Climate Change Refugees and Haiti

Environmental changes have always been a driving force for migration. From natural disasters to drought and flooding, changes in the environment impact lives and livelihoods, forcing people to abandon their homes. Over the last 40 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people forced to migrate as a result of environmental factors. Catastrophic storms are more common, areas suffering from prolonged drought have tripled in the last 40 years, and rising sea levels put coastal communities at risk. By 2050, the International Office of Migration estimates that as many as 250 million people could be displaced as the result of environmental impacts. Unlike those displaced by war or systemic violence, people forcibly displaced as the result of environmental change are rarely recognized as refugees when they cross borders.

Forced migration due to effects of climate change will impact all countries. The United States could see 13 million people internally displaced as a result of rising sea levels by 2045, especially along the east and gulf coasts. The majority of the communities facing permanent inundation are socioeconomically vulnerable communities. Around the globe, drought has already led to displacement and related social tensions as rural communities are forced to move to urban areas. The origins of social conflict and violence are certainly complex, but as climate change forces the movement of people, tensions increase. In Syria, for example, “record drought and massive crop failure beginning in 2006 led to the mass migration of predominately Sunni farmers to Alawi-dominated cities, increasing sectarian tensions and generating conflicts over diminished resources.” Rising food prices in 2007 and 2008, from drought and increased transportation costs, led to protests across the globe, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen. The UN estimates 144 million people were driven into poverty by the increase in food prices by 2011. In Niger alone, 5.1 million people became food “insecure.”

In Haiti the intersection of environmental degradation, climate change and forced migration is apparent. At the root of this crisis is the transformation of the rural economy that began under the U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1934. Haiti’s economy was re-engineered as an export platform to feed U.S. interests, from agriculture to banking. By the mid-20th century deforestation, soil erosion, insecure land tenure and population growth was driving an exodus from rural areas to cities. However, in the last 30 years these trends have accelerated. Under pressure to lower tariffs for imports from the United States, Haiti saw the local market for staple crops such as rice collapse. De-forestation accelerated, leading to a situation today where only 3% of Haiti’s tree canopy remains. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced, forced into urban areas not equipped to handle the influx of people. Today, less than half of Port-au-Prince’s population was born there. Areas like Cite Soleil, with over 400,000 people, are overcrowded and under-resourced. The rapid growth of insecure building and overcrowding is the reason that the 2010 earthquake was so deadly, killing up to 300,000 people.

People migrating to major cities like Port-au-Prince, Gonaives, and Cap-Haitien are in effect moving to coastal areas. Here rising seas, more intense storms, and areas of extreme drought combine to create a recipe for recurrent disasters. Mudslides in 2004 killed tens of thousands of people near Gonaives, as treeless hillsides collapsed on the city. Every new storm brings with it the risk of crop failure, flooding and further soil erosion. Overcrowding has also increased the risks of disease. When UN troops introduced cholera in to Haiti in 2010, the disease spread rapidly, killing 9,400 individuals and infecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Interconnected with the process of internal displacement is outward migration. Nearly one million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, primarily seeking work on sugar plantations and other agricultural positions. Tensions have resurfaced in recent years leading to mass expulsions of Haitians from the Dominican Republic, whose government denied citizenship to people of Haitian descent. Over the last thirty years, the United States has been the primary destination for Haitians with 650,000 people moving to the U.S. since 1986. However, tensions have mounted within the U.S. over immigration – leading to the suspension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which covered over 50,000 Haitian migrants. Meanwhile, other countries with less restrictive policies are becoming a destination. It is estimated that close to 105,000 Haitians, equivalent to 1% of the population, moved to Chile alone last year.

The confluence of environmental degradation, climate change, and forced migration in Haiti is part of a global process driving people into insecure situations; exacerbating political conflicts and violence. There is no easy solution. Clearly, binding agreements to reduce emissions and move the planet away from a fossil fuel based economy is necessary. Even if this is acheived, the process must be inclusive. Alternative fuels are no panacea if accompanied by the expansion of extractive industries and agricultural practices that further drive forced migration. In the interim, people are already being forced to migrate.

