SARASOTA/MANATEE FARMWORKER SUPPORTERS
4517 Ascot Circle South, Sarasota, Florida 34235
Sarasota/Manatee Farmworker Supporters is a branch of the National Farmworker Ministry
JULY 2005 NEWSLETTER
FOURTH ISSUE FORUM OF 2005:
FIRST PUBLIC SHOWING IN SARASOTA
A FILM BY CARLOS SANDOVAL AND CATHERINE TAMBINI
Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, FARMINGVILLE is a provocative, complex, and emotionally charged look into the ongoing nationwide controversy surrounding a suburban community, its ever-expanding population of illegal immigrants, and the shocking hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican day laborers.
In the late 1990s, some 1,500 Mexican workers moved to the leafy, middle-class town of Farmingville, population 15,000. In some ways, it’s a familiar American story: an influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico to do work the locals won’t; the rising tensions with the Anglo population; charges and counter-charges of lawlessness and racism; protest marches, unity rallies and internet campaigns – then vicious hate crimes that tear the community apart. But this isn’t the story of a California, Texas or Southwestern city. It’s the endlessly enthralling tale of Farmingville, New York, on Long Island.
“A primer for anyone who cares to better understand the usually unseen cost of America’s appetite for cheap labor.”
– The New York Times
SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 2005 – 2:00 to 4:00 P.M.
SELBY PUBLIC LIBRARY, 1331 First Street, Sarasota
For breaking news on farmworkers and their struggle, go to the Sarasota/Manatee Farm Worker Supporters webpage. Updated daily, the web page contains the nation’s most complete listing of news items relating to farmworkers (plus several years of archives!)
NEXT FORUM: Saturday, October 1, 2005
THE GREEN MOTEL
That’s what some women farmworkers call the fields and orchards in which they face persistent sexual assaults. As if backbreaking work, low wages and pesticide poisoning weren’t enough…
Thus begins a lengthy article in the summer edition of Ms. magazine on the plight of farmworker women. (The full article is available on the Sarasota Manatee Farm Worker Supporters’ website: www.smfws.com)
The October forum will feature Monica Ramirez, founder of Esperanza, a farmworkers women’s advocacy group and one of the experts quoted in the Ms. Article. She will discuss the struggle of the estimated 40,000 female farmworkers in Florida, and particularly the widespread sexual harassment they regularly face at work.
ANNUAL CESAR CHAVEZ MEMORIAL DINNER
Monday, November 7, 2005
Golden Apple Dinner Theater, 25 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota
Make plans now to attend the Sarasota Manatee Farm Worker Supporters’ annual Cesar Chavez Memorial Dinner. The annual dinner will honor three individuals for exceptional service to Florida farmworkers and will feature live entertainment. The keynote speaker for the dinner will be Tirso Moreno, president of the Farmworker Association of Florida and one of the nation’s leading farmworker spokesmen.
PALM BEACH POST
July 20, 2005
Serious farm checks for serious protection
Florida farmers lead the nation in pesticide use per acre, yet the state employs only 40 inspectors to monitor compliance with regulations and investigate complaints on 40,000 farms and nurseries.
One look at those numbers makes clear that Florida isn't serious about protecting farmworkers and the public from misuse of potentially dangerous chemicals. The 40 inspectors who work for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have other assignments — a range of duties that includes water pollution monitoring, animal feed inspections for mad cow disease and mosquito control — so pesticide checks become a part-time job. Thousands of sites go years without getting a visit from a state regulatory official. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Florida has failed to meet federal worker protection goals for the past two years.
In April, The Post reported the tragic discovery of severe birth-defect cases involving three young children born to migrant families who worked the same fields in Immokalee, northeast of Naples. State health officials are trying to determine if pesticide poisoning was responsible. A Post reporter and photographer recently accompanied an agriculture department inspector on assignment in Hillsborough County, and the deficiencies in the state's regulatory program were quickly apparent. The tree farm the inspector visited hadn't been checked for five years, said the owner, who admitted that he had advance notice of the inspection.
Surprise inspections would do more to deter misuse of pesticides. But a regulatory program that runs at five-year intervals is meaningless to begin with. The state needs many more inspectors — more than triple the number to compare favorably with states that have effective programs, such as California — and stiffer penalties. The state should tighten restrictions on labor contractors, middlemen who often operate outside the rules. It will also take better cooperation from everyone involved. Doctors, in particular, have to accept more responsibility for reporting suspected cases of pesticide illness to the state.
Above all, government has to reclaim the role of public protector that it has abdicated to the agriculture industry. Begin by acknowledging that the Department of Agriculture can't both promote farming and regulate it. Without leadership in Tallahassee, farmworkers and consumers alike will be vulnerable to misuse of toxic chemicals.
Migrant workers' fight
August will mark the 40th anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike, but the effort to ensure the rights of farmworkers is not over.
By Claudia Rodriguez-Zinn
The strike lasted five years, involved more than 5,000 farmworkers, and led to the first collective bargaining agreements for farmworkers in U.S. history.
Unlike almost any other job in the United States, workers toiling the fields had no real rights prior to this momentous event. Laws that protected other workers did not apply to farmworkers.
As a result, many farmworkers were subject to hazardous working conditions, harmful toxics, child labor and poverty wages. Required breaks and working-hour restrictions also did not apply.
The Delano Grape Strike and the historic march to Sacramento, Calif., brought the abuses of migrant farmworkers to the national forefront. Millions across the country participated in marches and boycotts in support of the workers.
Because of those efforts, California is the only state in the country that has a labor law that applies to farmworkers and ensures protections. But today in the United States, only 2 percent of all agriculture companies are unionized.
Now we are facing another Bracero Program with President Bush's proposed temporary worker program, which would expand the fields that migrant workers can work to include not just agriculture but all other industries. Not unlike the previous Bracero Program that was described by its last director, Lee G. Williams, as a system of "legalized slavery," Bush's program could again put migrants in jeopardy and undermine years of farmworker organizing.
What's more, such treaties as the North American Free Trade Agreement are undercutting working-class and poor communities across borders and eliminating any social programs designed to keep people thriving in their home communities. By paying poverty wages in impoverished economies, U.S. businesses and corporations are essentially creating a mass migration of Mexican workers into the United States in search of better-paying jobs, as well as destroying thousands of U.S. jobs. Unfortunately, these unemployed workers then become prey to worker abuses - both domestically and abroad.
We cannot forget the sweat, blood and struggle of so many who have fought for labor rights in the history of the United States. As Americans, we need to continue the fight for the dignity of farmworkers and fellow workers everywhere.