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Farmworkers at risk every day

Orlando Sentinel Letters to the Editor for February 8, 2016.

Farmworkers at risk every day

The incident of farmworkers being exposed to pesticides from drift in an aerial application on a farm in Belle Glade is only one of the more egregious cases of what happens on a less dramatic scale to farmworkers every day.

Pesticide application in a nursery located at a main road near Homestead in South Florida.

Contrary to some sentiments, farmworkers frequently experience less severe, but equally important, symptoms — skin rashes, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting — daily. The problem is three-fold: Many farmworkers are not aware that these signs may be related to pesticide exposure; health-care providers are not trained to identify these symptoms in their farmworker patients, and they do not generally take an occupational health history of their clients; and most farmworkers cannot afford to miss a day of work and/or they are too afraid to complain about their health problems for fear of being labeled a troublemaker.

This is not supposition or speculation. This is what we hear almost every day, every week at the Farmworker Association of Florida. In addition, chronic pesticide exposure can lead to serious long-term health problems, even learning disabilities and ADHD in the children of agricultural workers. Regarding workplace violations, farmworkers tell us all the time that growers will have workers clean up a site so that everything is in order when they know there is an inspector coming.

The current ugly anti-immigrant rhetoric today only exacerbates this problem. For everyone who eats, we need to thank farmworkers — documented or undocumented — for feeding us every day at the risk to their health.

Jeannie Economos health and safety coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka

STOP HB675 - STOP "TRUMP EFFECT"

Florida legislators are giving-in to the “Trump Effect” and attacking immigrant families by proposing up to nine (9) hateful laws that separate families and criminalize mothers and fathers.

This Wednesday, the House of Representatives will bring HB675 to a final vote, one of the worst of all the anti-immigrant bills.

HB675 is a Poli-Migra bill. It will make it mandatory for Local Governments, Police and Schools to enforce immigration laws, reporting and holding in detention immigrants ONLY for being undocumented.

HB675 will increase again the deportation of mothers and fathers whose only crime is to be undocumented, work to sustain their families or drive without a license.

HB675 will basically turn Police and Teachers into immigration agents. Immigrant families will fear calling the Police to report crimes or taking their children to school.

HB675 will for local governments to use our taxes to pay for this work because the Federal govt has not assigned funds to it.    

Miami-Dade County Commissioners and Sheriffs in Broward, Hernando, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Pasco Counties had already opted out of doing immigration work because it was wasting their resources in deporting community members and separating families. HB675 will make it mandatory for them to enforce deportation laws again and will allow the state to sue them if they don’t.

We expect our Lt. Governor and all the Latino Representatives to stop this bill and vote against it Representatives Jeanette Nuñez (Chair of the Legislative Hispanic Caucus), Rene Plasencia (Orlando) and Jose Felix Diaz (Chair of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation), will you defend your community?    

We expect the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation and its Chair, Representative Jose Felix Diaz, to defend their community and respect the leadership of the Miami-Dade County Commission who unanimously passed a resolution opposing this bill on January 20, 2016.

Samples tweets to STOP HB675

Twitter handles for statewide targets:

@LopezCantera, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez Cantera

@RepJNunez, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez Chair Florida Hispanic Caucus

Miami: @josefelixdiaz Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Chair Miami-Dade Delegation

Orlando: @CoachP_CHS - Rep. Rene Plasencia

#WeAreFlorida and we say NO to anti-immigrant laws! (insert twitter handle for your Representative or statewide target) stop #HB675 #AltoTrump

#HB675 could turn Police and Teachers into Immigration agents. (insert twitter handle for your Representative or statewide target) stop it! #WeAreFlorida #AltoTrump

#HB675 will deport more immigrants and separate their families! (insert twitter handle for your Representative or statewide target) #WeAreFlorida #AltoTrump

#HB675 will force (insert your County) to use our taxes to separate immigrant families. (insert twitter handle for your Representative or statewide target) VOTE NO!