International law is behind the times

The Refugee Convention of 1951 defines a refugee as a person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. The Convention does not cover people who are forced to migrate due to environmental reasons when they cross borders. The result is a variety of short-term measures, such as TPS in the United States, that affords very little protection to people whose status can change overnight. Within the United States, at least, there needs to be more effort to craft lasting solutions, that offer people who previously migrated an opportunity to seek permanent residency.

Currently there are efforts to recraft refugee and migrant laws. For example, the United Nations’ International Office of Migration is overseeing the creation of A Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The draft compact should be completed this year. However, enforcement mechanisms will be limited. In the United States and Europe in particular, migration is re-crafted as a crisis for the receiving country and thus there is resistance to any kind of binding obligations to accept more people. Given the current political environment it is not surprising that Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Compact negotiating process in December last year.

Until there are binding protections afforded to migrants as well as binding agreements to ameliorate the worst impacts of climate change, the world will face increasing migration, accompanied by ongoing political conflict. The current zero-sum, nationalistic orientation of so many, who view migrants as a threat rather than as fellow human beings in need of solidarity, continues to infect any effort for change. We must be better than this.

 

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Liberian Deferred Enforced Departure, Colonialism, and White Supremacy

Given the pace of anti-immigration news over the past several months, the termination of another immigration initiative should hardly come as a surprise, but the announced wind-down over the next year of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians hardly made a blip on the radar of national news. This change is further evidence of the current administration’s wanton disregard for the lives of those who come to the United States to carry on their lives with dignity and hope. 

Rewire.News supplies answers to many questions in an excellent piece from last week titled: “What is Deferred Enforced Departure? It’s Complicated.”  Here are a few answers to a couple of basic questions from that piece:

How do you receive DED status?

According to an official from USCIS, eligibility requirements for DED are up to the discretion of the president and any relevant requirements established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Applicants for immigration benefits are subject to criminal and national security background checks, but DED differs from other benefits in that there is no formal application process.

“There is no form associated with DED. This means they do not apply for DED but are instead covered by DED,” a USCIS official said in an emailed statement to Rewire.News.

How many Liberian DED beneficiaries are there?

Because there is no application or registration for DED, the official number of Liberian DED recipients is unknown. According to USCIS, the maximum number of Liberians covered by DED would be approximately 3,600, the number of Liberians who held TPS when it was terminated in 2007. Roughly 840 Liberian DED recipients who applied for and currently have work authorization will be affected by Trump’s decision to end DED for Liberia.

The relatively small number of Liberian DED recipients means that the impact on the national level is minimal, but we must think about the context in order to understand why this case matters.

To begin with, Liberian history is directly linked to the U.S. institutions of slavery and colonialism dating to the pre-Civil War era. In the face of a growing population of freed black slaves in the abolitionist northern region of the United States, the American Colonization Society proposed to create a nation in Africa where freed slaves could live. This process of colonial settlement of a diverse population of freed slaves started in 1820 and resulted in conflict between a new ruling class of Americo-Liberians and the indigenous peoples of the region. The government was led by Americo-Liberians from the nation’s founding in 1847 until 1980. The other 95% of the population, descended from local ethnic groups rather than the descendants of settlers from the United States, was totally excluded from power.

A coup d’etat in 1980 marked a shift in political power. The resulting instability and struggle would lead to two civil wars and death of 250,000 people.

Although the country has been in a process of recovery for the past 15 years or so, an Ebola outbreak in 2014 created further pressure for people to leave. Economic restructuring has led Liberia to have one of the highest levels of foreign investment as a percentage of GDP in the world. The resulting growth of concessions to foreign extractive industries since 2006 has displaced tens of thousands of people. As a result of the wars and crises that have followed, many people have been traumatized and can hardly be blamed for seeking new beginnings elsewhere.

