Why We Fasted for Farm Worker Rights

Farm-Worker-BWBy Sean Raycraft

Yesterday, I fasted for 24 hours with at least a hundred others in solidarity with farm workers in the state of California. Many prominent members of the community did the same, including my new friends Connor Gorman of UAW 2865 and a recent UCD graduate Rebecca Senteny. Several lawmakers also participated in the fast, including Lorena Gonzalez, the author of AB 1066, a bill that would extend 8 hours a day, and 40 hours a week overtime protections over several years. County Supervisor Don Saylor and former Assemblymember and State Senate candidate Mariko Yamada participated in the fast, in solidarity with farm workers in their struggle for fair treatment under the law.

While Mariko Yamada was fasting in solidarity with farm workers, her rival for the State Senate, Bill Dodd, was hosting a fundraiser in Davis at the Odd Fellows Hall, at $250 a plate minimum. I think that sums up what we can expect from those two candidates when they go to Sacramento. Farm workers in the state of California only get overtime after 10 hours in a work day, or after 60 hours in a work week. They can work 7 days a week and will not get time and a half.

I have never actually fasted for any length of time. Originally, I wanted to write this article yesterday, and attempted to do so. What I found was that, due to my hunger late at night, I could not adequately concentrate. During this state, I could not help but to wonder how the hungry children in our city are supposed to concentrate in school when they are hungry through no fault of their own.

So what could motivate me and so many others to deprive themselves of food for 24 hours by choice? For me, it was the meeting between farm worker advocates (and actual farm workers) and Assemblymember Ken Cooley last Thursday afternoon. As part of a coordinated statewide effort, farm worker advocates have been pressuring Democratic lawmakers to change their votes on farm worker overtime issues.

On June 2, many Assembly Democrats voted no on AB 2757 or failed to vote on the measure. The bill failed 38-35, with seven absent, abstaining or not voting (41 votes are needed to advance the bill). Sacramento area Assembly Democrats Dodd, Cooley and Cooper all voted no on 2757. That meeting with Ken Cooley included Carlos Alcala, Chair of the California Latino Caucus, Norma Alcala, Vice-Chair region 2 of the California Latino Caucus, and Jesse Ortiz, the Superintendent Schools of Yolo County.

Dozens of others packed the small conference room – farm workers, organized labor leaders and social justice activists. All of us were there to discuss one issue; to ask Mr. Cooley to change his vote when the bill comes back to the Assembly.

Farm workers told their stories about how difficult the work is, and how long the hours are. I told Mr. Cooley about how unfair it is that every worker in the food production chain gets overtime protections except for the people who do the hardest work, outside in the fields. Superintendent Ortiz talked at length about the impacts of poverty in Yolo County, and how the children of the poor are often hit the hardest. Carlos Alcala spoke passionately at length about the long wait for farm workers for justice. He said that farm workers were excluded from the Fair Labor Standards act of 1938 so that President Roosevelt could get the votes of racist white southern Democrats. Those racist southern Democrats did not want Blacks and Latinos to get these overtime protections he added. Seventy-eight years is long enough to wait, he exclaimed. The exemption is a relic of institutional racism that ought to end here in California, he said.

But what was Mr. Cooley’s response to all these entreaties? He endeavored to be polite in his obstinate refusal to change his mind on the matter. When asked to justify his position, he laid out a reasoning that left the room agape with a combination of shock and anger. I’ll be paraphrasing here, but it comes down to this thesis: “If we give farm workers overtime, we will inevitably increase carbon emissions and thus worsen climate change.”

His logic being that if we were to make farming less profitable to farmers, they in turn would be more likely to sell their lands to developers, who would develop sprawl, which would increase commuter traffic, and thus greenhouse gas emissions. All incredulity aside, I find it ridiculous that, even if the Assemblymember actually believes this reasoning, he would be willing to do blame farm workers for climate change.

The message he has sent could not be clearer. The poor will continue to suffer the vanity of the rich. Instead of blaming the developers or the elected officials who approve any such sprawl, the Assemblymember would blame people who do the work that no one else wants to do, at poor wages outside, in the 100-degree heat.

He would blame those who are already disenfranchised by our government and society, simply for asking for equal treatment and fairness. He would blame the people whose labor produces food for the high prices of specialty food that they cannot afford.

 I suppose it has nothing to do with the political clout of the agriculture industry and wine retailers or the fat checks they send to political action committees or in the form of campaign contributions. Clearly, the millionaires and their greed are blameless in the eyes of the political elite.

I have been told of similar incidents with many of moderate Democrats by those who advocate for farm workers. Here are some of the other talking points put forward by the agriculture industry which have been parroted by these Democrats. “If we give farm workers an 8 hour work day, the growers will just hire more farm workers.” It is well known there is a farm worker shortage in this country.

A simple Google search of “farm worker shortage” will net readers any number of articles from farmers complaining about the shortage. Where would those workers come from? “If we give farm workers overtime after 8 hours, we will just automate more work.”

Automation is not always a bad thing for laborious and dangerous work. “If we give farm workers overtime after 8 hours, prices of produce will increase.” That may be so, but I for one am willing to pay a little more for my food, so that the people who make said food do not go hungry.

So why fast in solidarity with farm workers? Seemingly, protest for those of conscience is the only remaining avenue to raise public awareness, and to pressure our elected officials to have the courage to be on the right side of history.

