Update on Cesar Chavez, farmworker organizing, and immigration reform

by Duane Campbell

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally.

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday, as Californians celebrated Cesar Chavez Day the Real News Network has recorded an excellent two interviews with persons presently engaged in farmworker organizing. Both had worked with Chavez-
Marc Grossman and Rosalinda Guillen. They give current testimony to conditions in the fields, the role of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and two different views of the issues of immigration reform. Guillen describes the current largely indigenous labor force in the fields

I encourage all friends of labor to inform themselves and these important struggles.

http://antiracismdsa.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-current-status-of-farmworkers-and.html

 

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Cesar Chavez, The UFW, and Strategic Racism

by Duane Campbell
Cesar Chavez

On March 31, Eleven states will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino Leader Cesar Chavez. A new film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta opens in cities across the country on April 4, 2014. It is reviewed in a post by Randy Shaw.

Let us be clear. Chavez was religious, but he was not a saint. Neither were the growers, their Teamster collaborators, nor corporate agribusiness saints. Celebrations should not be about hero worship or uncritical praise, nor should we ignore the present oppression of farm workers in the U.S.

What they did accomplish along with Philip Vera Cruz , Marshall Ganz, LeRoy Chatfield, Gil Padilla, Eliseo Medina and hundreds of others was to organize in California the first successful farm worker union against overwhelming odds.

Each of the prior attempts to organize a farm worker union had been destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chavez, Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and the others deliberately created a multiracial union; Mexican, Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW. This cross racial organizing was necessary in order to combat the prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and language lines, as well as immigration status always left the corporations the winners.

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State of Our Unions – Sacramento

Posted by Duane Campbell

POSTER FINAL state of our union

Labor Leader Eliseo Medina on Fasting For Immigration Reform, Cesar Chavez

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has finished its work for the year without passing comprehensive immigration reform. On Thursday, leaders from both parties promised to revisit the issue early in the new year. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 immigration activists descended into the offices of House lawmakers on Thursday afternoon to protest the House’s inaction on the issue. The demonstrations came as the immigration reform organization “Fast For Families” concluded 31 days of fasting. Democracy Now speaks to Eliseo Medina, former International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union. Medina recently spent 22 days on a water-only fast. Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez for 13 years. His career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, California.

Eliseo Medina’s Bold Fast

by Randy Shaw

The Obama's Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families  The Obama's Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families

The Obama’s Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families
The Obama’s Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families

In my September 30 tribute to Eliseo Medina’s legacy when he retired from SEIU, I said he “is retiring from his job, though not from immigrant rights activism.” This has become clear as Medina and other activists have held a Fast for Families on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The President, Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett all visited Medina and the other fasters on November 29, bringing needed national attention to House inaction on immigration reform. I discuss the strategic use of fasts by both Cesar Chavez and Eliseo Medina in my book on the farmworker movement and its legacy, and the 67-year old Medina’s current fast harkens back to Chavez’ Arizona fast that spawned the Si Se Puede UFW rallying call.

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The Right To Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration

BaconA review by Duane Campbell

The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration by David Bacon  is a well written, well informed book that explains political and economic currents shaping the US immigration experience.

The U.S. public is  engaged  in a sustained and divisive debate over immigration. Unfortunately, at the same  time ,  most U.S. do not recognize that U.S. economic policy,  particularly NAFTA created many of  the conditions that produce the very immigration of some 8 million people  that many on the Right and the Tea Party   so oppose.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 accelerated a neo-liberal form of economic growth in Mexico that drove poor farmers, particularly in the indigenous south to lose their farms and their livelihood.  In  response  young men, and increasingly the young women,  made the dangerous trek to the U.S. in search of work and an income to feed their families and keep their families from losing their  farms.    Continue reading

Bosch Engineering to Guest Workers: ‘Hand Over Tax Refunds or Go Back to India’

by Mike Elk

bosch_building_615_461In 2005, Suraj Kamath began working for Bosch Engineering in India as an automotive engineer. In March of 2009, Bosch moved him to its test facility in Santa Barbara, CA. under an L-1 visa, which allows American companies to transfer employees based in foreign countries to the United States as “guest workers.” And in December 2012, Kamath says he received a letter from Bosch informing him that he needed to pay the company $45,102 in federal and state tax refunds that he had received over the previous three years.