Since the political consequences of this U.S. colonial enterprise continue to affect Liberia even today, the United States should accept its responsibility to provide – if not reparations – at least a welcoming policy for any Liberian who seeks life in the United States.

Moreover, apart from the particular gravity of the Liberian case, there is another important pattern to observe in the immigration decisions made by this administration. All of the immigration program suspensions and wind-downs that have been announced in the past year – Central American Minors, TPS for many countries, DED for Liberia – share a common feature: they target immigrants who come from places other than Europe. #45, who has been married to two women from Eastern Europe, seems to be unconcerned about European migration to the United States and has even reportedly suggested that he would be happy with fewer people arriving from Haiti and Africa, and more from places like Norway. (DACA represents a minor deviation from this general practice, since 0.7% of Dreamers were born in Europe.)

Finally, if the President actually had any level of concern about a vulnerable population from a particular place, it would be within the power of the office to allow them to remain in the U.S. legally under DED. Any statement he makes to blame others for the brutal and inhumane immigration policies of his administration is simply empty rhetoric. And ending DED for Liberia serves as one more example of a pattern of abuse of some of the most resilient – yet vulnerable – among us. Our place is to stand alongside these neighbors and not to allow them to be forgotten when the next Tweet comes along.  

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Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Myriam Merlet

Part IV of the Inspirational and Influential Women of the World Blog Series

Myriam Merlet

Myriam Merlet was considered one of Haiti’s most prominent leaders and catalysts of the women’s rights movement. Merlet was one of the 300,000 people who perished in the  7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. As part of our series on inspirational and influential women, we take a look at her work as an advocate for gender equality and the rights of women facing sexual violence.

In the 70s, Merlet left Haiti and sought refuge in Canada, where she studied economics, women’s issues, feminist theory, and political sociology. Upon the completion of her studies, Merlet returned to Haiti in the mid 1980s, stating, “While I was abroad I felt the need to find out who I was and where my soul was. I chose to be a Haitian woman. We’re a country in which three-fourths of the people can’t read and don’t eat properly. I’m an integral part of the situation…as a Haitian woman, I must make an effort so that all together we can extricate ourselves from them [the problems].” Upon returning to Haiti, Merlet used her education to lead grassroots advocacy to promote the rights of Haitian women and worked with others to change the culturally accepted norm of gender-based violence.

Merlet was involved in an array of organizations seeking to create and enforce gender equality. In Merlet’s early advocacy years, she founded EnfoFanm, an organization that sought to raise global awareness about the challenges Haitian women face, namely the history and continued use of sexual assault by government soldiers, police, and criminal gangs as means of controlling and oppressing women. EnfoFanm also led a campaign to name streets in Port-au-Prince after famous Haitian women to celebrate and commemorate their work as well as elevate the status of women within Haitian culture. Later in 2006, Merlet took part in creating the Coordination Nationale pour le Plaidoyer des Femmes [National Coordination for Women’s Advocacy] and served as a spokesperson for the organization to fight against sexism within the public sector.

One of Merlet’s greatest accomplishments was leading the efforts to reclassify rape. Prior to 2005, rape was considered a “crime of passion” or an “offense against morals” in Haiti. Rape victims and their families seldom received monetary compensation from the perpetrators, and had no hope for a legal sentencing or justice for the victim. In large part thanks to the work of Merlet and many other women activists, rape has been reclassified as a criminal offense. However, there remains a lack of a precise definition of rape as well as strong judicial system to uphold and enforce the criminalization of rape. As a result, many rapes continue to be overlooked by authorities and there is a stark lack of rape prosecutions, leaving victims vulnerable and susceptible to further gender-based violence.

