Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NO OTHER WAY THAN TO STRUGGLE - NO HAY OTRO CAMINO, MAS QUE LUCHAR

NO OTHER WAY THAN TO STRUGGLE:
The Farmworker-Led Boycott of Driscoll's Berries
By Felimon Piñeda interviewed by David Bacon,
Truthout | Interview, Wednesday, 31 August 2016
http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37429-no-other-way-than-to-struggle-the-farmworker-led-boycott-of-driscoll-s-berries

Sigue en Español





Felimon Piñeda sits with his children. (Photo: David Bacon)


Felimon Piñeda is vice president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, the independent farm workers union in Washington State. He was one of the original strikers when the union was organized in 2013. The union, together with the union of striking farm workers in Baja California, Mexico, has organized a boycott of Driscoll's Berries, the world's largest berry company. They demand that Driscoll's take responsibility for the conditions and violations of labor rights by the growers whose berries they sell. Piñeda describes the life of a farm worker producing Driscoll's berries, and his own history that brought him into the fields of Washington State. He told his story to David Bacon during an interview in Linden, Washington.

Our town in Oaxaca is Jicaral Coicoyan de las Flores. We speak Mixteco Bajo. I am 33 years old, but I left at a very young age. In 1996 I got to San Quintin [in Baja California] with my older brother. After four nights in Punta Colonet, we found a place to stay in a camp. There were a lot of cabins for people and we stayed there for six months. We planned to go back to Oaxaca afterwards, but when we'd been there for six months we had no money. We were all working -- me, my sister, my older brother and his wife and two kids -- but we'd all pick tomatoes and cucumbers just to have something to eat. There was no bathroom then. People would go to the bathroom out in the tomatoes and chiles. The children too.

Another man living there, who spoke another dialect of Mixteco, rented us a little house. It was one room, very small. We were there a year. We were getting home at five in the evening and the children were all eating their food cold because we couldn't make the stove work. Then my brother said we should buy a plot between all of us, to give us a place to live. So we paid one payment, and then another. My brother is still living there, and his children are grown up now. His oldest son is 22 or 23. My niece now has kids.

In Punta Colonet life was very hard. Work was always badly paid. You had to work a lot for very little. In 1996 the wage was 45 pesos. In 2002 I worked three months there again, and in 2005 I worked almost a year. The bosses paid about 100 pesos. But the food was cheaper then. Maseca [corn flour] cost 55 [pesos]. We were not living well, but earning enough to afford it. A soda then cost five pesos. Now it costs 12 pesos.



Felimon Piñeda and his wife in their room in the labor camp at Sakuma Farms, during the strike in 2013. (Photo: David Bacon)


I lived in Punta Colonet two years, and then, because of our great need, I had to begin coming to the US. I worked in the tomatoes in Florida, where it was very hot. It was very hard work, because they have a trailer for the tomatoes, and I'm short. You have to lift the bucket full of tomatoes to about nine feet. The person on the trailer grabs it and empties it, and then hands it back. I couldn't do it, and I had to stand on something, and the bucket weighs more than 30 pounds. It was very hard, and I did that work for a year-and-a-half. In San Quintin I picked tomatoes too, but it wasn't as hard.

Recently, we've seen the movement grow in San Quintin -- the Alianza de Organizaciones Nacional Estatal y Municipal por la Justicia Social. They're defending the people. To me, it's very important that there's someone willing to defend people. The political parties aren't interested in what's happening to us at work. I don't know how the Alianza got started, but I hear they're suffering a lot from threats by the companies, threats from the government. The rich and the bosses have bought the government. They pay the police, who then shoot at the people. It doesn't matter if they're women or children. That's the worst thing I've seen in the San Quintin Valley.

At some point in the future, I'll be going back to Mexico. With the threats they received, that could affect me too. For that reason I'm very grateful for the movement they've organized. For my part, I want to send my greetings to all the leaders in San Quintin. In 2013 Sakuma Brothers here in Washington state threatened us also, because of the movement we organized. They threatened us with the police and hired consultants and guards. Their purpose was to get rid of our union. Thanks to the union we've organized here, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, we stayed firm, and the company wasn't able to get rid of us. We continue to struggle.

That's why I'm so interested in the struggle going on in the San Quintin Valley. When I heard they'd gone out on strike I spoke with my brother and asked him for the phone number of the radio station there. Then I spoke with them and got the number of Bonifacio Martinez from the Alianza, so that we could communicate with the leaders.




