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UNDROP Alive and Kicking: Jessie MacInnis – NFU – Canada

UNDROP Alive and Kicking: David Otieno - Kenyan Peasants League - Kenya

UNDROP Alive and Kicking: Pramesh Pokharel - All Nepal Peasant's Federation - Nepal

UNDROP Alive and Kicking: Alberto Silva - Uniterre – Switzerland

From Farmworkers to Land Healers

By Brooke Anderson - Yes! Magazine, April 25, 2023

Immigrant and Indigenous farmworkers in California reclaim the power of their labor.

Sandra de Leon adds branches to a burn pile in Santa Rosa, CA on December 18, 2022. Photo by Brooke Anderson

On most days, Sandra de Leon prunes grapevines in Northern California’s wealthiest vineyards. But today she is dressed head to toe in a yellow fire-resistant suit, helmet, safety goggles, and gloves, carrying a machete and drip torch. She calls out over her crackling mobile radio, “Jefe de quema: aquí Bravo, informandoles que …” (“Burn chief: Bravo unit here, informing you that …”) and then rattles off data in Spanish on the number, size, duration, and temperature of a dozen or so burn piles she is monitoring on the sun-speckled forest floor. 

De Leon is one of 25 immigrant and Indigenous farmworkers gathered on a cold December morning in Sonoma County, California, for the first-in-the-country Spanish-language intentional-burn certification program. Like de Leon, each of these firefighters-(and firelighters!)-in-training has been haunted by fire. During a massive inferno in 2017, de Leon was one of many “essential workers” escorted by vineyard managers through mandatory evacuation zones to harvest grapes while breathing in toxic fumes from nearby blazes. 

“When we arrived at work, there were patrol cars because it was an evacuation zone, but they waved us through to harvest. The skies were red and heavy smoke was in the air. They didn’t give us any protective equipment. No masks,” de Leon says. “There was so much ash on the grapes that when you’d cut the grape, it would get on your face. Our faces were black.”

While she didn’t get sick, she says her co-workers struggled with asthma. De Leon recalls harvesting like this for eight hours and getting paid just $20 per hour. 

“They should have paid us more,” de Leon says. “We risked our lives for their profits.”

Today, however, de Leon and her fellow farmworkers are here to learn about “good fire”—a controlled burn land stewards use to reduce underbrush in overgrown forests to prevent the spread of more destructive wildfires. Thanks to North Bay Jobs With Justice, de Leon and her fellow farmworkers are (re-)learning skills many of their ancestors knew well. And they are putting that know-how to work healing a fire-ravaged landscape and people. 

Roundup Caused Her Cancer, but Bayer Won’t Pay Settlement Because She’s an Undocumented Farmworker, Lawsuit Says

By Sky Chadde - In These Times, January 24, 2023

Litigation over Roundup — the main ingredient of which, glyphosate, likely causes cancer—has had a long tail. And the latest lawsuit involving the once ubiquitous household weed killer dropped Jan. 18.

In 2020, Bayer announced a $10 billion settlement over claims Roundup caused cancer. One claimant was a farmworker in Virginia, according to the lawsuit filed by Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate and government accountability. She said she was exposed while working for years with the weed killer on tree farms.

Originally, she was given the chance to settle using the same program that many plaintiffs used to receive payments from Bayer, but she was then rebuffed, according to the lawsuit. Because she was not a U.S. citizen, like many farmworkers, she did not qualify, according to the lawsuit.

Seven months after signing onto the settlement program, she was dropped by her lawyers and was ineligible for a settlement, according to the lawsuit. 

Public Citizen said her civil rights have been violated because she was deemed not eligible because of her citizenship status.

“Those harmed by unlawful conduct are entitled to compensation no matter their immigration status,” Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group, said in a press release. ​“This lawsuit calls out discrimination by both Monsanto and some trial lawyers and will help put an end to such practices.”

Exposed and at Risk: Opportunities to Strengthen Enforcement of Pesticide Regulations for Farmworker Safety

By Olivia N. Guarna - Vermont Law & Graduate School Center for Agriculture & Food Systems and Farmworker Justice , September 2022

THE USE OF PESTICIDES IS UBIQUITOUS IN OUR FOOD SYSTEM. In the United States, approximately 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied annually across sectors. Nearly 90 percent of conventional pesticides are applied in the agricultural sector. As a result, farmworkers are routinely exposed at unusually high rates to chemicals that pose substantial risk to human health and safety. These risks are exacerbated by insufficient worker training and frequent improper handling and application.

Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems released a report in 2021 entitled Essentially Unprotected, which contains a detailed overview of the landscape of pesticide laws at the federal and state level. As demonstrated in the report, there are still key gaps in existing law to sufficiently protect farmworkers. Given these significant gaps, it is particularly alarming that compliance with current protections appears woefully low. The failure to adequately enforce pesticide laws leaves farmworkers unprotected and at continued risk of injury and illness.

The system of pesticide law enforcement is complex and varies widely between states. This report seeks to explain some of the nuance reflected in the regulatory structure of enforcement while highlighting recommendations for consistency and improved health and safety outcomes. However, it is essential to note that poor compliance and enforcement are symptomatic of other issues, many of which plague farmworkers beyond pesticide exposure. For example, enforcement is considerably affected by workers underreporting exposure incidents and suspected violations due to fear of retaliation by their employers.

Many farmworkers are undocumented or on an H-2A guestworker visa and thus face fears of deportation or blacklisting if they speak out against employer abuse. Additionally, farmworkers often do not have access or resources to seek out medical attention after exposure. If they do, doctors may not be aware that their symptoms indicate pesticide poisoning or may not know how and to whom to report the incident. Even when doctors can draw the connection, not all states require that doctors notify health authorities or the state agency responsible for enforcement.e, enforcement is considerably affected by workers underreporting exposure incidents and suspected violations due to fear of retaliation by their employers.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Q&A: How Rural America’s Assets Have Been Systematically Stripped Away

By Olivia Weeks and Marc Edelman - The Daily Yonder, August 26, 2022

Marc Edelman is a writer and Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College. In his work, academic and otherwise, Edelman investigates what he terms the underdevelopment of rural America. In a 2021 paper entitled “Hollowed out Heartland, USA” he writes “Rural decline is not simply the result of deindustrialization spurred by free trade, the farm crisis, or automation and robotization. Since the 1980s, financial capital has developed imaginative new ways to strip and seize the assets present in rural zones, whether these be mutually-owned banks, industries, cooperatively-owned grain elevators, local newspapers, hospitals, people’s homes, or stores located in towns and malls.” In the wake of the fiscal austerity agenda enacted by financial and political elites in the late 20th century, the vast majority of the wealth created in America’s countryside “has accrued to shareholders in corporations and financial institutions headquartered in a handful of distant, economically dynamic urban centers.” The financialization of the American economy, especially in those places furthest from economic hubs, can be extremely opaque. But its repercussions – many of which are often seen as causes and effects of backwardness and small-town decline – are all around us.

We discuss the destabilizing effects of such uneven development, the parallels between rural and urban landscapes of decline, and the political choices that sacrificed rural prosperity to urban agglomeration, below.

Rural Identity and Anti-Intellectualism

Solidarity with the workers of the food company Sudaphi (Morocco): ECVC

By Federico Pacheco - La Via Campesina, July 6, 2022

European Coordination Via Campesina calls for solidarity with the workers of the company Sudaphi, part of the Premium Foods Solutions group, located in the province of Inezgane Ait Melloul in Souss Massa, Morocco. Sudaphi specializes in the processing and export of tomato-based products. It produces the Sud’n’Sol and Sunblush Tomatoes brands and sells its products to supermarkets and food processors in Europe.

In December 2021, Sudaphi unilaterally announced that it was subjecting all of its incumbent staff to a new written contract that threatens workers’ job security and their transfer to production sites far from their homes, without consulting the company’s employees or their elected representatives. Workers under the new Sudaphi contract have been protesting these changes outside the company’s gates since May 26.

A staff delegate affiliated with the National Federation of the Agricultural Sector (FNSA-UMT) was dismissed by Sudaphi on 27 May 2022. Two other delegates were sanctioned with 8-day layoffs and 3 members were forced to change positions. Sudaphi’s abusive practices represent a violation of the right to free association and collective bargaining. The delegate has organized a sit-in in front of Sudaphi’s offices in Inezgane Ait Melloul since his dismissal over a month ago. The FNSA demands respect for trade union rights and a serious and responsible dialogue with its regional authorities for a settlement of this collective dispute.


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