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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Outrage at continued injustice towards farm workers in California

I got word earlier this morning that Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1121 - the bill authored by Senator Dean Florez that would have given farm workers some of the same rights as other employees - overtime pay. I have been too upset to be able to write coherent sentences until now.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who made their calls to encourage Schwarzenegger to sign - we first sent a request out on July 12th.

I am still at a loss right now on how to deal with my anger and sadness.

I have left a message for the author of the bill, Senator Dean Florez – who too must be beside himself. His parents and grandparents were farm workers. You can read his powerful quotes here:

Geez....anyone think it might be hard for the movie star turned governor to understand what it must be like for the workers?

His reason: "In vetoing the measure, Schwarzenegger cited the fragile economy and said that extending overtime protections could put farms out of business, or result in lower paychecks for agricultural workers because farmers would hire more people and cut hours to avoid paying overtime."

Really? I would think that paying workers (who already get paid very little) overtime might actually benefit them. And by putting more money in their pockets, benefit the economy. I guess the difference is that this type of thinking only benefits the farms. Well, what about hiring more workers then to cover the extra work that needs to be done. That would help with unemployment, right? Right? I mean, am I speaking a different language? All of this seems to me to just benefit the farms and that is all that he had in mind when he vetoed this bill.

This is a governor who is not even up for re-election – here was his opportunity to pass a bill that would have been the first of its kind in the nation giving benefits to farm workers. Workers who we know suffer from the loopholes in agricultural laws. Farm workers who are still exposed to agricultural chemicals that cause cancer. Farm workers who still, to this day, are dying in the fields to put food on our tables.

On everyone’s tables – every single one of us.

Including his.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More abuses of the food industry

It has been a busy summer so far and the best part has been meeting so many of our supporters (new ones too) who understand the importance of the work we are doing. We know that connecting the issues (veganism, farm worker rights, food justice and food access) is a new concept for some, but we thank you so much for joining with us!

Having said that, we have completed the Workers section of our website – it is broken down into produce workers (who we tend to call farm workers), factory farm workers and slaughterhouse/processing workers.

This new section of our website goes over the living and working conditions of these workers and the way they suffer at the hands of corporations.

Those of us who are vegan or do outreach on veganism know that by eating a vegan diet (or promoting it) we are encouraging people to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and variations of those foods. And everyone knows, we need fruits and vegetables in order to maintain a healthy diet. Because of this, Food Empowerment Project believes strongly that we need to add our voice to those of the farm workers who pick our food, especially when they demand to be treated with dignity and respect and ask for basic rights that many of us take for granted, including overtime pay, safe working conditions and earning a living wage.

A big part of our mission is to ensure that we lend our voices on behalf of the farm workers. Being a vegan organization, our goal is to help make the food we eat more ethical for all involved.

We also feel, however, that it is important to expose the living conditions of those workers involved in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Although we do not spend our time actively campaigning or advocating for them (as it would be inconsistent with our message), their stories need to be heard as we know that many are exploited and treated cruelly, much like the animals who are abused and killed by these same industries.

It is unfortunate that many workers in our society seem to be treated as less than human, as if their desire to be treated with dignity and their rights to be protected from hazardous conditions and be paid a living wage are somehow different from our own. It's time we put a stop to this way of thinking.

Ethical vegans recognize the plight of farmed animals, and not eating them means we aren't contributing to their suffering. It is therefore important to do the same for the farm workers who help put those fruits and vegetables on our tables, and recognize that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Please do read F.E.P.'s Workers section and share with others.

A quick thanks to Ryan Frazier for his work researching and writing about these very frustrating and complicated issues and Valerie Belt for her assistance in editing. And a big thank you to: ALBA (Agricultural & Land-Based Training Association) for giving us a tour of their farm and talking to us about their goal of helping farm workers become farmers; attorney Michael Smith and CATA (link) for their assistance in the farm worker section; and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) for giving us the opportunity to speak with workers in a processing plant.