#WeAreFlorida. (insert twitter handle for your Representative or statewide target), stand with your community! Stop #HB675 and all anti-immigrant laws in #Florida #WeAreFlorida #AltoTrump

We expect (insert twitter handle for your Representative or statewide target) to defend their community and vote against #HB675 #WeAreFlorida

We expect @josefelixdiaz @RepJNunez and the @DadeDelegation to defend their community and vote against #HB675 #WeAreFlorida
#MiamiDade Commissioners oppose #HB675. @josefelixdiaz @RepJNunez @DadeDelegation VOTE NO! #WeAreFlorida

FWAF traveled to Cuba for the V International Encounter on Agroecology, Sustainable Agriculture, and Cooperatives

From November 22 to December 4, 2015, 3 FWAF staff members, along with allies from El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA), Centro Campesino, Why Hunger, Boricua, and Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON), traveled to Cuba for the V International Encounter on Agroecology, Sustainable Agriculture, and Cooperatives, followed by a training on the Campesino-a-Campesino methodology, organized by the Asociación Nacional de Pequeños Agricultores (ANAP) and La Vía Campesina. In total, 255 delegated from 28 countries participated. FWAF's participation in the convenings was a continuation of the formation process to deepen our understanding and practice of Agroecology with farmworkers communities in Florida, a process which also involves other farmworkers and small farmers organizations that participate in the agroecology Encounter that FWAF hosted in Florida in February of 2015.

Thanks to our community

This holiday season we've been reflecting on past victories as we gear up for 2016. This timeline covers some our big highlights over the years. A more complete look at our history can be found under our three decades complete timeline. (three decades
 
 We have had such success because of support from our communities. So thank you to all our supporters and we look forward to more successes to empower and protect farmworkers in 2016 and for years to come. 

COP 21: Migrant Justice Action: Over 200 Activists March In Solidarity

(Paris, December 9, 2015) Nearly 200 grassroots activists converged and marched, chanted, and sang with colorful banners, posters and outside the Vincennes detention center in Paris where several immigrants are illegally detained by the French government.

The Vincennes detention center where grassroots communities  gathered is of particular significance, as it was the site of an historic uprising after the death of a Tunisian man while in custody in 2008. This uprising brought national attention to the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees in detention in Paris.

It Takes Roots delegates organized and participated in this march in solidarity with thousands of impacted refugees and migrants, detained by the French government. Local community leaders, members of la Via Campesina and activists working at the intersections of migrant and refugee rights joined our delegation.

This action was in deep solidarity with refugees fleeing situations of grave conflict, and made vital connections between migrant rights, Indigenous rights, gender equality, and climate change.

Key spokespeople at the march highlighted how social and environmental justice are deeply linked, and the largely US delegation expressed their solidarity with migrant rights, especially activists working with immigrant communities along the US-Mexico border, and Indigenous activists, who highlighted how colonialism is not really dead, but alive in new and dangerous ways.

Watch a video highlight of this action!

More photos of the action here

Press release from It Takes Roots

More information here.

Got Food for Thanksgiving? Thank a Farmworker

Honor International Food Workers Week

Without farmworkers, there would be no Thanksgiving harvests to feed the millions of people in the United States today. That is why, during this week, we are recognizing, honoring and thanking the hard-working farmworkers and their families who make our Thanksgiving feasts possible. The people who dig the sweet potatoes, pick the string beans, harvest the corn, cut the cabbage, toss the pumpkins into the trucks, reap and pack all the other fruits and vegetables that grace our tables are doing the work that is necessary to our survival. We depend upon them. Their work is our sustenance.

This week, we are making a special effort to honor and thank farmworkers in Florida and around the country. All year long, we work to get better protections for farmworkers from pesticide exposure. We take actions against cases of wage theft and harassment. We train farmworkers on their rights in the workplace and organize them to participate in issues of concern to them and their families. The community gardens are places for our farmworker members to build community, exchange ideas, pass on knowledge, and find joy and satisfaction. Yet, too many farmworkers still go hungry. There is much more yet to do to achieve equitable and just working conditions for this nation’s farmworkers.  

As members of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Farmworker Association of Florida celebrates International Food Workers Week with stories about farmworkers who have made a difference in their communities. FWAF staff member, Miguel Zelaya, has worked in every kind of crop grown in Florida. He now dedicates his time to training and empowering other farmworkers in the community to work for social change and economic and social justice.

On Thanksgiving 2015, we hope you will join us in taking a moment on Thanksgiving to give thanks to farmworkers, to let your dinner guests know about the conditions farmworkers face, and to make a commitment to work for justice for farmworkers in 2016 and beyond.

We wish all our friends, allies and supporters a very happy Thanksgiving holiday season.  

Sí, Se Puede!

Nadín Reyes Maldonado at FWAF in Apopka

"This past Friday our Apopka office hosted a speaker who shared her experiences and advocacy around forced disappearances in Mexico. Nadín Reyes Maldonado talked to a group of community members and students about how common these forced disappearances can be, and how they are often blamed on drug cartels. She also shared her personal losses and the risk she takes by speaking against the Mexican government. We applaud her bravery and the invaluable work she does everyday.  We heard many positive comments afterwards from folks just how important it was to tell these stories and to spread this awareness. We honor and respect the tremendous work that they are doing. A Huge Thank you to Witness for Peace Southeast, We stand in solidarity with you!