Felimon Piñeda talks to workers and supporters, at the end of the march to Sakuma Farms offices in 2015. (Photo: David Bacon)


It seems they arrived at an agreement on the wages. But after they got an answer from the government last year, I understand that the governor went back on his word, and so did the bosses. So then they started a boycott of Driscoll's, the company that distributes a lot of berries from San Quintin. It's been hard to keep in communication, but we haven't lost touch.

They know something of our struggle here in Washington state. Our movement started on July 11 in 2013, the first day of our strike at Sakuma Farms. Sometimes the struggle has been very hard. Sometimes we feel tired. But then we recover our strength and we continue. And we continue with the help of a lot of unions, reporters, supporters of the boycott. And we're making progress.

In 2013, at one point, we were negotiating with the company to improve the working conditions for all the workers at Sakuma Brothers. Sakuma signed an agreement and said he'd respect it, but after two weeks he broke it. That was when we started our boycott, and it is growing every day. Sakuma sends his fruit to Driscoll's in Watsonville. In 2013 I said to the compañeros that we had to go to Watsonville to bring our boycott there. I thought that if Driscoll's saw the people there it would put more pressure on the company.

The boycott kept growing and Driscoll's felt the pressure. Finally the company called one of our supporters and said they wanted to talk about how to get the boycott stopped. She said they had to talk with us. So last year on May 8 we went to Driscoll's office in Watsonville. I thought their warehouse would be small, but there were two very big buildings. Everything there was Driscoll's.




The children of farm workers at Sakuma Farms hold signs during a march to the company offices in 2016. (Photo: David Bacon)


We started to talk about why the boycott started. At the beginning they put a big bowl on the table with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. They offered them to us and asked us to try some. We said, how can we try some if we're boycotting them?

We were there almost a day. They said they couldn't force Sakuma to sign a contract. We said, OK, the boycott will continue until we get a union contract. This year Sakuma has said he wants to negotiate with us, but we'll see what happens. Sakuma now has a gringo who works with them who's supposed to be good at working in places where there are collective demands and problems.

Last year they were paying $10 an hour, which they say is a lot. But although they pay by the hour, they demand 50 pounds per hour to get $10. For 5 pounds more there's a bonus of 1.50, or 11.50 an hour. But only the workers who work fast can get that.... Since 2013 the weekly pay has actually gone down, in both strawberries and blueberries. Both last year and this year the people have walked out on strike because they didn't agree with the wages.

When the workers struck last year, even though I was working at another company I went out there. I didn't want to leave the Mixtec people by themselves -- they're my people and they chose me as vice president of the union. I had to travel from far away to get there, but there were still about 250 people waiting for me. People said we had to do something, so we went to a field where people were still working. Those workers said the pay was no good, and they left the field too.



Farm workers and supporters demand a contract.  (Photo: David Bacon)


When we demanded a collective bargaining agreement the supervisors said they wouldn't discuss it. Then they sent in the police. The police asked to talk with me, and said I wasn't working there. Alfredo Juarez from our comité [committee] said I had a right to be there because I was the union vice president. The police said they were going to arrest me. So the people asked, are you going to arrest us all? The police didn't know what to say.

Finally the police said that if we didn't move out of the field, into a public place, they'd have to do what they came there for. So the people said, OK, and we all left the field and went to the Costco supermarket in Burlington to demonstrate for the boycott. The next day the company bought burritos for everyone at work.

This year there have been more strikes like this, and more boycott demonstrations. That's why the company says now it wants to negotiate with us.

Talking to Bonifacio, I asked them to do a boycott also -- us in the north and them in the south. That way we'd put more pressure on Driscoll's. We talk about the tactics we use and I told him about our history. He said Driscoll's and the Alianza had to go to the government to ask that the wages get raised. I think that's no good. The government has its role, but Driscoll's has to talk with its growers, like BerryMex, and ensure that they're paying the workers well. That's what we told Driscoll's. We're not going to stop the boycott until the day we sign a contract at Sakuma. Same with Driscoll's and BerryMex.



Adela Estrada Ortiz picks blueberries in a field near Burlington, Washington. (Photo: David Bacon)


I think the idea of an independent union in San Quintin is the best way to do it, with a direct contract. The farm workers of San Quintin have been suffering for over 20 years. Hunger wages are the reason why the people went on strike. They're doing a very good thing. But I think it's better to sign a collective agreement with the companies. The government is not the owner of the farms. Better to force the bosses to pay. They're millionaires. The companies have the main responsibility to pay the workers well. We are demanding the same things both here and there, and the company is the same, Driscoll's.

Last year they invited me to speak on the radio in San Quintin by telephone, so everyone in San Quintin could hear about us. I wanted to tell people to get involved in the movement. It's good for everyone. The strike is the best way to get a fair wage. I wanted to tell people not to get discouraged, that in Washington state we're struggling too. But then the people at the radio station said they weren't authorized, and they wouldn't let me speak.

