hundreds of people have gathered around Vermont and in Boston to demand the young activists release. Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based organization that organizes three regional migrant worker communities to advocate for human rights and economic justice. Especially considering some of the anecdotes in this excellent piece by LatinoUSA.org on their case, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which immigration officials are not intentionally targeting human rights leaders for deportation.

Both are in their early twenties, neither with any prior arrests, and they were on their way home from the Migrant Justice center when they were stopped. Balcazar, as LatinoUSA reports, “is an active community organizer in Vermont, and served on Vermont attorney general T.J. Donovan’s Immigrant Task Force, which was created in January as a response to President Trump’s immigration executive orders.”

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call for film submissions for change making tool-kits

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Real Food Films is calling for filmmakers to submit projects by April 1st that correspond to the themes of:

  • Crafting Public Policies for Public Health: Taking on Big Soda
  • Building Power with Food Workers
  • Tackling Climate Change Through Food

Selected films will be included in their 2017 Organizing Toolkits, which will be jam-packed with educational materials for groups and individuals interested in working in food system reform.


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when farms are not fair

Fair Food: Field To Table is a video project of the California Institute for Rural Studies, a nonprofit research organization whose mission is to “increase social justice in rural California for all residents, building sustainable communities based on a healthy agriculture.” Their research takes a keen look at the often-obscured lives of California farm workers in the form of research reports, videos, and action plans. They form strong relationships with grassroots organizations and farm worker communities in order to “turn research into action.”

Needless to say how important and progressive this work is.

Tune into the Greenhorns Radio on Heritage Radio Network tomorrow at 4:00 P.M. to hear us speak with Ildi Carlisle-Cummins, the Project Director at CIRS and learn more. Or, download the podcast any time!


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NPR’s the salt puts spotlight on industrial ag workers

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Photo by Dan Charles/NPR

We don’t often see mainstream media outlets report on the often invisible farm workers that hold up so much of American agriculture– let alone do in depth and humanizing interviews with them. So, in case you missed it, we wanted to bring your attention to a series created by Dan Charles for NPR’s The Salt in which Charles interviews the largely-Hispanic migrant immigrant workers on sweet potato, apple, orange, strawberry, and blueberry farms. Even for those of us who have worked on smaller-scale farms, a look into the lives of workers on these gigantic combines is both fascinating and critical. We can’t recommend a listen more highly.

You can read Charles’s summary of his findings here and follow his links to listen to each piece individually.


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new york farm workers rally and walk for bargaining rights and decent working conditions

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Walking the 200 miles from Long Island to Albany, protesters stopped at City Hall in New York City last Saturday chanting si se puede. According to Democracy Now!the protesters are walking in support of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (more about this from the ACLU), asking that farm workers have the right to collective bargaining, an optional day off every week, and overtime pay– rights people in virtually every other industry in the US take for granted. The walkers are led by Rural and Migrant Minstry, a NY-based nonprofit that supports rural and migrant communities in the state.

“I would like to say, each time you are eating, or each time you have something in your hands that you are going to eat, remember us, who do not have the rights that other workers have. And if you can, support us. We are going to be marching for another week and a few days. If you see us, it would be good if you support us by walking with us, maybe a couple of hours, one hour, for a day if you can. That would be very good.”

Heriberto Gonzalez, former farm worker, and fellow at Rural & Migrant Ministry

Greenhorns! Let us join them where we can! They will be marching until May 31 and you can find their schedule, route, and updates here.


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are you a human being or a human working?

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This great graphic and the following analysis is taken from Dave Pratt a really on-point blog post over at the Ranching for Profit blog about having boundaries between your home life and work life. We think it’ll resonate with a lot of farmers and farm workers out there. Read the whole post!

If you scored more than 70, congratulations! You probably have a healthy work/life balance. If you scored 50 to 70, you’ve got room for improvement and may want to think about something you can do in one or two areas to improve your work/life balance. If you scored less than 50, you might be a human doing rather than a human being. Your work and your life might improve if you re-evaluate your priorities.