You can check out their organization here

EPA Slow to Halt Use of Deadly Pesticide

 Taken from New America Media, News Feature, Viji Sundaram, Posted: Nov 02, 2015

EPA Slow to Halt Use of Deadly Pesticide

Editor's Note: A pesticide known as "DDT's cousin" is still being used in the United States, despite evidence of its toxic effects. New America Media health editor Viji Sundaram reports from India, Alaska and California.
 
 
Photo credit for the above picture of Jovita Alfau (left) with her daughter Yuriana: Farmworker Association of Florida. 


On a cool November day in 2009, farmworker Jovita Alfau was transplanting hibiscus as she’d been instructed in a section of Power Bloom Farms and Growers nursery in Homestead, Fla.

As she began pulling up the seedlings from the pots, she began to “feel dizzy and weak, experienced numbness in her mouth and vomited,” according to a complaint she would later file against her employer in federal district court in southern Florida.

Alfau had no idea why she was feeling so ill, but lawyers from the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project representing her in the lawsuit learned through deposition that the area of the nursery where the hibiscus grew had been sprayed with the pesticide endosulfan less than 24 hours earlier, according to the lawsuit. Her employer allegedly failed to warn her about the required elapse time before it was safe to enter. Alfau had been wearing no protective gear.

Alfau alleges in the lawsuit that there were times when the applicators sprayed the nursery even while she and her fellow farmworkers were tending the plants.

The nursery denied wrongdoing, but settled with the then 43-year-old single mother of three in 2012 for $100,000. Asked by New America Media recently whether his nursery was still using endosulfan, Power Bloom president Steve Power said he had no comment.

It was pesticide poisonings like Alfau’s, as well as years of pressure from a broad coalition of environmentalists, health care advocates, farmworkers and scientists, that many believe was responsible for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of a six-year phase-out of the pesticide in 2010.

The federal agency negotiated an agreement with the compound’s sole manufacturer, Makhteshim Agan, based in Israel at the time, to stop using the pesticide crop-by-crop.

English Innovations program changes the game for DACA

Its 8:45 AM and a small crowd of community members clutching flyers grows outside the Farmworker Association office in Central Florida. The Association’s doors open promptly at 9, and by 9:15, more than 50 students await information on a new English program that they heard about in mass last Sunday.

The group that gathered is unique in a number of ways. They are mostly individuals eligible for DACA but for the education requirement. “Que es DACA,” (What is DACA?) one of the community members asks.

Jose Luis Marantes, organizer with the Florida Immigrant Rights Coalition (FLIC), explains that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a form of relief given to people who arrived to the United States under the age of 16 undocumented, and he lists the other qualifying criteria, including the education requirements.

EPA Boosts Farmworker Protections

Oct 7, 2015- Listen the program here

Farmworker advocates are celebrating the recently announced updates to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.  At a news conference in Washington D.C., last month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the previous standards were more than 20 years old and were not enough to adequately protect workers from the harmful health impacts of pesticide exposure.  Farmworker advocates had been lobbying for increased protections for years.  We’ll take a closer look at what the updated regulations will mean for Florida’s nearly 300,000 farmworkers, their employers and the health care industry.  We’ll also explore where advocates say further protections are still needed.

Guests:

Andrea Delgado, Senior Legislative Representative with Earthjustice

Jeannie Economos, Pesticide-Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida

Karla Martinez, Senior Attorney for the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project

Great news for Farmworkers!!!

Compañer@s,  
Great News! For twenty years farmworkers and allies have fought to improve the Worker Protection Standard issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. They hadn't been changed or improved since 1992, until today!
The protections given to agricultural workers today bring farmworkers more in parity with health and safety protections already covering workers in most other professions in the United States.  In a video promotion for the new WPS the EPA said, "farmworkers deserve the same protection from hazards as workers in other professions have had for decades." We couldn't agree more!

Improvements in the newly released WPS include an increase in worker protection trainings from once every five years to an annual training which will include improved content, such as take home exposure risks, and increased access to information about pesticides. For the first time, there is also now an age limit for pesticide handlers of 18 years. More signage to warn about pesticide use as well as buffer zones to protect from over spray have been included. 
 