Our leaders, who are paid well, work in comfort and have all the benefits of power, are deciding to deny basic dignity to some of the hardest working people in our state, who work in the elements, live difficult lives, and happen to be almost universally Latino. Ironically, on Cesar Chavez day, almost every single legislator in the Assembly voted on a resolution honoring Cesar Chavez, and the farm worker movement.

When those very farm workers and the UFW came to ask for the dignity and rights Cesar Chavez fought for, legislators looked them in the eye and told them you cannot have those things. It is long past time we as Californians put this relic of institutional racism in the history books, along with those racist southern Democrats. Please let Assemblymember Bill Dodd and State Senator Lois Wolk know that farm worker rights matter to you as constituents.

Sean Raycraft is a lifelong Davis resident, and a proud shop steward with UFCW 8.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

85 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Thanks for the article Sean. I think that the issue here goes far beyond fairness. It speaks to the fundamental issue of what it means to be a member of a society. In this country, despite the generation of vast amounts of wealth, we have not yet accepted the proposition that anyone working full time should be able to have all their life needs ( not desires , luxuries, or toys) met. We have instead accepted the proposition that if the work that you do is of “high value” which has been decided arbitrarily and often by those who are of that profession themselves, that you will have a very high income, while those who work much, much harder under much more dangerous or exhausting conditions should not even receive a living compensation. This as know from experience as my own professional association, of which I have never been a member, has been active in restricting the number of doctors available to artificially create a need and thus higher compensation. I have never believed in deliberate restriction as a means of market control. No one who contributes to our society in any capacity should have to scrabble to provide food, shelter, clothing and health care for their families.

    This is why I support a uniform base income. For me, this is not about socialism, it is a matter of basic human decency. We practice this form of distribution within our own families. Most of us would not dream of withholding basics of life from a spouse or child or aging parent that we felt was contributing less than ourselves. The religion that a very vocal group claim to adhere to teaches us to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. And yet we are more than happy to enrich ourselves while allowing those who provide something as essential as inexpensive food to struggle to meet their basic needs. That we do this not because there is insufficient means for all but rather because we actively choose a highly inequitable distribution in which some have billions while others live in cars or on the street or use our food banks, is to me inexplicable and shameful.

      1. Tia Will

        Justice4All

        That would be another benefit of the UBI. Once established it does have the potential to cut down on a lot of red tape and bureaucracy thus allowing the people so engaged in these activities to pursue potentially more fulfilling types of endeavor than “bean counting”.

  2. quielo

    I don’t receive overtime and I’m a little hurt Sean that you are not missing any meals on my behalf. I have many friends who work sporadically, consultants, contractors, consulting physicians, etc and none of them receive overtime either. I cannot think of anyone who may have three or more employers in one week who do receive overtime. Can you name a couple?

     

    If farmworkers want to work one week and not the next they do that. Trying to determine overtime for people with multiple employers in multiple states who work seasonally sounds like a nightmare inspired by trial lawyers. How do you even do that?

    1. Justice4All

      Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that your physician/contractor friends do not work outside, doing backbreaking manual labor in the heat. I’m assuming they get paid significantly better too. Senator Pan complained that he didn’t get overtime as a doctor for Kaiser, and he got paid over 150k a year. I’m also assuming your friends are not treated as second class citizens.

      As to your question about workers who work for multiple employers, I think you don’t have a strong grasp of overtime law in California. People who are eligible for OT get OT after eight hours in a given day. Farm workers who work for 3 different employers in a week might work 12 hour days at each of them, netting only 6 hours of OT.

      1. quielo

        So if they work 6am-noon for one employer and move to the other side of the road where they work for another employer for 10 hours. Who pays overtime?

         

        “I’m assuming that your physician/contractor friends do not work outside, doing backbreaking manual labor in the heat.” What do you base that assumption on? Your “strong grasp of ” the Quielo?

         

        I had asked a question which is still unanswered, what employment in CA may work for 3 or more employers in one week and receives overtime? Did I miss your answer to that?

        1. Justice4All

          Sorta. In the case you are talking about, no farm worker would get OT in that circumstance, even under the new law, as I understand it. In many circumstances, undocumented workers will work under one false identity at one workplace for 8 hours, get on a bus, go 5 miles down the road and work under a different one. Mostly this bill is about protecting the 8 hour work day for farm workers. A few weeks ago, 3 farm workers died in a single day from over work in one geographical area from heat related stress.

        2. quielo

          “A few weeks ago, 3 farm workers died in a single day from over work in one geographical area from heat related stress.” That is terrible. So you are saying that the solution is not providing water or regulating working conditions but instead regulating OT is the key?

           

          “In many circumstances, undocumented workers will work under one false identity at one workplace for 8 hours, get on a bus, go 5 miles down the road and work under a different one.” That is my understanding too. Which is why I am suspicious that this is a scam perpetrated by the trial lawyers who will than sue the growers, keep the money, and provide coupons to the workers. If have not noticed most of these laws only provide relief to lawyers while the defendants get a discount for classes at Trump University or such.

        3. Sam

          So it is unfair that they do not get overtime, but somehow fair that they work here illegally and commit ID theft. I also doubt that they are filing tax returns and reporting their income under all of those false ID’s.

