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Forum Post: The Bitter Reality for Farmworkers

Posted 8 years ago on Dec. 30, 2013, 4:53 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The Bitter Reality for Farmworkers

Monday, 30 December 2013 09:44 By David Bacon, New American Media | Report


As families celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas, farmworkers across the country who help harvest the food that was prepared this holiday season continue to struggle under bitter working and living conditions. Jose Lopez comes from the Mixteco town of Jicayan de Tovar in Guerrero. He's worked in the fields for 10 years, but makes so little that he has to borrow money to pay his bills, and has almost none left over to send to his family in Mexico. He told his story to New American Media associate editor David Bacon.

I've worked in the fields here for 10 years, always in Fresno. I come from Jicayan de Tovar in Guerrero, where we speak Mixteco and Spanish. There are a lot of people from my town working here in Fresno. Every year I pick eggplant, grapes, peaches and nectarines, and also grape leaves. I work pruning during part of the year as well. I get seven to eight months of work each year. Right now the pay is eight dollars an hour. Sometimes I get paid by the hour, and sometimes I work by the piece rate, but it comes out to about the same thing.

Picking grapes for raisins is the hardest job. It's a lot of work and in hot conditions. Sometimes we work up to 11 or 12 hours a day, but they never pay us overtime pay. I get extremely tired after a day's work, especially because of the heat. On this job, the pay is 25 cents per tabla [a bucket of grapes spread out over a piece of paper in the row between the vines]. I make approximately $300 a week on this job. Considering the long hours and the extreme heat, it is not a fair wage. It's not enough.

With this pay, I have to support three children, my wife and myself. My wife doesn't work, because she has to take care of the children. Sometimes that $300 isn't enough. I have to buy food and other things the children need and want, and it doesn't cover all of it. If there is a lot of work I can save enough money while I'm working to last through the months when I don't work. When I can't find work, we use our savings. Then, when the money runs out, I have to ask for a loan and pay it back when I'm working again.

My oldest child is seven years old, the second is six and the youngest is six months. So two are in school, and for them I have to purchase school clothing and supplies. There are times when I don't have enough money for that either. I have to ask for a loan and buy them what they need. There are times when I don't have enough money for food, and I ask for a loan then also. If it wasn't for that loan, I would not have a way to buy the family's items.

It's not right to work so hard, and not earn enough to support my family, but what can we do? We can't get a better paying job. We can't do anything else, that's why we work in the fields. But the owners are earning enough aren't they?

Some foremen treat us well, but others yell at workers and tell us to work faster. Some let us take our 15-minute breaks and others don't. Workers suffer a lot while we're working. If we don't work hard, then we're out of a job and can't pay the rent. If we don't work fast, we're fired for that too. It's the job we have. We feel bad when we're yelled at. We feel humiliated -- it's not right to be treated in that way. I sometimes feel like saying something because there is no need to yell at workers. But if I were to say something I would be out of a job. My friends have seen workers faint because of the heat and lack of water. Sometimes the pesticides on the vine are transferred to the workers too. We suffer the consequences of working around these chemicals, but we don't know whom we can talk to about it.

I've felt sick because of pesticides. Recently while I was pruning I began feeling very ill, with a headache and a lot of pain. I didn't know what chemicals I'd been exposed to, but I couldn't work. The little money I had earned working, I had to spend seeking medical care. When I went to see the doctor, he just told me that I could buy medicine. I was out of a job for a while, and I still feel sick from it. I'm also worried about the long-term effects.

Picking peaches can also cause problems. The dust from the fruit causes skin irritation. I've experienced that. It's possible to avoid it, but the grower doesn't provide gloves or long-sleeved shirts, so you buy your own or you pick peaches without protection. The peach season lasts one or two months, and for this work they pay eight dollars an hour - the same as for everything else. I don't like picking peaches but I need the money, so I have to do it even though I would rather not.

I'm sending money back to my family in Guerrero. I don't earn a lot, but I have to send at least something. That's why I came to the United States, to send money back to my family in Mexico. I wanted to come here to work and earn money in order to help support them. There is work in Mexico, but the wages are too low. My family owns land in Jicayan de Tovar, but very little, not enough to support a family.

I've heard of the American dream. Some think that everyone who comes here will have a better life. But there isn't much money here. I thought I'd be earning more. We have to earn enough to pay the rent in this country and it is very high. The money we earn isn't enough to support our families here and in Mexico both. I feel bad and frustrated that I can't do anything about it.