When Kamath refused to hand over his refunds, to which he was legally entitled, he was met with another unwelcome surprise. According to a complaint he filed in federal court on Wednesday, Bosch threatened to send him back to India if he didn’t pay the thousands of dollars that it claimed he owed.

“I worked diligently for Bosch for years,” Kamath continued in his statement. “When I objected to Bosch’s demand to pay back all tax refunds I had received, Bosch threatened to fire me, send me back to India and make my life miserable. The way Bosch treats its employees is wrong and that’s why I am standing up to Bosch for myself and my fellow colleagues at Bosch.” Continue reading

AFL-CIO Repositions Itself to Speak for All Workers

Fletcherby Bill Fletcher Jr. and Jeff Crosby

The AFL-CIO Convention in September took an important turn to reposition unions toward speaking for all working people in the United States. This was a correction to the narrow focus on its dues-paying members and traditional electoral work that has cursed the movement for most of its history.

To argue that this turn represents an abandonment of current members, as Steve Early does here , is factually false and politically wrong.

It helps to understand what the federation is and is not. It is a collection of unions “held together by a rope of sand,” as a former federation president put it. From the central labor councils to the national organization, affiliates that don’t like the turn of events just quit. Continue reading

Demands for Immigration Reform Produce Nonviolent Direct Action at Capitols

 by Duane Campbell

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

October 8, thousands of people from across the country  gathered  in the nation’s capital to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. After the rally at the National Mall and march to the U.S. Capitol, two hundred of the attendees – national and local community and labor leaders, impacted immigrants, civil rights and faith leaders, and Members of Congress,  follow the event at the steps of the U.S. Capitol with nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at underscoring the urgent need to vote and pass fair immigration reform this year. Speakers at the rally include Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), civil rights leader Julian Bond, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten. Other Members of Congress, national and local community, faith, and labor leaders will be standing on stage during key moments before the march begins.

Some of the national and local leaders participating in civil disobedience  include Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice Fund, Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, Bernard Lunzer, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the CARECEN DC office, D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, John Stocks, Executive Director of the National Education Association, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor,  New Haven Alderman Delphine Clyburn, Joslyn Williams, President of the DC Central Labor Council, Jaime Contreras, Vice-President of SEIU 32BJ, Giev Aaron Kashkooli, Vice-President of the United Farmworkers, Terry Cavanagh, Executive Director of SEIU MD/DC State Council, Javier Valdes, Co-Director of Make the Road New York, Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Illinois Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. For more on the Washington events go to www.AmericasVoice.com

These arrests follow the arrests of Women Activists for immigration on Sept.13, and union activists on Aug. 10.

ImageIn Sacramento the California Republican Party headquarters across the street from the State Capitol was the site of a demonstration by Unite/Here and  SEIU members as well as community activists.  The Republican party was confronted with a message of,  “ We will remember your candidates in  November.” Continue reading

National Day of Action for Immigration Reform, Road Map to Citizenship Set for Oct. 5

Take the pledge to hit the streets Oct. 5: http://go.aflcio.org/hit-the-streets

This Saturday, Oct. 5, a broad and diverse coalition of immigrant, faith, labor, civil rights and family groups will march and rally in more than 80 actions across the nation and call on Congress to pass immigration reform with a road map to citizenship that promotes family unity and protects workers’ rights.

Take the pledge to hit the streets Oct. 5

In addition, the National Day of Dignity and Respect will call for an end to the destruction of immigrant families through deportations and an erosion of workers’ rights. In a statement, the group says:

We are marching for an America where our hard work is honored; where our many contributions to the nation are respected and where our families and children can dream of building lives of dignity and without fear. We cannot let the continued failures of Washington result in more families torn apart, more abusive employers and poverty wages, more children who cannot dream. Continue reading

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