        4. South of Davis

          BP wrote:

          > I think what will end up happening is that farmers

          > will cap their day at 8 hours which will in turn cost

          > the workers pay.

          Capping the work day at 8 hours will result in less pay for the workers since they will need to pay for another fake ID and SS# so they can clock out with one fake ID and SS# and clock in with another fake ID and SS# (Other than the Irish illegal alien construction workers in SF no one is better at getting fake IDs than the illegal alien farm workers in the Central Valley)…

        5. Barack Palin

          And maybe force farmers to supply 10 hour work days with two hours paid at time and a half.  We can do this all through legislation because we all know that our legislators know best.

        6. South of Davis

          Sam wrote:

          > We could then pass a law requiring employers to

          > provide farm workers fake ID’s

          My sister married a guy from a farming family she met at UCD and I know that many farmers already provide fake ID’s to the farm workers…

          Just like the elected officials (of both parties) “look the other way” at most farm workers with fake IDs the elected officials (of both parties) “look the other way” at farms that hire farm workers with fake IDs.

          The federal government loves fake SS#s since they get the 15.3% (SS and Medicare) from each worker and (unlike for the workers with real SS#s) will never have to pay out a dime of it…

          My dream (that will probably never happen) is that we just start enforcing the laws we currently have.  If this ever happened (and we put farmers in jail for illegally hiring a guy to work 12 hours at $6/hr) farm workers would get paid a lot more money (and probably also get OT after 8 hours)…

           

        7. quielo

          BP:

          Remember this article is written by the same guy who advocated for the Davis mediation system where, if you had a security deposit dispute with a landlord, instead of going to a court which could get you your money back you would instead go to a mediator who could not give you your money back. For this “upgrade” we would pay extra.

          If someone wants to advocate for a law where they do not understand how it will play out and exactly who will affected than maybe they should stop and figure it out.

        8. Sam

          SOD-But if we actually enforced the laws on the books then businesses would not be able to take advantage of a large group of workers. Then these intelligent hard working people would have to return to their home countries. They would end up working hard there forming a middle class and expanding the economy so it does not rely on the drug trade. That new middle class would create jobs and pay taxes so that the government can provide schools and build infrastructure. With better education and infrastructure the economy will continue to expand as all citizens enjoy a better lifestyle. Look at South Korea from 1955 to 2016.

          Why do you make such ridiculous and racist statements about enforcing the law?

        9. Justice4All

          I think what will end up happening is that farmers will cap their day at 8 hours which will in turn cost the workers pay.

          Well, like I wrote in the article, there is a well documented labor shortage. The farmers cannot simply cap their work days at 8 hours and expect all the work to be done.

        10. Justice4All

          “This is about compensating the workers for the very long days.” Does not sound like a very effective way.  You may want to rethink it. One question, what if someone prefers to work longer and fewer days so they can back home faster and your new law results in them getting fewer hours on more days so they are away from their family longer. What would you say to that person?

          Well, if you are a middle class professional, this may suit you. But I can find few instances of low wage workers where said hypothetical person would exist, because no matter how many hours they work, they are still going to need all the days they can get in order to make ends meet.

      2. Adam Smith

        There is no question what will happen in the near term.    Either a farm laborers income will be lower than it otherwise would have been, or he/she will be working for multiple employers, maybe even more hours per day in total, without overtime pay.  Only in the very peak season (harvest) will some workers end up being paid overtime.

        1. quielo

          “This is about compensating the workers for the very long days.” Does not sound like a very effective way.  You may want to rethink it. One question, what if someone prefers to work longer and fewer days so they can back home faster and your new law results in them getting fewer hours on more days so they are away from their family longer. What would you say to that person?

        2. Justice4All

          “This is about compensating the workers for the very long days.” Does not sound like a very effective way.  You may want to rethink it. One question, what if someone prefers to work longer and fewer days so they can back home faster and your new law results in them getting fewer hours on more days so they are away from their family longer. What would you say to that person?

          Well, this is typically an attitude of someone who has a white collar job or a skilled worker who makes significantly more than minimum wage. When I talk to unskilled low wage workers, they are mostly concerned about having consistent hours, or worrying about getting a second job or the like. Thinking about the working more hours in a day typically does not come up in my conversations, unless its trying to get that 8 hour day, which is often elusive in many industries. I dont think there are many farm workers who would have this description aptly fit them.

           

  3. Sam

    You can’t legislate an economy. Venezuela tried to do it and things are so bad there that they are now forcing people to work on farms because they have no food!

    1. quielo

      All governments regulate economies to some extent. However regulations should be worthwhile and effective. This particular one does not really serve any purpose that I can tell. It is easy to evade and hard to administer while a good law would be the opposite. The arguments presented in the areas of farmworker pay and safety would likely not be impacted at all by this law and if those are the real concerns than a different law would be more effective. The only people I can see that will directly benefit are attorneys.

      1. Sam

        Yes, all governments regulate economies to some extent, but those governments that regulate excessively under the guise of “fairness, dignity and protection” end up crushing their economy. How much dignity does a starving Venezuelan have standing in line for food? What kind of fairness is it for Germans to be paying for Greek pensions?

        1. Justice4All

          This is a classic example of a false equivalency. Farm workers being treated the same as every other worker in California does not make us a petroleum state in South America suffering from low oil prices.