From 2006 to 2008 Merlet acted as the Chief of Staff to Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women. There, she continued to promote equal rights and end gender discrimination and violence. Though in a government position, Merlet continued to participate in grassroots advocacy and worked closely with the Minister for the Coordination of Women and Women’s Rights, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue. Together, Merlet and Lassegue opened the first Haiti Sorority Safe House and V-Day Safe House, both of which act as safe houses for women who are victims of domestic violence. At both of these safe houses women can access medical, legal, and psychological aid as well as gain life skills through the business and computer training courses offered. There continues to be an overwhelming lack of safe houses and aid offered to victims of domestic and gender-based violence. Merlet and Lassegue’s work is carried on by organizations like Fanm Deside, but more needs to be done.

The earthquake served as a reminder of how crucial the work in which Merlet was involved continues to be. A report by Amnesty International stated, “the displacements and living conditions in the displaced persons camps have increased the risk of facing gender-based violence for women and girls, while the destruction of police stations and court houses during the 2010 earthquake further weakened that state’s ability to provided adequate protection.” Women and girls living in the camps with poor lighting at night, unsecure tents, and limited police presence continue to be increasingly susceptible to rape and gender-based violence. Furthermore, the child sex ring run by United Nations Peacekeepers exacerbated the sexual abuse women and girls faced in the camps in Port-au-Prince.

The work Merlet started for the promotion, empowerment, and protection of Haitian women’s rights at the grassroots level remains imperative. The UN’s debacle illustrates why women and local leaders must be involved in the disaster relief process and the need to bring female issues to the forefront of government policy in the hopes of strengthening the justice system to deter rape and gender-based violence as well as provided justice for female victims.

Up Next: Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Sister Pauline Quinn coming April 20th

 

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Trump Unhinged

Over the last few days Trump has been tweeting and fuming over a caravan of migrants crossing through Mexico. Some, not all, may try to gain access to the United States, seeking asylum from economic marginalization and political violence in Central America. Nearly 80% of the 1,200 caravan participants are from Honduras.

Caravans have been common in recent years, as people travel in larger groups to avoid trouble with gangs in Central America and Mexico. Until this year, these caravans gained little notice in the United States. But Trump is in trouble with scandals and desperate for a legislative victory. In this environment, he seems to be turning to what got him to the White House: Exaggerate, mislead, and outright lie about some facet of immigration law, or immigrants themselves, to rally support. Referencing the caravan, Trump is renewing calls for border wall funding, and has declared there will be no deal on DACA. In a tweet Sunday, Trump declared:

Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!

Yesterday, Trump went even further, declaring that the U.S. would begin using the military to police the border. Quoted in the New York Times, Trump said:

We have very bad laws for our border, and we are going to be doing some things — I’ve been speaking with General Mattis — we’re going to be doing things militarily…Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step. We really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before.

Trump’s latest tirade is political theater of the sort we’ve come to expect. Bombastic declarations that clutter the political space for compromise, all with the aim of getting a “deal.”  Withdrawing the U.S. from NAFTA, sending troops to the border, and refusing to bargain on DACA – when it was just a few weeks ago he encouraged such a bargain in exchange for funding for the wall and other reductions in immigration – are all on the surface losing propositions. Clearly he is trying to shake things up to force the hands of congress, while giving red meat to his Fox-News-watching supporters.

Along the southern border, crossings are at a near 40 year low. The last four administrations have built a legal framework on immigration that has granted enormous authority to ICE to arrest, detain, and deport millions of people. Far from being hamstrung, ICE has been given near free rein along the border. Federal prosecutors and judges are now forced to spend half of their caseloads prosecuting illegal entry and reentry violations, in an unnecessary dragnet that violates the most basic tenets of due process.

The only crisis in immigration right now is the inhumane treatment being meted out against people fleeing violence and economic collapse. While Trump’s rhetoric is theatrical, the results of his ongoing war on migrants is very real. We are facing a human rights crisis in this country of enormous proportions. Trump wants to make it worse. Congress will likely go along in some measure. We need to stop them.

