Without farmworkers, there would be no Thanksgiving harvests to feed the millions of people in the United States today. That is why, during this week, we are recognizing, honoring and thanking the hard-working farmworkers and their families who make our Thanksgiving feasts possible. The people who dig the sweet potatoes, pick the string beans, harvest the corn, cut the cabbage, toss the pumpkins into the trucks, reap and pack all the other fruits and vegetables that grace our tables are doing the work that is necessary to our survival. We depend upon them. Their work is our sustenance.
This week, we are making a special effort to honor and thank farmworkers in Florida and around the country. All year long, we work to get better protections for farmworkers from pesticide exposure. We take actions against cases of wage theft and harassment. We train farmworkers on their rights in the workplace and organize them to participate in issues of concern to them and their families. The community gardens are places for our farmworker members to build community, exchange ideas, pass on knowledge, and find joy and satisfaction. Yet, too many farmworkers still go hungry. There is much more yet to do to achieve equitable and just working conditions for this nation’s farmworkers.
As members of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Farmworker Association of Florida celebrates International Food Workers Week with stories about farmworkers who have made a difference in their communities. FWAF staff member, Miguel Zelaya, has worked in every kind of crop grown in Florida. He now dedicates his time to training and empowering other farmworkers in the community to work for social change and economic and social justice.
On Thanksgiving 2015, we hope you will join us in taking a moment on Thanksgiving to give thanks to farmworkers, to let your dinner guests know about the conditions farmworkers face, and to make a commitment to work for justice for farmworkers in 2016 and beyond.
We wish all our friends, allies and supporters a very happy Thanksgiving holiday season.
Sí, Se Puede!
"This past Friday our Apopka office hosted a speaker who shared her experiences and advocacy around forced disappearances in Mexico. Nadín Reyes Maldonado talked to a group of community members and students about how common these forced disappearances can be, and how they are often blamed on drug cartels. She also shared her personal losses and the risk she takes by speaking against the Mexican government. We applaud her bravery and the invaluable work she does everyday. We heard many positive comments afterwards from folks just how important it was to tell these stories and to spread this awareness. We honor and respect the tremendous work that they are doing. A Huge Thank you to Witness for Peace Southeast, We stand in solidarity with you!
You can check out their organization here
On a cool November day in 2009, farmworker Jovita Alfau was transplanting hibiscus as she’d been instructed in a section of Power Bloom Farms and Growers nursery in Homestead, Fla.
As she began pulling up the seedlings from the pots, she began to “feel dizzy and weak, experienced numbness in her mouth and vomited,” according to a complaint she would later file against her employer in federal district court in southern Florida.
Alfau had no idea why she was feeling so ill, but lawyers from the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project representing her in the lawsuit learned through deposition that the area of the nursery where the hibiscus grew had been sprayed with the pesticide endosulfan less than 24 hours earlier, according to the lawsuit. Her employer allegedly failed to warn her about the required elapse time before it was safe to enter. Alfau had been wearing no protective gear.
Alfau alleges in the lawsuit that there were times when the applicators sprayed the nursery even while she and her fellow farmworkers were tending the plants.
The nursery denied wrongdoing, but settled with the then 43-year-old single mother of three in 2012 for $100,000. Asked by New America Media recently whether his nursery was still using endosulfan, Power Bloom president Steve Power said he had no comment.
It was pesticide poisonings like Alfau’s, as well as years of pressure from a broad coalition of environmentalists, health care advocates, farmworkers and scientists, that many believe was responsible for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of a six-year phase-out of the pesticide in 2010.
The federal agency negotiated an agreement with the compound’s sole manufacturer, Makhteshim Agan, based in Israel at the time, to stop using the pesticide crop-by-crop.
Its 8:45 AM and a small crowd of community members clutching flyers grows outside the Farmworker Association office in Central Florida. The Association’s doors open promptly at 9, and by 9:15, more than 50 students await information on a new English program that they heard about in mass last Sunday.
The group that gathered is unique in a number of ways. They are mostly individuals eligible for DACA but for the education requirement. “Que es DACA,” (What is DACA?) one of the community members asks.
Jose Luis Marantes, organizer with the Florida Immigrant Rights Coalition (FLIC), explains that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a form of relief given to people who arrived to the United States under the age of 16 undocumented, and he lists the other qualifying criteria, including the education requirements.
Farmworker advocates are celebrating the recently announced updates to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. At a news conference in Washington D.C., last month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the previous standards were more than 20 years old and were not enough to adequately protect workers from the harmful health impacts of pesticide exposure. Farmworker advocates had been lobbying for increased protections for years. We’ll take a closer look at what the updated regulations will mean for Florida’s nearly 300,000 farmworkers, their employers and the health care industry. We’ll also explore where advocates say further protections are still needed.