        2. Sam

          Greece does not really produce much oil and is not located in South America. Oil is at $46 per barrel, higher than it was at any time from 1986 to 2004. (Except for the month Saddam liberated Kuwait) Legislating an economy has negative effects.

           

        3. Justice4All

          Greece does not really produce much oil and is not located in South America. Oil is at $46 per barrel, higher than it was at any time from 1986 to 2004. (Except for the month Saddam liberated Kuwait) Legislating an economy has negative effects.

          Greece is another animal entirely, and not particularly relevant to farm workers in California, which was my point. But to as your assertion that legislating an economy having negative effects, that may be so. But if this is true you must also consider the fact that not legislating in an economy has negative effects as well. For example, allowing slavery. Or child labor. Or extreme poverty wages.

        4. Sam

          I don’t know where you think that I was advocating for slavery and child labor. You do need some laws, yes. But you have to be careful because to many laws trying to control the economy will end up in disaster.

          The farmworkers are currently paid wages high enough to attract enough people to do the job. That is the market rate. If you are going to allow a free flow of labor from Mexico then the wage is going to stay low because farmers in the US are paying ten times what you can earn on a farm in Mexico. If you really wanted to increase the wages for people working on farms then advocate for farms to only hire people that can work in this country legally, have them pay taxes and follow employment laws.

    1. quielo

      I have asked several times how this bill will help farmworkers. The responses have been about the workers who died of heat exhaustion and that they make too little money. This bill will not help with worker safety and will not improve the pay of the vast majority of farmworkers as Sean acknowledged above.

       

      Given the above I am not sure where “compassion” applies to this bill. Why don’t you try something that will actually help people?

      1. Justice4All

        I have answered multiple times, but I will do so again. Hopefully with some clarity for Quielo. This will give farm workers overtime after eight hours at a single job. Much of the time, this will not apply if they work at multiple work site on the same day.

        What this will do for farm workers is end a relic of institutional racism that has been around since 1938. As I wrote in the article, owners cannot simply “cut down” the work day to eight hours, as there is already a well documented shortage of farm labor.

        1. quielo

          ‘Much of the time, this will not apply if they work at multiple work site on the same day.” So what is to prevent the employer (who is often not the grower but an agency) making the employee clock out one assumed identity and clocking on a different one?

        2. Justice4All

          ‘Much of the time, this will not apply if they work at multiple work site on the same day.” So what is to prevent the employer (who is often not the grower but an agency) making the employee clock out one assumed identity and clocking on a different one?

          There are many documented cases of this happening, yes. I recently found out a lot of this when I went and met with farm workers and advocates here in Yolo County.

        3. Adam Smith

          Justice4All – As I wrote in the article, owners cannot simply “cut down” the work day to eight hours, as there is already a well documented shortage of farm labor.

          I know you are well-meaning in your efforts, but you are wrong about this outcome.  The work day will shorten to 8 hours very quickly.    It will happen because farmers will automate the work.   A capital investment becomes attractive relative to labor cost.   How do I know – ask any farmer around.  It is already beginning, but it will pick up  now at a much faster pace than it would have happened.     You’ve stated that automation is  not necessarily a bad thing, which is true for you  and the farmers.     But in the immediate term  you can be sure that there will be an increase in poverty amongst the farm worker group, unless the economy as whole grows enough to absorb the newly unemployed or underemployed.

          An analogy is foreign trade.   Our ability to purchase cheaper goods manufactured overseas is a net gain for the USA because a large group of consumers can purchase goods at a lower price than if they were manufactured here.    Farmers and consumers will benefit from the automation, short and long term.    However, there is a smaller  group of workers  (compared to the consumers that benefit) that don’t fare well under the dislocation, perhaps for a long time, depending on the local economy.

           

        4. Adam Smith

          Depends on the supply of labor and the price of the commodity needing harvesting whether or not the work day will shrink.

          Agreed, for the harvest and planting season, which comprise only about  1/6 of the year.      The other 10 months are quite different.       The work days will definitely shift to shorter days, as the farmers adopt driverless tractors, automated irrigation and fertigation systems and new machinery or processes to replace manual weeding.

          California has endured at least one tectonic shift in labor replacement when the mechanized  tomato harvester was introduced.   The industry was fearful of the loss of the Bracero guest worker program and developed  a mechanized harvester.  Estimates of farm worker job loss vary, but seem centered around 30,000.    The capital cost of the machinery was a huge burden for small farmers and some historians estimate that 4400 of the state’s 5000 tomato farms went out of business within 5 years of the commercial introduction of the harvester.    Long term, this shift was good for the industry (large farmers became much more profitable), but very, very painful for the workers and small farmers.   (Some of you may well know more about this than me — I wasn’t around when this happened, and have only recently read about it).

        5. Misanthrop

          Let me provide an alternative narrative on the tomato harvester and the Bracero  Program. One that is even more relevant to the current arguments being made against higher wages for workers, both this one about farm workers receiving overtime and minimum wage work. Also one where you must read between the lines of the historical narrative to understand but one I think Adam Smith, you will easily understand.

          The end of the Bracero Program was postponed  because the farmers claimed that there was no alternative to bringing in the tomato crop and kept asking Congress for extensions of the Braccero Program that were repeatedly granted despite popular pressure to end the program. Only after the tomato harvesters were commercially operational was the Braccero Program allowed to end.