 

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Farmworker Awareness Week Day Seven, Support UFW’s’ Push for Overtime Pay

“Life here is very hard when we harvest fruits and vegetables. The sun burns so much and we get weak, and you get irritated from so much heat. And despite that we have to work all day putting up with the fatigue, dehydration and hunger. I’ll also tell you that it’s very sad to be far from our land which is Mexico… and our loved ones like my parents, my wife and my son. But we’re here working hard so that we can support our family… and well, it’s very hard to be a farmworker, and sad because you work from sun up to sundown in the fields.”

Farmworker Awareness Week is an effort to educate people about the conditions under which farmworkers labor and the economic forces the lead so many to do this work away from family members. In supporting this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week we have been taking the lead from Student Action with Farmworkers. Student Action posts daily actions for the week, with quotes like the one above from farmworkers to offer reflection.

The action for today is to support the United Farm Workers efforts for legislation to ensure that farm workers receive overtime pay. UFW is working on a proposal that would, “remedy the discriminatory denial of overtime pay and the minimum wage to all farm workers under current law. Farm workers deserve basic minimum wage and overtime protections like any other US worker. Workers in agriculture would be entitled to time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours in a week. It would phase in overtime pay over a period of 4 years beginning in 2019”

The campaign for national regulation follows on UFW’s successful campaign for reform in California:

The farm worker movement is determined to address Jim Crow era discrimination against farm workers like the UFW’s huge 2016 victory in California that ensures the implementation of more inclusive regulations for farm workers starting in 2019. In California, overtime law for farm workers ensures farm workers will have an equal right to overtime pay and continues the process of reducing discrimination in employment laws against agricultural workers. The change started in California it is time to set this standard for the entire nation.

You can read more about this effort and sign the pledge to support the effort and hold legislators accountable here.

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Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Angela Davis

“Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’” – Angela Davis

As a professor, author, and revolutionary, Angela Davis’s life has been about teaching. With her academic prowess, organizing ability, and bravery she has been a teacher to many. She has spread her intersectional feminism and anti-prison messages, against powerful opposition, to generations of activists. No matter the obstacle, she has refused to be silenced.

In the 1960s she was a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego working with the Black Panthers and an all-black wing of the Communist Party. She was later hired to teach at UCLA, but then governor Ronald Reagan pushed for her firing because of her association with communism. She took the Board of Regents to court and won her job back.

But by 1970 she had a new mission. She had long been fighting against the prison-industrial complex and its injustices against the black population. Davis supported the Soledad Brothers, three black inmates charged with murdering a white guard. At their trial, Jonathan Jackson attempted to help the brothers escape, but the resulting shootout left the defendants and a judge dead. Though Davis wasn’t present, she had corresponded with the brothers and owned the guns involved, leading the FBI to place her on the Most Wanted List. Weeks later she was arrested and referred to by President Nixon as a terrorist. An international movement grew to support her release. After sixteen months in jail she was granted bail and an all-white jury eventually found her not-guilty on all counts.

Davis went on to teach at San Francisco State University, UC Santa Cruz, Rutgers University, and Syracuse University. She has spoken around the world and also published many books on a range of subjects connected to race, gender, and justice. In her books like Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Davis brings an oft-ignored history of black women into the public eye.

Davis’s writing is intersectional, undoing legacies of racism and sexism deep in our collective history. She looks at how systems of oppression do not exist separately but are all connected. To her, liberation means everyone, so black movements cannot leave out women and feminist movements cannot leave out black women. She elevates the stories of black women who have been oppressed, just as she was, but deserve to be heard. As she explains in Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, “the whole apparatus of the state was set up against me.” But figures who tried to keep her down (Reagan, Nixon, and J. Edgar Hoover, to name a few) are all gone now. Angela Davis is still here, still fighting, still teaching.