Andrea Delgado, Senior Legislative Representative with Earthjustice
Jeannie Economos, Pesticide-Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida
Karla Martinez, Senior Attorney for the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project
Improvements in the newly released WPS include an increase in worker protection trainings from once every five years to an annual training which will include improved content, such as take home exposure risks, and increased access to information about pesticides. For the first time, there is also now an age limit for pesticide handlers of 18 years. More signage to warn about pesticide use as well as buffer zones to protect from over spray have been included.
Geraldean Matthew kept a wary eye on the sky as she picked sweet corn from a muck field near the north shore of Lake Apopka.
When she saw a plane over the horizon, she and the other farmworkers would quickly drop to the ground and cover their heads and faces as the crop-duster swooped, showering them with a chemical spray of pesticides and fertilizers.
On Thursday, Matthew sat in her Apopka living room, her walker nearby, recalling those days when she toiled in the fields as a teenager starting in the early 1960s.
"We would get wet, and we could feel it on our clothing," said Matthew, who for decades was exposed to pesticides, many of them since banned.
"After work, we would pick up our young children. And we would hold our babies. And their mouths, with their tongues out, would be on our shirts," she said. "And our babies later had rashes all over their skin."
Today, Matthew, 65, seldom leaves her home, except when she takes a bus three times a week to a local medical clinic for hours-long dialysis treatments because of chronic kidney disease. Scars from pesticide burns run across her legs.
74 Percent Support State Measures to Combat Climate Change
San Francisco, CA – According to a new poll conducted by Latino Decisions for Earthjustice, a national environmental nonprofit law firm, and GreenLatinos, a leading national nonprofit of Latino environmental leaders, 76 percent of registered Latino voters in Florida strongly support national clean energy standards and 74 percent strongly support state clean energy standards to combat climate change.
Florida is home to over 4 million Latinos, which constitutes one-quarter of the state’s total population. Of the 1.5 million Latino voters in the state, 36 percent are Cuban, 32 percent are Puerto Rican and 21 percent are Central and South American. The survey found that while Cuban Americans have historically aligned themselves with the Republican Party and tend to take conservative positions on a number of domestic and international issues, Florida’s Latino population is more alike than different from Latinos in other states when it comes to environmental attitudes.
The top three environmental issues for Latinos in Florida are strengthening the Clean Water Act (84 percent), increasing water conservation (82 percent) and developing clean energy sources (81 percent). Additionally, 69 percent of Florida Latinos find it to be very or extremely important to reduce the use of pesticides and GMOs in farming. Florida Latino voters are worried about climate change and are supportive of candidates that take a progressive position on the environment. 71 percent in the state feel more favorable of officials who act on behalf of the environment; regardless of party lines. The majority of Latino voters (66 percent) say they are already directly experiencing the effects of human-caused climate change in Florida.
By David Adams
A federal jury awarded almost $17.5 million to five former female employees of a South Florida farm who said they were either raped and sexually harassed at a vegetable packing plant, their lawyer and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Thursday.
Three men, including two sons of the owner of Moreno Farms, near Fort Myers in southwest Florida, were accused of sexual harassment in 2011 and 2012 against the women in coolers and an office trailer at the packing house, including rape, groping, kissing and threats they would be fired if they refused to have sex with supervisors, according to the legal complaint brought against Moreno Farms.
However, the women are unlikely to receive a penny as the packing house closed after the case was brought and the men were never arrested, said a lawyer for the women, Victoria Mesa-Estrada.
"It's more of a symbolic victory," Mesa-Estrada said. "The women knew that when the case was brought. But for them it was a question of justice."
Four of the women attended the two-day trial in Miami. "They were in tears when the verdict was read," said Mesa-Estrada.
Reuters does not identify rape victims.
Many say they can't harvest their crops without immigrant labor
By Bill Tomson
Even before real-estate mogul Donald Trump called undocumented immigrants "rapists and murderers" who "have to go," California contractor Carlos Castañeda was having difficulty hiring enough workers to pick celery and squash.
Now Castañeda and others fear Trump's talk about erecting a "big beautiful wall" at the border and deporting millions could make it nearly impossible to find the guest workers they need — workers who would obtain legal status under most comprehensive reform bills.
"There are growers out there screaming for labor," said Castañeda, a farm labor contractor in San Luis Obispo County in central California. "The people who are coming in are doing the work that not a single American would like to do."
WASHINGTON -- Fast-food workers who are hoping to raise the minimum wage will find an ally in the Obama White House this week, with Labor Secretary Tom Perez traveling to Detroit on Tuesday to show his solidarity with the so-called Fight for $15.