          This is an important distinction from the narrative that the harvesters saved the tomato industry and the timing with the planned end of the Bracero Program was coincidental. In reality it is clear these events were linked.

          In both the debate on the minimum wage and overtime for farm workers the threat of robots, computers and mechanization have been used as a counter narrative arguing that raising wages will hasten implementation of new disruptive technologies that will displace these jobs altogether. To this I say fine bring on these technologies. The history of capitalism is full of tales of what Schumpter called the “Creative Destruction” of jobs through advancement in technologies. Examples include powered looms,  coal mining,  8 track tapes and recently the end of VCR production.

          If these farm worker or fast food jobs or any low wage jobs for that matter are going to be displaced by new technologies, raising wages will only marginally speed up the process because due to Moore’s Law the cost of such innovations will rapidly decline and become competitive enough to disrupt the marketplace. Not raising wages as a way to protect jobs from new technologies might buy a small amount of time but not enough to make the case capitalists who are trying to suppress wages to increase profits claim to justify current wage structures.

          The history of capitalism has long been  that these advances end up creating more jobs than they destroy and that the new jobs are more productive and add more value to the labor that people do than the old systems they displace. Even in your narrative about the tomato industry you admit that in the long term these changes were good for the industry yet in the short term a painful transition occurred. This is exactly the nature of capitalism and why we shouldn’t worry about increases in automation ending jobs or increases in unit costs spurring new technologies.

  4. Tia Will

    Sam

    You can’t legislate an economy”

    I agree that you can’t legislate an economy. But you most certainly can make sure that everyone has enough to eat, a roof over their head ( if they want one), adequate clothing, education, and medical care. We have simple chosen not to do so.

    Misanthrop

    So many defenders of the rich against the working poor so little compassion.”

    And to think that this is in a country which purports to be based upon Judeo-Christian values. Truly baffling.

     

    1. Sam

      True, I would have asked Mr. Cooley to increase the California’s Earned Income Tax Credit income limit of $13,900, increase the range of income of families able to qualify for the maximum credit and tie it to the cost of living for the region of California the taxpayer lives in. That would actually help ensure that everyone has enough to eat and a roof over there head without destroying the economy.

      1. Sam

        Maybe that is where we differ. I would like to help the working poor that are here and working legally.

        If the farm workers are paid cash under the table there is no Social Security collected. If they are not filing tax returns then they are committing another crime by not reporting income earned in this country.

        1. Justice4All

          There are some farm workers who are paid cash under the table, this is true. But in your scenario, the growers are just as responsible for the crime as the workers are, for the same reasons.

    2. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > And to think that this is in a country which purports

      > to be based upon Judeo-Christian values.

      There are good Jews, Christians (and Muslims and Atheists) that differ on the best way to help the poor.

      There are people that give the poor fish each and every day, others that teach them to fish so they can feel good about themselves and catch as many fish as they want, and in recent years more and more people that want to hire thousands of government workers to run a program where people report the hours they spend fishing and how many fish they catch so a different government organization with thousands more employees (driving overpriced trucks bought from the dealerships owned by campaign contributors) can take excess fish from the people that caught more than the government allotment and give them to the people that could not be bothered with learning how to fish.

      With rare exceptions all three groups think that their approach is the best way to help the poor.  If good people have an honest debate they will learn that we need ALL THREE methods of getting fish to the poor since everyone can’t learn to fish and without some government regulations greedy people would be able to get too much.

      P.S. How is saying that we should increase the EITC to give the working poor more money and put greedy farmers that exploit workers should be in jail “defending the rich against the working poor”?

      P.P.S. I was just reminded of something that I first read ~30 years ago that might be helpful for those that think more government programs are the “only” way to help the poor:

      http://freedom-school.com/money/how-an-economy-grows.pdf

      P.P.P.S. I’m sure Adam Smith will like it since the book is dedicated to him…

      1. Tia Will

        With rare exceptions all three groups think that their approach is the best way to help the poor.”

        There is a major point being overlooked here. I do not see a UBI primarily as a “way to help the poor” or subject to the “give a fish vs teach to fish” dichotomy. I see it as a major way to look towards the future rather than attempting  re-create the successful economic strategies of the past. With increasing automation, electronic communication and shopping, robotics, computer algorithms for medical diagnoses and a host of innovations that I certainly cannot see and doubt anyone else can either, at some point we are going to have to give up on our outdated approach to what endeavors have value and which do not.  One way of doing this would be to recognize that all contributions are of value and everyone in a society with the kind of wealth that ours enjoys should have enough to live on.

        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > everyone in a society with the kind of wealth

          > that ours enjoys should have enough to live on.

          How much per year per person is “enough to live on”?

  5. Eric Gelber

     
    This is really not so complicated, folks. Comparing farmworkers to physicians, contractors and other professionals is apples and oranges when it comes to wage-and-hour laws. The fact is, farmworkers are treated differently than other similarly situated hourly laborers. And the indisputable historical basis for this distinction was blatant racism—initially aimed at Southern, predominately black agricultural workers. In California, the racism is, perhaps, subtler, but it persists—with farmworker exceptions to overtime rules having a disparate impact on an overwhelmingly Latino workforce. People can find all sorts of ways to rationalize this continuing discriminatory treatment; but, let’s not place the burden of sustaining the existing agricultural economy both figuratively and literally on the backs of those least able to bear it.