 

 

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day 6: Sign Petition to Support VUSE Boycott

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee has been organizing with farmworkers in tobacco giant Reynolds American’s supply chain for years. For Day Six of Farmworker Awareness Week we are asking you to join with FLOC and sign a petition supporting a boycott of VUSE, an e-cigarette sold by Reynolds. From FLOC’s page:

For ten years, FLOC has been challenging Reynolds American to work with FLOC to end abuses and human rights violations in their tobacco supply chain by guaranteeing a process that would protect freedom of association on their contract farms. After five years of refusing to meet, Reynolds began meeting with FLOC in 2012, but these talks have not led to an actual mechanism that would allow farmworkers a voice on the job and the ability to negotiate better working conditions. Last year, FLOC members voted to boycott VUSE, an e-cigarette brand made by Reynolds, until Reynolds signs an agreement with FLOC that guarantees farmworkers freedom of association.

The VUSE e-cigarette brand is Reynolds’ hallmark product and is sold at most convenience stores. 36% of tobacco sales are via convenience stores. FLOC and its allies have made significant efforts to communicate with the corporate officers of 7-11, Couche Tard (Circle K and Kangaroo), and WAWA convenience store chains, but the chains have not responded to repeated letters and emails.

We need you to stand with farmworkers by boycotting VUSE and demanding that convenience stores stop selling this product until Reynolds agrees to give farmworkers a voice and a practical mechanism that they can use to negotiate better working and living conditions without fear of retaliation!

To sign the petition go here.

For more information on FLOC’s work check out their website here.

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day Five: Support Community, Student Action with Farmworkers

“I’m away from my family for eight months to come work in this country. Work here is very hard because we have to work ten to twelve hours a day. The work helps me support my family, but I am happy because I’m reaching my goal of having a house of my own.”

Farmworker Awareness Week is an effort to educate people about the conditions under which farmworkers labor and the economic forces that lead so many to do this work away from family members. In supporting this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week we have been taking the lead from Student Action with Farmworkers. Student Action posts daily actions for the week, with quotes like the one above from farmworkers to offer reflection. Student Action offers the following explanation for why they do the work:

Farmworkers feed the world– 85% of our fruits and vegetables are handpicked. There are an estimated 2-3 million men, women, and children work in the fields in the United States. Farms are in every state, including yours, yet farmworkers remain largely invisible and continue to live and work in horrific conditions.  We demand dignity for farmworkers!

Farm work is the third most dangerous job in the United States. The people who plant and harvest our fruits and vegetables suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any other workers in the nation and have higher incidences of heat stress, dermatitis, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis than other wage-earners.  We demand safe working conditions for farmworkers!

Farmworkers are treated differently under the law. Overtime, unemployment insurance, and even protection when joining a union are not guaranteed under federal law. Farmworkers were excluded from almost all major federal laws passed in the 1930s. The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers on large farms only and it still has not made provisions for overtime.  We demand just living and working conditions for farmworkers and an end to unfair treatment under the law.

The actvity Student Action with Farmworkers encourage today is to get out into the community and support Latinx restaurants and other businesses. We would encourage this, as well as support for organizations doing the work of raising awareness, like Student Action with Farmworkers. Get involved! Get Connected! Make a difference.

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Farmworker Awareness Week, Day Four: Pledge to Boycott Wendy’s

Bioparques workers who spoke to Times reporter Richard Marosi for an investigation published December 10, 2014, described subhuman conditions, with workers forced to work without pay, trapped for months at a time in scorpion-infested camps, often without beds, fed on scraps, and beaten when they tried to quit. (Harper’s Magazine, 2016)

We are quite happy with the quality and taste of the tomatoes we are sourcing from Mexico. (Wendy’s spokesperson, 2016)

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been organizing since 1993 to improve labor conditions for farmworkers. In 1998 CIW won its first major victory:

Combining three community-wide work stoppages with intense public pressure – including an unprecedented month-long hunger strike by six members in 1998 and an historic 234-mile march from Ft. Myers to Orlando in 2000 – the CIW’s early organizing ended over twenty years of declining wages in the tomato industry.