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EPA (finally) updates (antediluvian) standards to protect farm workers from pesticides

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Seeing as the the USDA’s worker-training about pesticide safety still (very necessarily) includes the above image and instructions, we couldn’t welcome these development more.

The new revisions to EPA standards “give farmworkers health protections under the law similar to those already afforded to workers in other industries.” You can read the full list of revisions on the EPA fact sheet, some highlights include:

  • children under 18 are no longer allowed to handle pesticides
  • mandatory yearly training for farm workers about pesticides (as opposed to every five years)
  • equirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide application information and safety data sheets – centrally-posted, or by requesting records
  • mandatory record-keeping of pesticide application

Great! But if news of the revisions leaves you feeling… I don’t know… a little angry about what they imply about conditions for workers on industrial farms, The United Farmworkers have a number of ongoing actions and campaigns to improve health, life, immigration, and economic conditions for workers on American farms.

Their reaction to the updated standards? “Is it ever too late to do the right thing? It’s been a long time coming, but it has come today.”


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H2 worker

An important film on farm worker exploitation, released in 1990.

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Directed by Stephanie Black, 1990

Winner of the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, H-2 WORKER reveals the systematic exploitation of Caribbean laborers by the Florida sugar industry from World War II through the 1990s. Each year more than 10,000 foreign workers were granted temporary guest worker (“H-2″) visas to spend six brutal months cutting sugar cane near Lake Okeechobee. They were housed in overcrowded barracks, denied adequate treatment for frequent on-the-job injuries, and paid less than minimum wage. Faced with deportation and soaring unemployment in their home countries, workers had little recourse but to silently accept these humiliating conditions.

Clandestinely filmed in the cane fields and around the workers’ barracks, H-2 WORKER exposes this travesty of justice, which remained a well-kept secret for decades.

Originally released in 1990, today H-2 WORKER provides an invaluable resource to understanding current debate over guest worker provisions of immigration legislation. While Florida’s sugar cane cutters have been replaced by mechanical harvesters, guest worker programs have expanded in agriculture, hotel, restaurant, forestry, and other industries. H-2 WORKER illuminates how our foreign worker program continues to benefit employers at the expense of vulnerable, underpaid workers.


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in solidarity with workers

Our Farm Worker Community needs your help today. As many of you know, Familias Unidas por la Justicia has been in a labor dispute with Sakuma Bros. Farms in Skagit County.  Familias Unidas por la Justicia want a just wage, fair treatment, and decent housing and have been trying to negotiate with the farm since last summer. Many of the Farm Workers have been working at Sakuma Bros. Farms for many years and have helped it become one of the most recognizable names in agriculture within the region. However the workers that have helped the Sakuma Farm throughout the years are now in danger of losing their livelihood because as of Monday April 14, 2014 Sakuma Bros. Farm has applied to bring in over 400 workers under the controversial H-2A program. Under H-2A the farm can displace the families that are already here and have been working at the farm with contracted workers from outside of the US.
We are asking supporters to email Charlene Giles from the Dept. of Labor in Chicago, who plays a critical role in determining the status of the H-2A application that Sakuma applied for and also email Alberto Isiordia from Employment Security Department in Olympia, Washington who also oversees the H-2A process. We want workers to be treated with dignity considering all the contributions they make to our local economy and food system and don’t want the further exploitation for our brothers and sisters with the systemic implementation of a quasi-slave labor force.
We are recommending that the following action be taken: Reject the H-2A application that was submitted by Sakuma Bros. because:
1.      Over 450 workers and families that have been at the farm for years have already committed in returning to work this season
2.      The majority of the 450 workers are already here in the area
3.      Workers that are here locally should be able to work at the farm without fear of reprisals
Please support Familas Unidas por la Justicia.
Charlene Giles
Dept. of Labor
Alberto Isiordia
Employment Security Dept. of WA
aisiordia@esd.wa.gov