    1. South of Davis

      Eric wrote:

      > And the indisputable historical basis for this

      > distinction was blatant racism

      You are starting to sound like David and becoming the “boy who cried racism” so much that no one will hear you when there is a real racist that we have to deal with.  There have always been white farm workers in every state and as far as I know they were (pretty much) paid the same as as the people of color doing the same jobs (for every farm in CA I am familiar with I know this for a fact).

      If you can show that “racist” farm owners in different states paid white workers overtime when the minority farm workers didn’t get it I’ll admit I was wrong (I know there are racist farmers, but I find it to believe that many of them went up to the white workers to give them an extra $10 for a ten hour day telling them that they only got it because they are part of the “master race” and the “people of color” they were working next to all day didn’t get any time and a half)…

        1. South of Davis

          Eric wrote:

          > SOD: You clearly don’t understand disparate impact discrimination.

          I do understand this, do you know that “blatant racism” is different from “disparate impact discrimination” (feel free to Google it).  Are you backing down from your original post that “blatant racism” is why (mostly) Latino farm workers don’t get overtime after 8 hrs in CA.

          I know that politically connected CA agribusiness call in favors from the elected officials in both parties so they make more money  all the time.  How did you find out that they are just pretending that they want to “make more money” when their real motivation is a racist plot to “keep brown people down”?

          P.S. If “racism” not “greed” is the reason isn’t it ironic that the (mostly) white management of Wal Mart treat their (mostly) white workers in rural red states even worse than a typical CA agribusiness treats their Latino workers and call in political favors to keep paying them even less than the lowest paid (legal) Latino farm worker in CA?

        2. Eric Gelber

          SOD: Disparate impact discrimination may be more subtle but, contrary to your assertion, can, in fact, also be overt and blatant. In any event, I am not accusing anyone of being racist, only of perpetuating what was historically a blatantly racist policy.

    2. quielo

      Eric,

       

      You seem a little out of touch. I recently bought a house here in Davis. I had the concrete floors done by a guy who used a helper for the tearout but otherwise did it himself. Physical labor not dissimilar to picking crops. How many days/hours does he work in a given week? Don’t know and not my business.  I also hired a guy to lay the pavers in a nice pattern. How many hours does he work? Don’t know.

      it does not matter how many times you make the the same assertion “The fact is, farmworkers are treated differently than other similarly situated hourly laborers.” it still does not make it true. I have asked Sean and everybody else three times now to give an example of people who work for multiple employers in a given week, in any field, who receive overtime. I have yet to recieve an example.

        1. quielo

          Perhaps. I suspect it’s more about you earning Union brownie points then any concern for the farm workers. If you were so actually talk to them it’s unlikely they will know or care about the Fair Labor Standards act of 1938 while they will be concerned about worker safety. They will also be more concerned about how they can quickly earn the amount they need to earn to return to their families. However neither of those issues seem to interest you, rather you focus on the “inside baseball” issue which implies a focus on your interests rather than theirs. I have asked several times how an 8 hour day will benefit them. They want to earn their money and go home. To the extent that this law will force them to spend more time away from home living in the fields is not your concern, you can declare victory and add a bullet point to your resume.

        2. Justice4All

          Perhaps. I suspect it’s more about you earning Union brownie points then any concern for the farm workers. If you were so actually talk to them it’s unlikely they will know or care about the Fair Labor Standards act of 1938 while they will be concerned about worker safety. They will also be more concerned about how they can quickly earn the amount they need to earn to return to their families. However neither of those issues seem to interest you, rather you focus on the “inside baseball” issue which implies a focus on your interests rather than theirs. I have asked several times how an 8 hour day will benefit them. They want to earn their money and go home. To the extent that this law will force them to spend more time away from home living in the fields is not your concern, you can declare victory and add a bullet point to your resume.

          I literally just outlined how an 8 hour work day will benefit them, as I have 5 times now. So I will attempt to tell you, again, how this works. If a farm worker, works more than 8 hours for a single employer, on a single given day, they will receive time and a half OT for all time after the 8 hours has elapsed, instead of the overtime threshold being at ten hours in a single day.

  6. South of Davis

    Eric wrote:

    > I am not accusing anyone of being racist, only of perpetuating

    > what was historically a blatantly racist policy.

    Are you aware that before Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (when my parents were little kids and my grandparents were union members marching in the streets) that almost no one of any race got “overtime”.

    Are you aware that California has the highest percentage of non whites out of all 48 states in the continental United States “and” the highest minimum wage of all 50 states AND the most generous overtime pay rules of all 50 states.

    What year in history do you think California made change from having a “blatantly racist” policy to increasing the minimum wage and overtime pay for more people of color than any other state in the union?

    P.S. I know there are racists out there and we need to deal with them, but I don’t think that “racism” is (now or at any time in the 78 year “history” of overtime laws) the reason that farm owners decide to pay bribes (also called legal campaign contributions) to politicians (of both parties) so they can carve out a loophole and pay their workers less overtime so they make more money (or why people in Davis don’t want a huge hotel built behind their homes)…

    1. hpierce

      In the not so distant past, there were the ‘farm workers contractors’… who took a cut from the actual workers, and worse… remember a Latino, who originally came to CA illegally?  His name was Juan Corona.

