Farmworkers may be considered “essential,” but the undocumented workers who pick the nation’s food are excluded from the CARES Act.
Today we continue our look back at 2017 through Capital & Main’s photos and stories.
Dolores, a documentary mix of archival footage and interviews with Dolores Huerta, her family and such prominent figures as Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis and Luis Valdez, portrays the United Farm Workers co-founder as a pivotal yet relatively uncredited luminary in labor history.
The stories of the more than 800,000 men, women and children working in California’s fields—one-third of the nation’s agricultural work force—are rarely heard. A new book, Chasing the Harvest, presents oral histories of people whose lives have been shaped by California agriculture.
When writer and veteran union organizer David Bacon speaks of “people who travel with the crops,” he means the agricultural workers who move from place to place to cultivate and harvest California’s fields. They are also the subject of his newest work of photojournalism.
Bill Raden reports on the Assembly’s approval of overtime pay for California’s farm laborers, based on an eight-hour workday.
As Assembly Bill 1066, which would grant overtime pay to California farm workers, heads for a vote in the Assembly, farm workers and faith and civil rights groups are fighting for the votes needed to pass it.
The fight for farm worker overtime is going down to the wire in the current legislative session, which will adjourn at the end of August. And as Assembly Bill 1066, which would require it, moves through the legislature, Jewish and African-American organizations have made a commitment to win the votes it needs for passage.
For the state’s first hundred-plus years, certain unspoken rules governed California politics. In a state where agriculture produced more wealth than any industry, the first rule was that growers held enormous power.
Consuelo Mendez was 23 when she arrived in the United States 45 years ago, looking for work. In Ventura County she found it, harvesting strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, parsley and spinach.
As soon as Anastasia Flores’ children were old enough, she brought them with her to work in the fields. “Ever since 1994 I’ve always worked by myself, until my children could also work,” she recalls.
It’s been more than 50 years since Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta founded the United Farm Workers union. In the ensuing decades, broader activism and increased awareness of the importance of those who grow and harvest our food have resulted in better wages and living conditions for some workers in our state and others, in spite of public indifference. The farmworkers’ story of struggle and of battles won (and those yet to be fought) are told in Food Chains, an unsparing documentary that screened Sunday at Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena under the sponsorship of the nonprofit Food Chain Workers Alliance.
The film chronicles the exploitation and brutal poverty — and in some instances, forms of enslavement— that plague American agriculture. Food Chains is directed by Sanjay Rawal, produced by Rawal, Smriti Keshari and Hamilton Fish, narrated by Forest Whitaker, and executive-produced by actress Eva Longoria and activist/filmmaker Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation);
This legislative session brought some exciting victories as well as some deep disappointments. Labor accomplished big things this year that benefit all Californians but when it came to advancing worker protections, many of those bills were vetoed.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 has been the hottest year on record — ever. Millions of Americans suffered through the sweltering heat this summer, many in triple-digit temperatures in the Northeast and Southwest, and in California’s Central Valley.
California farm workers are literally dying from the heat. And their deaths are entirely preventable. Four hundred thousand California farm workers toil in extreme heat, producing 90 percent of the labor for the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry that helps feed the nation our tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, lettuce and much more. They often lack water and access to shade throughout the long day in the fields.
Since 2005, at least 16 farm workers have died due to heat illness.
In 2008, for example, there was Maria Isabel Jimenez, a 17-year-old girl who was pruning a vineyard for Merced Farm Labor, near Stockton. She worked in the fields for nine hours straight without any water and with no shade.