"I'm proud to stand with the Fight for 15 movement," Perez told The Huffington Post. "And it really is a movement. It's for shared prosperity."
The union-backed Fight for $15 and its allies have roiled the service sector with intermittent strikes over the past three years, demanding a $15 wage floor and union recognition. The sight of large-scale protests has helped spur vast increases in the minimum wage in cities and states around the country, most recently in New York, where the state's wage board moved to set a $15 minimum for fast-food workers.
On August 6, 2015, a man who made a difference in the world left this plane of existence for another. He changed the way that we understand our world and, in so doing, he warned us of what we need to do to protect it.
Dr. Louis Guillette, the alligator scientist, noted for his studies on alligators on Lake Apopka and the effects of pesticides on wildlife, and, hence, on humans, died after a life-time of work that took him around the world and helped open up a new realm of science that identified chemicals in the environment that impact the endocrine systems of animals and, ultimately, of humans.
Farmworkers worked for decades on Lake Apopka. They were exposed to the same chemicals that caused reproductive abnormalities in the alligators on the lake. While agency officials and environmentalists were dismissing the importance of the chemical contamination on the lake, Dr. Guillette continued to sound the alarm that persistent chemicals are causing endocrine disruption in possibly more than just the alligators.
The Farmworker Association of Florida and the community of Lake Apopka farmworkers are deeply saddened by this great loss. Dr. Guillette – Lou – and his anthropologist wife, Buzzy, participated in community meetings with the farmworker community to demand answers to their questions about their pesticide exposure on Lake Apopka. Unlike other scientists afraid to take their science one step further and advocate for change, Dr. Guillette was a hero to many in our community, in Florida and around the world. His work is cited in many publications, books, and journals.
We will always remember Dr. Guillette as one of the few people who listened, cared about, understood and spoke out for the farmworkers on Lake Apopka. Our hearts break. We will miss him greatly. See the message at Beyond Pesticides website
Dr. Louis Guillette was a keynote speaker at the Pesticide Forum in Orlando in April of this year. The Beyond Pesticides annual Forum was co-sponsored by FWAF. Video tape of Dr. Guillette’s keynote address. Watch the video here
Revelations of unsanitary conditions for workers in the fields in Mexico have resulted in the FDA stepping up and issuing a ban on fresh cilantro from the state of Puebla, MX. But, conditions for farmworkers in the U.S. are often just as bad. Workers tell us that they often do not have any place to wash their hands, or that their is no soap or paper towels available. Also, some work in fields with no bathroom or with bathrooms so dirty, they do not want to use them. We cannot point fingers at Mexico without improving conditions for farmworkers in the U.S., as well. You can read the article here.
On July 10th, the Farmworker Association of Florida joined with allies Mi Familia Vota, YAYA of the National Farm Worker Ministry, Hope CommUnity Center, Central Florida Jobs With Justice, the Ironworkers union and many others in a rally in front of the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando and marched to the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to demand that Florida drop their lawsuit and instead support President Obama’s Executive Order for DACA expansion and for DAPA for parents of DACA participants.
The action in Orlando was one of many actions around the country on the day when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals listened to oral arguments on the Obama administration’s request for a stay of the injunction imposed on the President’s Executive Order. A negative ruling may mean that the case eventually will end up in the Supreme Court sometime in the future. The result is that thousands of families’ lives are hanging in the balance, while they wait to adjust their immigration status and continue to hope for a good outcome in the end. DACA 2012 participants will not be affected by this ruling, except for Employment Authorized Documents issued after February 2015. Those who applied for DACA after February 2015 will, also, be affected.
Our hard-working immigrant families deserve better! FWAF will continue to be on the frontlines of promoting and demanding dignity, justice and equality for all! Sí, Se Puede!
On Friday, June 26th, a delegation of two volunteers, one youth leader and one staff member traveled to Jackson, MS to the Southern People's Movement Assembly for a Just Transition, being hosted by Cooperation Jackson. The goal of the gathering was to ensure that we are unified and strong in seeking a just transition from the economic and social systems that have led to widespread economic injustices and environmental destruction for people and the Earth and to address the biggest issue affecting everyone today – climate change.
Representatives of FWAF joined with activists and communities from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and California (among others) to participate in the tracks throughout the weekend: Economics and Systems Change; Youth and Systems Change; Labor and Systems Change; Environment and Systems Change and to share stories of environmental destruction and social oppression as well as to share strategies for resistance. The motto of the USSF has been "Another World is Possible" and in Jackson, together we envisioned that world and committed to work to make it a reality.
Everyone came back energized and better prepared to fight the environmental injustices suffered by farmworker and other rural low-income communities in Florida. Check out FWAF at Facebook for pictures from our trip!
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