      For someone “in the know”, are there still these “middlemen”, who bargain with the farmers, and possibly then extort/exploit the actual workers?  If they still exist, will they get a “cut” of the workers’ overtime?  Sometimes, years ago, on payday, a few of the contractors would call INS, so they could also pocket the actual wages… many of those were “legal” Latinos… my sources were from the 60’s/70’s… perhaps reforms have been made…

      I really don’t know what the current situation is…

       

      1. Justice4All

        There are still some of those middle men you mention. They will often partner with the coyotes to recruit workers in Mexico or Central America for a percentage of their wages when they get here. Sometimes, when working under the table, the labor contractor will just outright steal the in cash payments from the workers and threaten to have them deported if they raise a stink about it. Those actions of course are all strictly illegal, but there is not sufficient enforcement tools to have the laws have practical effects.

        1. hpierce

          Thank you for the response… same was true 40 years ago… although minimum wage and OT are important, the changes will do “nada” (well,not solving all the problems) if we don’t get rid of the “beasts”… they’ll just profit more… getting rid of the “beasts” should be a high priority as well…

    2. Justice4All

      P.S. I know there are racists out there and we need to deal with them, but I don’t think that “racism” is (now or at any time in the 78 year “history” of overtime laws) the reason that farm owners decide to pay bribes (also called legal campaign contributions) to politicians (of both parties) so they can carve out a loophole and pay their workers less overtime so they make more money (or why people in Davis don’t want a huge hotel built behind their homes)…

      I actually agree with most of this. Although I will certainly push back on the idea that racism didnt play a significant part of the passage and exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, because that is very clear, historically speaking. Now I think its just exploitation a group of institutionalized second class citizens as a matter of expediency for the farmers. But as we know, we can have institutional racism without actual racists, and that is clearly the case here.

      1. South of Davis

        Sean wrote:

        > I actually agree with most of this.

        Nice to to hear this, I hope you know that like you I want to try and make things better for the farm workers (and all workers) in California.

        > I will certainly push back on the idea that racism didn’t play

        > a significant part of the passage and exemptions in the Fair

        > Labor Standards Act of 1938

        I have friends that have been working to stop the financial exploitation of workers by bankers since before the “occupy wall street” movement started.  While I’m sure there are some racist white farmers laughing that didn’t have to pay overtime to Mexican workers and there are probably some racist Jewish bankers laughing about how they are making stupid Christians pay hidden junk fees I’m pretty sure the real reason is that the white farmers and Jewish bankers are just “greedy” and not anti-Mexican or Christian.  The more we focus on “racism” (that some think motivates farmers and bankers to exploit Mexicans and Christians) the less people will focus on the real issues and bring together a big group to help the farm workers and people that don’t read closing statements from being ripped off by the greedy…

        As anyone reading the blog for a while will know I spent a lot of years tutoring poor kids in SF.  I find it funny that Eric wanted me to Google “Disparate impact discrimination” when I have seen it first hand and been a big supporter of the Vergara v. California lawsuit trying to fix this problem.  For the most part teachers in California are not “racist” they just end up sticking crappy teachers in poor minority schools since they “can get away with it”.  The foster parents of a kid in a poor neighborhood who’s high school drop out parents are in jail are less likely to complain about anything than the parents of a kid in a rich neighborhood who’s dad went to med school and who’s mom went to Princeton (and is on the school board).  I have a friend who works in “internal affairs” at a big California police department.  Cops tend to steal from drug dealers (of all races) not because they are “racist” but because they can “usually get away with it” (not many drug dealers will file a police report about a cop stealing their money or guns just like not many illegal aliens will file a police report if they don’t get the pay or overtime they deserve).

        I know Sean really wants to make things better for workers and I don’t want to tell anyone what to do, but I’m pretty sure that he will have better luck making changes for the better if he is not calling the people he is trying to work with “racist” and saying that the reason they don’t want to make a change is due to “racism”…

        1. Justice4All

          Just to be clear, Im not calling anyone a racist. Rather Im saying the policy is an example of institutional racism. It is possible to have institutional racism without actual racists. I dont think Bill Dodd, Ken Cooley, or the farmers as a whole are racists at all, far from it.

        2. Misanthrop

          Well I will, your use of “Jewish bankers” is anti-Semitic if not outright racist.

          As for Vergara you ought to look at the appellate decision overturning the Superior Court decision of Judge Treu. Its not the teachers sticking “crappy teachers” into poor minority schools its the districts and the administrators who have the power to assign teachers that are not getting good people to stay in these schools. You want to blame the teachers for things they are not responsible for like the statewide shortage of teachers that is only going to get worse in the coming years as long as the profession continues to be demonized by people trying to make a tough job impossible and blame all of our educational failures on the teachers and the teachers unions.

        3. Eric Gelber

          Agree fully with Misanthrop’s characterization of SOD’s reference to greedy Jewish bankers–an age-old anti-Semitic stereotype.

          [moderator] I assumed that was the point SOD was making, given the context in the sentences.

        4. Eric Gelber

          [moderator] I assumed that was the point SOD was making, given the context in the sentences.

          Nope. The context doesn’t help. In context, it’s a gratuitous and offensive reference.

