CIRS Blog about Rural California

Hispanic farmers in Texas and California’s Central Valley planted the seeds for a billion-dollar payout when they charged the Agriculture Department with discrimination.

Their lawsuit has struggled in court, but it scored politically.

Now Agriculture Department officials are scrambling to distribute some $1.33 billion to Hispanic and female farmers with discrimination claims. Hoping not to miss anyone, officials have extended the deadline for applications to May 1.

“We’re trying to make sure we leave no stone unturned,” Lillian Salerno, the acting administrator of the department’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, said in an interview Tuesday. “We feel like we’ve done a good job of outreach, but you’re never completely sure.”

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By Rosa Ramirez
California Health Report

OXNARD— The stories that Dario Gutierrez, a native of Mexico City, would hear before arriving in Oxnard two years ago prompted him to make the dangerous trek to the United States illegally. People here, he recalls hearing, earn enough to live comfortably. “Dicen que aquí se barre el dinero en la calle.”—They say here, people can sweep money off the streets.

The saying has prompted flows of people from Mexico and other parts of Latin America to migrate north for work in California’s bountiful agriculture industry. They hope for upward mobility. But the reality for many toiling in the $44.3 billion industry is different. Poor pay, which characterizes the farmworker labor force, has left many struggling to find adequate and safe housing.

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This press release was issued by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

 

SACRAMENTO, CA (February 19, 2013)

On Friday, February 15, 2013, Judge Perantoni of the Riverside County Superior Court, after learning that RBI Packing, LLC of Mecca, California fired approximately 55 farm workers, ordered RBI to stop discriminating against its employees on the basis of their union activity and to offer them priority in hiring for all agricultural jobs at the company’s Blythe-based lemon ranch. 

mecca

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Originally posted on the New America Media website on Jan. 23, 2013.

Editor’s Note: There are an estimated 600,000 crop workers, and an additional 20,000 livestock workers, in California at any given time. Theirs are physically demanding jobs that carry a high risk of occupational injury – yet the vast majority of these workers lack health insurance. That could change in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, although significant barriers will need to be overcome between now and then, if most farmworkers are to benefit. Don Villarejo has worked for more than three decades as a researcher and advocate on behalf of California farmworkers, and has authored major studies on farmworker health in the state. He recently spoke to New America Media editor Jacob Simas.

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Starting in childhood, we are encouraged to make wishes during the holidays. As kids, these are usually for gifts. As an adult, I find myself wishing for more substantive things. OK, every once in a while I wouldn't mind seeing a new pair of hiking boots waiting to be unwrapped. But at this time of year, my wishes are not necessarily for myself.

After all, I've got more-than-adequate food and shelter. And I also have a great job. As the vice president of strategy for Bon Appetit Management Company -- a food service provider committed to a sustainable future for us all -- I get to work on issues that are important to me and to make changes that I think are meaningful.

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