How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I just got back from vacation and saw an email from the United Farm Workers, part of which I quote below:

Ramiro Carillo was the fourth farm worker in the last two weeks to die of heat stroke and the second this week alone!

Ramiro Carrillo Rodriguez, 48, father of two, died in Selma, CA on Thursday afternoon after working all day for Sun Valley Packing in Reedley thru a farm labor contractor.  


42 year-old farm worker Abdon Felix Garcia, father of three, died on Wednesday after spending the morning and early afternoon working for Sunview Vineyards in Arvin. The coroner says Felix’s body core temperature was measured at 108 degrees just 13 minutes before his death.

64 year-old Jose Macarena Hernandez died during a record-breaking heat wave on June 20 while harvesting butternut squash in Santa Maria on land owned by Sunrise Growers.

People keep dying and few give a shit.  I’m pissed off and you should be also.  

What we can do, and more, after the fold.

(also on Daily Kos)…



It was a record-breaking heat wave three weeks ago when temperatures in Santa Maria reached as high as 110 degrees.

One field worker 64 year old, Jose Hernandez, died while picking squash that day.

With the death earlier this week of a farm worker in the central valley, three field workers including Jose Hernandez, have died from apparent heat related problems in the past two months.

Heat wave victim laid to rest.

I wrote several diaries on the death of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez in June after the 17 year old pregnant woman died from the heat.

1.  Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker’s Family We Care  

Marchers made their way from Galt to Thornton on June 2, the second day of the four-day pilgrimage to Sacramento. The pilgrimage was in honor of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, who died of heat-related illness two weeks ago while working in a vineyard. The farm workers and their supporters are marching to push for greater enforcement of California’s farm labor laws. When they arrive in the state Capitol on June 4, they will ask for further legislation to protect the rights of farm workers in California, said Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers.

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

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

You can read those diaries to get some background about Maria.  

Arturo S. Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers of America, spoke about Maria on June 4 at the state capitol in Sacremento California:

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

The death of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez is hard to accept because it didn’t need to happen.

If the labor contractor or grower had provided accessible water and shade;

If the labor contractor or grower had provided paid work breaks when workers felt the affects of the heat;

If the labor contractor or grower had put in place a safety plan-educating foremen and workers about heat illness and when to summon emergency medical help;

If the labor contractor or grower had called 911 immediately after Maria Isabel was stricken instead of letting nearly two precious hours pass before she received medical care;

If the labor contractor and grower had not ignored many of the same legal protections for which citations and fines were issued in 2006 for violating the heat regulation;

If the state had been able to enforce the laws on the books…

Then Maria Isabel might still be alive today.


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

Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President

Bobby Kennedy marched with Cesar Chavez years ago fighting for basic human decency and justice.  

Bobby Kennedy meets Cesar Chavez and joins the picket line.


“May I suggest that the Sheriff and District Attorney read the Constitution of the United States!”

Contrast the political courage of Bobby Kennedy in 1968 with those today.    

So what’s the answer?  More and more die, and everyone enjoys the wine made from grapes these people die to pick.  Cheap fruit for the middle class, at the cost of lives.

Many Americans, smug in their faux innocence, avert their eyes from suffering and embrace fantasies.

The rising creative class can’t concern themsleves with real suffering when the game of politics is so much fun.  The right wingers don’t think Hispanic farm workers, hell, any workers, are worth much.  And the deaths go on.

It’s not news.  Few seem to care.  News is a “gaffe” by a McCain advisor or a statement by Jessee Jackson.  Or some other bs.  Not the deaths of  farm workers.  

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have been silent.  Why???  

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

Both should speak up and work for justice for these workers.  Basic human decency should know no partisan position, no political calculation.  

The upper middle class worries about their McMansions being foreclosed, and almost all politicians follow the money.   And workers continue to die in the heat.  And few care.  How many more must die before there is action?

There are at leat two things you and I can do.  First, Click here to Fax or E-mail Gov. Schwarzenegger today!

As California’s summer sizzles we must do everything we can to insure that no more farm workers fall victim to the heat because the laws written to protect them are not enforced. Speaker Emeritus Fabian Nunez has introduced legislation which has moved out of the assembly and which is now in the state senate. It will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that the state cannot enforce.

Please take action immediately and click below to fax California Gov. Schwarzenegger (if you live in California, a cc of your message will also be e-mailed to your legislators) and tell them something needs to be done NOW. It’s time to put a law in place that will allow farm workers to protect themselves!

Click here to Fax or E-mail Gov. Schwarzenegger today!

That’s the immediate action.  But there is a long term solution.  Worker self determination through organization and collective bargaining.  That’s what Bobby Kennedy and Cesar Chavez fought for, what Arturo Rodriguez and all farm workers fight for today, and what workers have fought for for over a century.  Forming a union and acting together.  Winning rights, not having them given to them.  The Farmworkers must fight for the most basic right: the right to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow without dying on the job.  That a basic human right.  

We know there are 600,000 farm workers toiling on 80,000 farms, frequently moving from place to place and victimized by a corrupt farm labor contractor system that shields the wealthy from responsibility.

There has never been adequate enforcement of laws protecting farm workers, under either Democratic or Republican administrations.

This governor issued the heat regulation in 2005, after three previous governors refused to act. Yet Governor Schwarzenegger is well aware of the limits of government. One of those limits is that even legal protections issued by a well-meaning governor mean little if we cannot give farm workers a way to use our good laws to protect themselves.

Our union has always believed that given the chance, farm workers could solve their own problems by organizing themselves and winning UFW contracts.

Where farm workers are protected by union contracts, the laws are honored.

And when growers know it is easier for farm workers to organize and bring in the union, employers are much more careful about obeying the law because they don’t want to give the union an advantage.

So the answer, sisters and brothers, is self-help-making it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields. Then more important human beings like Maria Isabel won’t have to die.  

Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President

The answer is not any politican.  Electing ones who support the union and workers help, but that’s not enough.

The answer is solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the UFW.  It’s helping them because it is the right and just thing to do.  You don’t have to belong to a union to support workers. I’m not a union member.  You only have to have a heart.

Are their lives worth as much as yours?  Then act to help in the best way you can.  Organizing costs.  

Donate to the United Farm Workers.


Skip to comment form

    • TomP on July 13, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    worker self organization.  It’s a matter of life or death.

    • Benny on July 14, 2008 at 3:39 am

    This is an incredible diary.  

  1. It is beyond comprehension how greedy companies can lose sight of human compassion to the degree that they exhibit — it burns my soul.

    Why not write these companies — let them hear from you, in addition to helping the UFW?

    Thank you for your updates, TomP!

  2. but the farmworkers are performing difficult, necessary work that is unnecessarily dangerous because of corporate greed and exploitation.

    Donations to UFW are essential to the struggle to organize and protect these workers and to require that their work is safe.

    Please give what you can.  Because this is the internet, small gifts given by many, many people add up to be significant amounts of money.

    • TomP on July 14, 2008 at 10:18 pm


    It helps get the word out.  

  3. Thanks for posting this important news.

    • ufw on July 18, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Thank you for helping us spread the word about these tragic deaths.

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