People in Santa Maria and Madera in California are supporting us too. Many of them come up to Washington in the berry season, and are working at Sakuma right now. They are members of Familias Unidas. I don't know if people are also thinking about striking in California. In Greenfield, in the Salinas Valley in California, there are a lot of people from the Triqui region, and they organize a lot of movements. They're very militant. Maybe they will organize a movement there. It would be wonderful if they would.

We are all part of a movement of Indigenous people. In San Quintin the majority of people are Indigenous. On the radio there they speak Mixteco, Zapoteco, Triqui and Nahuatl. Their strike movement is Indigenous. Everyone involved in our union in Washington is Indigenous also.



Ricardo, an immigrant from Putla, Oaxaca, prunes blackberry vines to allow more light to get to the fruit, and to allow pickers to move down the rows more easily. (Photo: David Bacon)


Here Indigenous people are really worried about getting fired. The supervisors and foremen shout at them and push them hard. They abuse Indigenous workers more than any others. It's the same here and in Baja California. What we want is respect for everyone. No matter if you're from Guatemala or Honduras, Chiapas or Guerrero. The right to be human is for everyone. But sometimes people see us as being very low. They think we have no rights. But they're wrong. The right to be human is the same. There should be respect for all.

When we were on strike in 2013, many of us didn't speak Spanish well. Some of the young people at work would say, "These people don't know how to talk. They don't know what they're doing." The supervisors would say that too. Then, a year later, we won a legal suit to force Sakuma to pay us for our break time. We won over $800,000. After that the people who didn't want to have anything to do with us began wanting to talk with us. The boys who were making fun of us started coming around because they wanted money.

There is more anger now. People believe that they shouldn't be living in bad conditions, people shouldn't be mistreated. More people are defending their rights. A lot of new people coming from California are already with us. They have a good way of thinking. If we don't fight for ourselves, who's going to fight for us? If the bosses want to trample on us, if the government and the police don't like us, there's no other way than to struggle.


NO HAY OTRO CAMINO, MAS QUE LUCHAR
Entrevista con Filemón Pineda, vicepresidente de Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Por David Bacon

Nuestro pueblo en Oaxaca es Jicaral Cocoyán de las Flores. Hablamos mixteco bajo. Tengo 33 años de edad, pero salí del pueblo muy joven. En 1996 llegué a San Quintín con mi hermano mayor. Después de cuatro noches en Punta Colonet, encontramos un lugar para alojarnos en un campamento. Había un montón de cuartos para los jornaleros y permanecimos allí seis meses. Teníamos planeado regresar a Oaxaca, pero transcurridos esos seis meses no teníamos dinero. Todos trabajábamos -yo, mi hermana, mi hermano mayor y su esposa y dos hijos-. Pero la cosecha de tomates y pepinos apenas alcanzaba para tener algo para comer. No había baño allí. La gente hacía sus necesidades afuera, en los campos de tomates y chiles. Los niños también.

Otro hombre que vivía allí, que hablaba en otra lengua mixteca, nos alquiló una pequeña casa. Era una habitación, muy pequeña. Estuvimos allí un año. Regresábamos de trabajar a las cinco de la tarde y los niños comían entonces sus alimentos fríos, pues no había forma de calendar en la estufa. Entonces mi hermano dijo que debíamos comprar una parcela entre todos nosotros, para darnos un lugar para vivir. Así que hicimos un pago y luego otro. Mi hermano sigue viviendo allí, y sus hijos crecieron. El mayor tiene 22 o 23 años. Mi sobrina ahora es mamá.

En Punta Colonet la vida era muy dura. El trabajo fue siempre mal pagado. Había que trabajar mucho por muy poco. En 1996 el salario era de 45 pesos. En 2002 trabajé tres meses allí de nuevo, y en 2005 trabajé casi un año. Los patrones pagaban entonces alrededor de 100 pesos. Pero también entonces la comida era más barata. Las tortillas costaban 5.50 pesos el kilo. No estábamos viviendo bien, pero ganábamos lo suficiente para pagar los alimentos. En el trabajo un refresco nos costaba cinco pesos. Ahora cuesta 12.

Viví en Punta Colonet dos años, y luego, debido a nuestra gran necesidad, tuve que empezar a venir a Estados Unidos. Trabajé en los tomates en Florida, donde hace mucho calor. Era un trabajo muy duro, porque tienen un trailer para los tomates, y yo soy chaparrito. Uno tiene que levantar la cubeta llena de tomates a más de dos metros y medio. Una persona en el trailer la agarra y la vacía, y luego la devuelve. No podía yo elevar la cubeta y tenía que subirme en algún banco, y la cubeta pesa más de 30 libras (más de 13.6 kilos). Fue muy difícil; hice este trabajo durante un año y medio. En San Quintín coseché tomates también, pero no era tan duro.