Copyright by David Bacon.



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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Ikea Isn't Only Furnishing Your Bedroom, It's Watching You There

Monday, 30 December 2013 10:53 By Kristina Chew, Care2 | Report


Ikea is not only furnishing people’s bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. The company’s French unit has also been conducting surveillance of employees and even customers who complained about items that were not delivered. It’s not just that Ikea has a record of what color of couch or size bookshelves that you prefer. Ikea has been able to access personal records including bank account information, driving records, vehicle registrations and property records. It has used these in vetting job applicants and in building cases against employees accused of wrongdoing.

Ikea operates in 42 countries, but the reports about surveillance have only surfaced in France. A regional court in Versailles outside of Paris is currently investigating whether officials in Ikea’s French unit illegally ordered personal investigations of hundreds of people. Ikea had itself conducted its own investigation last year following the leaking of internal emails mentioning spying (many written by Jean-François Paris, the French unit’s head of risk management) to the French media. A number of executives including the French unit’s former chief executive, Jean-Louis Baillot, were fired after Ikea’s internal review. Baillot, Ikea’s current chief, Stefan Vanoverbeke, and financial director, Dariusz Rychert, were all questioned recently by the French judicial police for 48 hours prior to the inception of a formal investigation. Paris, who was among those dismissed, is claiming that his spying was approved and even directed by top managers of Ikea France.

The alleged surveillance was not only extensive but went on for a decade. Court documents show that private investigators charged 80 to 180 euros ($110 to $247) per inquiry and that, between 2002 and 2012, more than 475,000 euros in invoices from investigators was approved by Ikea France’s finance department. Only a few of the requests actually led to the discovery of a notable offense, such as theft or harassment.

In February of 2009, Virginie Paulin was dismissed from her position as deputy director of communications and merchandising for Ikea’s two dozen stores in France after she had been on medical leave for a year with hepatitis C. Unbeknownst to Paulin, Ikea officials suspected she was not as sick as she said she was. A private investigator was given her Social Security number, personal cellphone number, bank account details and other personal data. Paulin (who is is still receiving treatment for her illness) was called into a meeting with Claire Héry, Ikea’s head of human resources for France, in April of 2009. Baillot was, to her surprise, also present and the two officials accused her

… of fraudulently exaggerating her illness — although she said they offered no evidence to support their claims.

She said she left the encounter confused and distraught, feeling “robbed of my self and my reputation.” A few days later, Ms. Paulin said, she attempted suicide.

Paulin continued to press her case and, in 2010, a judge ruled that her firing was “devoid of real and serious justification.” She did not get her job back but was awarded nearly 60,000 euros in compensation and the case would have rested there but then, in 2012, the leaked emails appeared and showed that Ikea had been investigating her.

Ikea customers have also found themselves subjected to personal investigations. A Swedish couple, Pascal and Johanna Denize, ordered 10,000 euros (about $13,740) of Ikea furnishings for a vacation home from an Ikea store located in Évry, south of Paris, but never received any of it at the specified delivery time in mid-December. Their calls went unanswered and they were told they could not cancel the order.

The furniture was finally delivered in February of 2007. By that time, the Denizes had filed a number of written complaints asking for reimbursement for the nights they had stayed at a bed and breakfast due to their furniture not having been delivered and for the delivery fee. They eventually were offered a little more than 1,600 euro. But before this settlement was offered, the Denizes, like Paulin, had been subjected to a background check by Paris of Ikea France’s risk management department. Paris had given a private detective the couple’s address in France as well as Johanna Denize’s French mobile phone number and asked “is this person known to the police?” As Pascal Denize said in a Skype interview with the New York Times, “It was so ‘Big Brother.’ We felt exposed and afraid” — quite the opposite of the homey, cozy atmosphere that Ikea promotes its wares as providing in our homes.

In a year in which the National Security Agency has been revealed to have obtained information about our cell phone records, emails and other personal data, eavesdropped on the U.S.’s European allies and a whole lot else — knowing that Ikea has been up to the same suggests that a company that seeks to help “warm your home this holiday season” is also doing a lot more, keeping precise tabs on where your home is and what you do in it.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

I have always wondered why it is that you do not fully explore issues. http://freedomnetworkusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Farmworkers-FINAL-1.pdf