By 1998, farmworkers had won industry-wide raises of 13-25% (translating into several million dollars annually for the community in increased wages) and a new-found political and social respect from the outside world. Those raises brought the tomato picking piece rate back to pre-1980 levels (the piece rate had fallen below those levels over the course of the intervening two decades), but wages remained below poverty level and continuing improvement was slow in coming.

In the early 2000’s CIW brought its creative energy to campaigns for corporate responsibility. The strategy was to pressure companies directly for wage increases and improvements in work conditions, aligning CIW’s labor membership with consumers around the country.  In 2001 CIW launched a national boycott of Taco Bell. After four years, Taco Bell reached an agreement with CIW touching on all of the boycott demands.

The next step for CIW was launching the Fair Food Program, a monitoring organization that brings workers, farm producer company, and retail companies together through commitments to support core labor standards. There are currently 14 major retailers, including fast food giants, McDonalds, Burger King, Yum Brands, and Subway.

CIW began targeting Wendy’s to join the FFP in 2005 as well. Wendy’s response was to stop buying in Florida – shifting its production chain to Mexico where labor conditions and wages are even worse. CIW has called a boycott of Wendy’s until it agrees to adopt FFP standards.

Read more here, and pledge to join the boycott today!

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Farmworker Awareness Week Day Three: Take Action to Ban Chlorpyrifos

“We started around four [4:00] to four thirty [4:30] in the morning,” one worker reported. “I heard someone say ‘it’s raining,’ I didn’t feel anything but I could smell it. I could smell a chemical smell like a garden product. I heard a plane or helicopter I never saw it but I heard it. I did have symptoms, my head was hurting, and my eyes were itchy and really watery.”

Farmworkers, like the man quoted above in this Mother Jones report, are routinely exposed to pesticides. In the incident above, men working a field were hit with doses of chlorpyrifos from a crop-duster spraying an adjoining field and Vapam, which had been injected in heavy doses at a nearby potato farm that produces for Tasteful Selections. As a result of this incident, Tasteful Selections and the pesticide company that sprayed chlorpyrifos were both fined for failing to disclose the presence of the pesticides. Pat Trowers of the Pesticide Action Network, is quoted in the Mother Jones story, saying “The fines levied against these companies amount to little more than pocket change for large-scale growers….It’s simple—the punishment should fit the crime. Higher fines and larger no-spray zones around workers would be a much more effective deterrent to pesticide drift problems.”

Today is Day Three of Farmworker Awareness Week. The theme for the day is Life, and the action is to call on Congress to institute a ban on chlorpyrifos. You can join in the action by connecting to the Pesticide Action Network here.

As reported in the Guardian last May:

Chlorpyrifos is widely used in US agriculture, sprayed on crops such as corn, wheat and citrus. However, growing evidence of its impact upon human health led the EPA to agree with the chemical industry more than a decade ago that the product should not be used indoors to get rid of household bugs.

The pesticide has been linked to developmental problems in children such as lower birth weight, reduced IQ and attention disorders. Large doses of the chemical can cause convulsions and sometimes even death. People are exposed through spray drift, residues on food and water contamination.

Chlorpyrifos, which is produced by Dow Chemicals, can still be used for agricultural purposes but after a legal challenge by environmental groups, EPA scientists stated that the pesticide was not safe for any use and proposed widening the ban.

A subsequent ban of chlorpyrifos was rejected, however, under the new Trump administration. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, said he denied the ban to provide “regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos”. The EPA said there were “serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps” in the plan to banish chlorpyrifos. The next review of the chemical isn’t scheduled until 2022.

Farmworkers cannot wait until 2022. Join the call to action! Contact your legislators!

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)