        5. Eric Gelber

          BP

          I see some people took offense to “Jewish Bankers” but not a peep about “stupid Christians”.

          That you don’t understand the difference is part of the problem. Read a little of the history of anti-semitism and persecution of Jews.

        6. Marina Kalugin

          As far as crappy teachers, my children never had one I would consider “crappy”…though some were a better “fit” for my children..

          the latest DE discussed just how difficult it is to get decent teachers right now..and many teachers are being recalled part-time…

          unfortunately, some of the ones that were more mediocre, were also longer time…kinda fixed in their ways…or too willing to through out research to “try new alternative methods” rather than figure out why the child wasn’t able to learn…

          and, then due to seniority as one may get more out of touch, their jobs are the highest paid and most protected.

          Of course, when someone who had dedicated years  of life to children and the school district, then they should also be shown compassion and not discarded.

          In that case of a teacher truly sliding, one should help figure out why and help the teacher with a resolution…it is not okay to lower standards for the employee, but it can still be a win -win….some will be helped and turn around…and others may need to hit a bottom first…

           

           

    3. Eric Gelber

      SOD –

      Are you aware that before Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (when my parents were little kids and my grandparents were union members marching in the streets) that almost no one of any race got “overtime”.

      Good! You’re starting to get it. And then workers got overtime rights except for one category of workers that happened to be predominately non-white. That’s exactly what disparate impact discrimination is: A facially neutral policy or law that disproportionately impacts one protected group.

  7. Marina Kalugin

    dear Sean, there are way more urgent matters one needs to deal with regarding farm workers.

    many conventional farm workers and their families are poisoned every day…

    their health is in jeopardy every day..

    this is a miniscule issue compared to the others….

    they have contaminated water, and they are exposed to chemicals all day long..

    that is where one should start, clean water, clean food….. we have a window right now …

    we need to use it to be best of our ability..

    this fast was an eyeopener for many I am sure…

    yet, this is not what needs to be done first….start with the basics…and so on.

    basics being water and food…and so on….

    Support Mariko…keep Dodd out and Aquilar out…..vote Schaup….

    Pan also needs to go…is he even “up”…..

    Vote FOR garamendi…. 🙂

     

    1. Justice4All

      In my journey learning about the lives of farm workers in Yolo County, I have come to learn about many of the issues you are talking about. I have a few other articles on those subjects you touched on. Those issues are so big and so pervasive, I want to make sure I have a fuller understanding of all the intersectional problems before I write more about it. But youre right about all of that. I recently rode with some farm worker advocates and spoke to some farm workers about their issues. There are living conditions that remind me of depression era mining towns where the company owns everything and the workers nothing. No clean water, high rents, checks getting cashed at company owned stores, where they pay inflated prices for everything. etc. The issue is too big for my modest writing skills, for now.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        don’t sell yourself short Sean…you and I are on many a same page…I will provide doxxs and links…just read and watch…and learn ….

        much of it will go up against the mainstream media…it will be difficult to sort through who is lying…usually it is the government agency… if someone is on “quackwatch” they better watch their back…they are being targetted for elimination..

        it is all the very tip of the huge iceberg in this country…

        if you truly are open minded you will understand….try not to get pulled into too many things, but focus on the most basic of basics…

      2. Marina Kalugin

        it depends on where you live….even a few miles can make a huge difference on the needs..

        in Davis, one now needs a family income of somewhere in the $150K range to buy a median priced house..

        in Woodland or Dixon, way less.

        in SF and parts of Oakland, where the minimum wage is $18/hr…one can barely afford to eat and take public transportation from the studio one shares with 4 others to their job…

        in Sacramento, one can still – even today-  buy a foreclosure in the $50K range..

         

    2. Justice4All

      I’ve been focusing on the farm worker overtime because its something that has garnered political traction, and that interests me. Its also a fairly straightforward issue, apart from all the others that people with little insight to farm worker issues can understand. Ill definitely be working on the broader farm worker stuff more in time, but in order to do so, it will require more interviews, research etc.

  8. Tia Will

    SOD

    How much per year per person is “enough to live on”?”

    I am going to answer as though this were a serious question. Since you know what I do for a living and since you know from multiple posts, that I am not adept with numbers, I am sure that you know that the answer from me will be “I don’t know”.

    I am equally sure that since we seem to be capable of assigning amounts to many things, how much pay a soldier, or a congressman, or a federal judge for example non of whom’s composition is based on the “free market”, those who deal with cost of living could derive a formula for how much people actually needed to have all of their basic needs met in various areas of the country. This is not a prohibitive task, only the idea that everyone should have enough seems to be prohibitive.

    1. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > I am going to answer as though this were a serious question.

      It was a serious question.

      I know you are not “good with numbers”, but I also know you have the ability to add up the cost of food, shelter, health care entertainment and transportation to get a total of what is necessary to “live on”.  It sounds like the real answer is “I an not really serious about this and I’m not going to take the 10 seconds to open the calculator app on my iPhone to total up five numbers”.

      1. Tia Will

        South of Davis

        Then if you truly believe that doing that on the basis of a single set of 5 numbers, why ask me? Why not just do it yourself…..if of course your “question” was serious ?

  9. Marina Kalugin

    laborers are in short supply in Capay…they are now earning $20/hr….

    one sees help wanted signs everywhere….that is in the area of organic farms…

     

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for