“How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?”

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

We need to tell you about a story that will break your heart, and then we need to ask you for help so we can prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.

Will you help in a fight for justice?  I received an email today from the United Farm Workers about a prevantable death of a young, pregnant woman.  The Daily Kos and Docudharma communities can make a difference here.  The cause is just and necessary.

I just spoke at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. Maria was working in a grape vineyard outside Stockton during the 1st heat wave of this year. She became ill due to the heat as the farm labor contractor and grower she worked for, like many others, did not provide the protections required by law.

The death of this young pregnant girl is hard to accept because it did not need to happen.

This is not the first time farm workers have needlessly died from the heat.  Ten have died over the last four years.

Arturo S. Rodriguez

President, UFW

Can you help the United Farm Workers?  Will you fight for justice?  More after the fold.  

Hundreds attended the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. Maria was working in a grape vineyard outside Stockton during the 1st heat wave of this year. She became ill due to the heat as the farm labor contractor and grower she worked for, like many others, did not provide the protections required by law.

United Farm Workers, Si, Se Puede

And she died.  It was preventable.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attended her funeral.  Say what you will about him, for a Republican, he has a conscience. He’s a decent man.

LODI – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met Wednesday with relatives of a 17-year-old girl who died May 16 after collapsing in a field near Lodi.

The governor, who joined United Farm Workers union President Arturo Rodriguez at a funeral for Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, expressed his condolences Wednesday and said there “is no excuse for failing to protect worker safety.”

Schwarzenegger also met privately with Vasquez Jimenez’s fiance, Florentino Bautista, who was working with her when she collapsed in a vineyard east of Stockton on May 14 in heat that was above 95 degrees. Bautista said he was told to put his fiancee in a van first and wait, and then to take her to a store and buy some rubbing alcohol and apply it.

About 90 minutes after Vasquez Jimenez collapsed, the van’s driver took her to a Lodi clinic. She had a temperature of more than 108 degrees, according to the United Farm Workers Union.

Sacremento Bee

Here is part of the eulogy by UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez at Funeral Services for Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez.  It explains everything.  


How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?

Wednesday, May 14 was a hot day. The official temperature was 95 degrees; inside the vineyard where Maria and her boyfriend, Florentino Bautista, worked it was probably about 100 degrees.

It was Maria’s third day of work after arriving in California from Oaxaca, Mexico last February to make money to send to her mother, brothers and sisters in Mexico. Maria dedicated herself to helping her family.

She was laboring for a farm labor contractor, Merced Farm Labor Contracting, on a vineyard east of Stockton growing grapes for West Coast Grape Farming, a division of Bronco Wines, which is also part of Franzia vineyards.

Maria had been working for nine hours that day, since 6 a.m., suckering-removing suckers and leaving the stronger shoots to grow.

There was no water at all for the workers from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

There was no shade and since the vines were young, standing only a few feet tall, there was no protection from the hot sun.

There was no training for foremen or workers on what to do if someone became ill from the heat.

All these protections have been demanded by the state of California since 2005, when the United Farm Workers convinced Governor Schwarzenegger to issue the first state regulation in the country to prevent deaths and illnesses from extreme heat.

At 3:40 p.m. on May 14, Maria became dizzy. She was unsteady on her feet. She didn’t know where she was and didn’t recognize Florentino, her boyfriend. He approached her and she passed out, her body lying on the ground. Florentino held her in his arms.

The foreman for the labor contractor, Raul Martinez, came over and stood four or five feet away, staring at the couple for about five minutes. He said, “Oh, that’s what happens to people, but don’t worry. If you apply some rubbing alcohol to her, it will go away.”

Maria was carried to a nearby van that the workers pay seven dollars a day for rides to and from work. She was placed on a back seat. With no air conditioning, it was hotter inside the van than outside.

Someone wet Maria’s bandana with water and placed it on her forehead. She was still unconscious.

The foreman told Florentino to get rubbing alcohol from the store. But Maria’s crew was still working. They had to wait for them to finish as other workers relied on the same van.

The rubbing alcohol didn’t help either. So the van headed towards Lodi. The driver decided Maria looked so ill that she needed medical help. On the way to the clinic in Lodi, the foreman called on the driver’s cell phone and spoke to Florentino. “If you take her to a clinic,” the foreman said, “don’t say she was working [for the contractor]. Say she became sick because she was jogging to get exercise. Since she’s underage, it will create big problems for us.”

They arrived at the clinic at 5:15 p.m., more than an hour and a half after Maria was stricken. She was so sick an ambulance took her to the hospital. Doctors said her temperature upon arrival was 108.4 degrees, far beyond what the human body can take.

Maria’s heart stopped six times in the next two days. The doctors revived her. On Friday morning her good heart stopped again and efforts to revive her failed. The doctors learned Maria was pregnant. She probably never realized she was going to be a mother.

Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

Remarks by UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez at Funeral Services for Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-Year Old Farm Worker Who Died Due to the Heat

The UFW members and grieving for a fallen one, but they are acting also:

The UFW is sponsoring a four-day pilgrimage in her memory that will begin this Sunday, June 1st from the Lodi church where Maria’s final eulogy was held.

Over the 4 days, peregrinos will walk approximately 50 miles to California’s Sacramento capitol. They will then appeal to the Governor and lawmakers to protect farm workers in the fields and ensure nothing like this ever occurs again.

This pilgrimage will cost at least $36,068 to cover the costs of buses and vans for farm workers, food, housing, and of course cool water for the hot sun. We’re asking our internet supporters to contribute 15% of the cost which is $5,410.

Please help. Maria had only one life and now it is gone.

This peregrination and the good that can come of it for other farm workers can help affirm that Maria’s life was important and that she didn’t die in vain.

“How much is the life of a farm worker worth?  Give here to help.

https://secure.ga6.org/08/pilg…

Or go here and hit donate:

http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?…

Update: Or you can send a check with your basic information:

Email: *

First Name: *

Last Name: *

Address:*

Address Line 2:

City: *

State/Province:

Country: *

Zip Code:

Don’t want to pay by credit card?  Prefer to pay by check?  No problem: Please print out this page and fill out the form. Then mail in your check to: United Farm Workers, “Pilgrimage-Internet”, 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Rd., P.O. Box 62, Keene, CA, 93531.

More from UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez’s eulogy:

Brothers and sisters, Maria was not an agricultural implement; she was an important human being. She dedicated herself to helping her family. She earned the love of her mother, her brothers and sisters and other relatives, and of the man she loved.

Maria’s life was worth a lot-and she deserved a lot better treatment than she received at the hands of the labor contractor and grower.

snip

Maria and her friend, Florentino, had made plans: To work in this country for perhaps three years, save some money and then return to Oaxaca, get married and make a home and family there.

Now Florentino is having a hard time, not only because he lost the young woman he loved, but because her child died with her.

Florentino, said, “There should be justice for what happened. It wasn’t just. It wasn’t fair what they did.”

Like all of us, Maria had only one life and now it is gone. But how do we, the living, affirm that Maria’s life was important and that she didn’t die in vain?

We can use the grief that today fills our hearts with sorrow to tell our governor that the growers and the labor contractors must honor the law-so more innocent farm workers like Maria don’t die unnecessarily. We can force the employers to treat our loved ones as the important human beings they are.

There should be justice.  It wasn’t fair what they did.  

We can not sit silent; we can not let someone else act.  It is up to us to make a difference.  

Please help with the pilgrimage to honor her life by forcing change to help others.  Give $10 or $25.  It will help.  This community can step up and help; we can make a difference.  Maria and all others like her are valuable human beings.

Please help the pilgrimage.  Give here to help.

https://secure.ga6.org/08/pilg…

Or go here and hit donate:

http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?…

Or send a check with your basic information:

Email: *

First Name: *

Last Name: *

Address:*

Address Line 2:

City: *

State/Province:

Country: *

Zip Code:

Don’t want to pay by credit card?  Prefer to pay by check?  No problem: Please print out this page and fill out the form. Then mail in your check to: United Farm Workers, “Pilgrimage-Internet”, 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Rd., P.O. Box 62, Keene, CA, 93531.

Update I: Criminal Investigation:

Officials begin criminal probe into Central Valley farmworker death

By Garance Burke ASSOCIATED PRESS

FRESNO – Local investigators are probing whether a labor contractor may be criminally liable for the death of a young, pregnant farmworker who collapsed in a vineyard two weeks ago.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, 17, was pruning grape vines at a San Joaquin County vineyard in 100-degree heat when she fell to the ground the afternoon of May 14.

snip

California State Attorney General Jerry Brown said Thursday an investigator from his office was assisting in the county’s probe, along with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

A division official said Jimenez’s employer, Merced Farm Labor, had been issued three citations in 2006 for exposing workers to heat stroke, failing to train workers on heat stress prevention and not installing toilets at the work site.

The Atwater company has not paid the $2,250 it owes in fines, said agency spokesman Dean Fryer.

Mercury News

4 comments

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    • TomP on May 31, 2008 at 1:26 am
      Author

    the memory of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez

  1. and well in our corporate global economy. To the corporatists who run us a life has to be considered in economic cost, as only a factor in the tally of profit. The jobs they say Americans don’t are saved for the ones who’s lives mean even less then ours. Our value is we consume what others die to produce.      

  2. Hope it is promoted to front page at at least one of them. Maybe folks can start to talk about capital and labor. And as Shaharazade has mentioned, slavery — specifically, wage slavery, and the hopelessness of workers, who have only themselves to sell in the marketplace.

    This is intolerable.

    • Robyn on May 31, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Link

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