EPA's Revised Worker Protection Standard
EPA's Revised Worker Protection Standard
 
Selena Zelaya, the 19-year old daughter of two farmworker parents in Central Florida, and a Farmworker Association member  said, "Many times, I saw [my parents] come home light headed or with blisters on their hands from the exposure to pesticides, and it was frustrating not being able to do anything. Farmworkers bring food to our table. I am grateful that EPA has finally taken steps to protect them.  We owe it to them to protect them and have strong laws to ensure their well-being."

Sick Apopka farmworkers hope for major study of their illnesses

By Martin E. Comas Staff 

Geraldean Matthew kept a wary eye on the sky as she picked sweet corn from a muck field near the north shore of Lake Apopka.

When she saw a plane over the horizon, she and the other farmworkers would quickly drop to the ground and cover their heads and faces as the crop-duster swooped, showering them with a chemical spray of pesticides and fertilizers.

On Thursday, Matthew sat in her Apopka living room, her walker nearby, recalling those days when she toiled in the fields as a teenager starting in the early 1960s.

"We would get wet, and we could feel it on our clothing," said Matthew, who for decades was exposed to pesticides, many of them since banned.

"After work, we would pick up our young children. And we would hold our babies. And their mouths, with their tongues out, would be on our shirts," she said. "And our babies later had rashes all over their skin."

Today, Matthew, 65, seldom leaves her home, except when she takes a bus three times a week to a local medical clinic for hours-long dialysis treatments because of chronic kidney disease. Scars from pesticide burns run across her legs.

Overwhelming Majority of Florida Latino Voters Want Climate Action Now

74 Percent Support State Measures to Combat Climate Change

San Francisco, CA – According to a new poll conducted by Latino Decisions for Earthjustice, a national environmental nonprofit law firm, and GreenLatinos, a leading national nonprofit of Latino environmental leaders, 76 percent of registered Latino voters in Florida strongly support national clean energy standards and 74 percent strongly support state clean energy standards to combat climate change.

Florida is home to over 4 million Latinos, which constitutes one-quarter of the state’s total population. Of the 1.5 million Latino voters in the state, 36 percent are Cuban, 32 percent are Puerto Rican and 21 percent are Central and South American. The survey found that while Cuban Americans have historically aligned themselves with the Republican Party and tend to take conservative positions on a number of domestic and international issues, Florida’s Latino population is more alike than different from Latinos in other states when it comes to environmental attitudes.

The top three environmental issues for Latinos in Florida are strengthening the Clean Water Act (84 percent), increasing water conservation (82 percent) and developing clean energy sources (81 percent). Additionally, 69 percent of Florida Latinos find it to be very or extremely important to reduce the use of pesticides and GMOs in farming. Florida Latino voters are worried about climate change and are supportive of candidates that take a progressive position on the environment. 71 percent in the state feel more favorable of officials who act on behalf of the environment; regardless of party lines. The majority of Latino voters (66 percent) say they are already directly experiencing the effects of human-caused climate change in Florida.

Florida jury awards $17 million to abused migrant female farm workers

REUTERS / September 10, 2015
By David Adams

A federal jury awarded almost $17.5 million to five former female employees of a South Florida farm who said they were either raped and sexually harassed at a vegetable packing plant, their lawyer and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Thursday.

Three men, including two sons of the owner of Moreno Farms, near Fort Myers in southwest Florida, were accused of sexual harassment in 2011 and 2012 against the women in coolers and an office trailer at the packing house, including rape, groping, kissing and threats they would be fired if they refused to have sex with supervisors, according to the legal complaint brought against Moreno Farms.

However, the women are unlikely to receive a penny as the packing house closed after the case was brought and the men were never arrested, said a lawyer for the women, Victoria Mesa-Estrada.

"It's more of a symbolic victory," Mesa-Estrada said. "The women knew that when the case was brought. But for them it was a question of justice."

Four of the women attended the two-day trial in Miami. "They were in tears when the verdict was read," said Mesa-Estrada.

Reuters does not identify rape victims.

Farmers: Trump 'terrible for agriculture'

Many say they can't harvest their crops without immigrant labor

By Bill Tomson

Even before real-estate mogul Donald Trump called undocumented immigrants "rapists and murderers" who "have to go," California contractor Carlos Castañeda was having difficulty hiring enough workers to pick celery and squash.

Now Castañeda and others fear Trump's talk about erecting a "big beautiful wall" at the border and deporting millions could make it nearly impossible to find the guest workers they need — workers who would obtain legal status under most comprehensive reform bills.

"There are growers out there screaming for labor," said Castañeda, a farm labor contractor in San Luis Obispo County in central California. "The people who are coming in are doing the work that not a single American would like to do."

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