FIGHTING FOR BREATH BY A DYING SEA

By David Bacon
Sierra Magazine, January/February 2018


IMPERIAL VALLEY, CA – 18AUGUST17 – At the edge of the Salton Sea, in Salton City, the salts dissolved in the sea’s water leave a dry crust on the soil as the sea dries up and the edge recedes. On the hardpan are dead fish, left behind as the water recedes. Copyright David Bacon

Jacqueline is seven years old. “I feel really bad because I can’t do anything for her,” Maria Pozar says. “Even the doctor says he can’t do anything – that she’s suffering from the dust in the air. Most of the children in North Shore have this problem. He just says not to let them play outside.”

The children of North Shore are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, whose sudden illnesses warn of a greater, life-threatening disaster to come. That disaster is the rapidly receding waters of the Salton Sea. As more and more playa – the sea’s mud shoreline – emerges from the water and dries out, fine particles get swept up by the wind and coat everything in its path, including children’s noses.

Click for entire article

MIGRATION, LABOR AND U.S. POLICY

By David Bacon
Dollars and Sense – September/October 2017

Pablo Alvarado (center), staff person for the Day Labor Union, tries to convince a group of day laborers getting work on the corner at Sunset Blvd. to instead go to the Hollywood day labor site administered by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles. The site is an alternative to the shape-up, where workers wait on a corner for a contractor to come by and offer them work.Off Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 6/18/98

One winter morning in Los Angeles, a group of health care activists set up a street-corner clinic for day laborers. One of the day laborers who lined up for medical tests was Omar Sierra. He got to the head of the line and then took his seat at the testing station. A nurse tied off his arm and inserted the needle to draw blood, when all of a sudden Migra agents came running across the street. Everybody panicked and ran. Omar tore off the tourniquet, ripped out the needle, and ran as well. He was lucky that day, because he escaped. But a lot of his friends didn’t. So when he got home, disturbed about what had happened, he decided to write a song about it, which for a while became the anthem of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network.

I’m going to sing you a story friends
That will make you cry
How one day in front of K-Mart
The Migra came down on us
Sent by the sheriff
Of this very same place …

We don’t understand why
We don’t know the reason
Why there is so much
Discrimination against us
In the end we’ll wind up all the same in the grave …

With this verse I leave you
I’m tired of singing
Hoping the Migra
Won’t come after us again
Because in the end we all have to work.

CLICK HERE to see the full article

Braceros Organize After One Worker Dies


Picking blueberries on a Washington State farm. Risking deportation, Washington state farmworkers protest dangerous conditions in the fields
By David Bacon
The American Prospect, 8/8/17

A farmworker’s death in the broiling fields of Washington state has prompted his fellow braceros to put their livelihoods in jeopardy by going on strike, joining a union, being discharged – and risking deportation.

Honesto Silva Ibarra died in Harborview hospital in Seattle on Sunday night, August 6. Silva, a married father of three, was a guest worker – in Spanish, a “contratado” – brought to the United States under the H2-A visa program, to work in the fields.

Miguel Angel Ramirez Salazar, another contratado, says Silva went to his supervisor at Sarbanand Farms last week, complaining that he was sick and couldn’t work. “They said if he didn’t keep working he’d be fired for ‘abandoning work.’ But after a while he couldn’t work at all.”

Silva finally went to the Bellingham Clinic, about an hour south of the farm where he was working, in Sumas, close to the Canadian border. By then it was too late, however. He was sent to Harborview, where he collapsed and died.

Silva’s death was the final shove that pushed the contratados into an action unprecedented in modern farm labor history. They organized and protested, and when they were fired for it, they joined Washington State’s new union for farmworkers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia. As this article is being written, 120 H2A workers are sitting in tents on a patch of land near the ranch where they worked, protesting their treatment and demanding rights for guest workers.


Click Here to see the Full Story