The United Farm Workers Union reports that over 3000 people signed condolence cards to Maria’s mother and are inviting everyone who has not done so to come to the website and fill one out.
They also held a pilgrimage for fallen workers from Lodi to Sacramento in Maria’s name on June 1-4, 2008. (I am sorry to have not reported it sooner but I did not know.) 600 walkers started at Lodi carrying 3 coffins – one for Maria, one for her unborn baby, and one for all the workers whose names we may or may not know. They were joined on the last leg of the march by another 500 people.
The pilgrimage concluded with a rally outside the capital demanding that the rights of workers and their right to unionize be upheld by the state.
What has happened since my last post:
- Merced Farm Labor contractor, the company that hired Maria, has been banned from operating in California until all of the areas where they contract are in compliance with California state law. Read more here (don’t believe the caption, Merced can go back to work as soon as it is in compliance that is not “put out of business” as the caption and first paragraph claim.) They are now claiming that the family refused to get help for Maria and that her fiance drove her to a local grocery store offsite to try and revive her before taking her to the hospital. They are also claiming that they had no part in her death!
- Farm inspections by the state, resulting from Maria’s death have unmasked violations across the agricultural sector in California. One inspection refocused the spotlight on cherries. However, it is unclear how much these “discoveries” are actually benefiting workers since these kinds of abuses are well known parts of the agricultural system in the U.S. and it seems like maybe all this “look at the horrible conditions” posturing may ultimately be just for show, or worse get workers fired or deported. Please write to the California State government and let them know that what you want to see is regulations followed, proper hydration, equipment, housing, etc. for workers and not a bunch of deportations and firings.
- The Governer, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (dem), and Sen Darrell Steinberg (dem), have all expressed their commitment to ensure California state labor laws are followed and to make sure that safety is a priority to prevent any future deaths.
- Assembly Speaker Emiritus, Fabian Nuñez (dem), also introduced a bill to ensure that existing State rules about unionization be followed and to allow workers to vote from home or at poll sites about whether they wanted to start or join a union. He and others argued that such safeguards would ensure that labor contractors and company’s could not manipulate or intimidate workers into giving up their rights.
Please consider giving to UFW to support their continued work for farm workers rights. If you do not have money, send a letter of solidarity and ask to be put on their mailing list so you too can help raise awareness about what is going on.