Recientemente hemos visto que crece el movimiento de jornaleros en San Quintin -la Alianza de Organizaciones Nacionales, Estatales y Municipales por la Justicia Social-. Están defendiendo a la gente. Para mí es muy importante que haya alguien dispuesto a defender a la gente. Los partidos políticos no están interesados en lo que nos está pasando en el trabajo. No sé cómo inició la Alianza, pero he oído que está enfrentando una gran cantidad de amenazas por parte de las empresas y del gobierno. Los ricos y los patrones han comprado al gobierno. Ellos pagan a la policía, que luego dispara contra la gente. No importa si son mujeres o niños. Eso es lo peor que he visto en el Valle de San Quintín.

En algún momento yo regresaré a México. Las amenazas que recibieron podrían afectarme a mi también. Estoy muy agradecido por el movimiento que organizaron. Quiero enviar un saludo a todos los líderes en San Quintín. En 2013 Sakuma Brothers, aquí en el estado de Washington, nos amenazó también, debido al movimiento que organizamos. Nos amenazaron con la policía y contrataron consultores y guardias. Su propósito era dividirnos. Gracias al sindicato que organizamos aquí, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, nos hemos mantenido firmes, y la empresa no logró deshacerse de nosotros. Seguimos luchando.

Por eso estoy tan interesado en la lucha que hay en el Valle de San Quintín. Cuando oí que habían estallado en huelga, hablé con mi hermano y le pedí el número de teléfono de la estación de radio allá. Luego hablé a la estación y me dieron el número de Bonifacio Martínez, de la Alianza. Así nos pudimos comunicar con los líderes.

Al parecer, habían llegado a un acuerdo sobre los salarios. Pero después recibieron una respuesta del gobierno el año pasado, y entiendo que el gobernador se retractó y no cumplió su palabra, y lo mismo hicieron los patrones. Así que luego comenzó el boicot contra Driscoll, la compañía que distribuye una gran cantidad de berries de San Quintín. Ha sido difícil mantener la comunicación, pero no hemos perdido el contacto.

Ellos saben algo de nuestra lucha aquí en el estado de Washington. Nuestro movimiento se inició el 11 de julio de 2013, el primer día de nuestra huelga en Sakuma Farms. A veces la lucha ha sido muy dura. A veces nos sentimos cansados. Pero luego recuperamos la fuerza y continuamos. Y tenemos la ayuda de una gran cantidad de sindicatos, periodistas y partidarios del boicot. Y estamos logrando cosas.

En 2013, en cierto momento estábamos negociando con la empresa para mejorar las condiciones de todos los trabajadores de Sakuma Brothers. Sakuma firmó un acuerdo y dijo que lo respetaría, pero después de dos semanas faltó a su palabra. Fue entonces cuando comenzamos nuestro boicoteo, y éste crece día con día. Sakuma envía su fruta a Driscoll en Watsonville. En 2013 le dije a los compañeros que debíamos ir a Watsonville para llevar nuestro boicot allá. Pensaba yo que si Driscoll veía allí a la gente no presionaría más a la empresa.

El boicot siguió creciendo y Driscoll sintió la presión. Por último, la empresa buscó a uno de nuestros seguidores y le dijo que querían hablar con nosotros y buscar la forma de frenar el boicot. Así que el año pasado, el 8 de mayo, fuimos a la oficina de Driscoll en Watsonville. Pensé que su almacén era pequeño, pero en realidad tiene dos construcciones muy grandes.  Tienen de todo en Driscoll.

Empezamos a hablar de por qué comenzó el boicot. Al principio pusieron un gran plato sobre la mesa con fresas, arándanos, frambuesas y moras. Nos ofrecieron que las probáramos. Dijimos: "¿cómo vamos a probar esto si los estamos boicoteando?"

Estuvimos allí casi un día. Ellos dijeron que no podían obligar a Sakuma a firmar un contrato. Dijimos, ok, el boicot continuará hasta que tengamos un contrato sindical. Este año Sakuma ha dicho que quiere negociar con nosotros, pero vamos a ver qué pasa. Sakuma ahora contrató a un gringo que, se supone, es bueno para trabajar en lugares donde hay demandas colectivas y problemas.

El año pasado estaban pagando diez dólares por hora, y dicen que es mucho. Sin embargo, a pesar de que pagan por hora, exigen la cosecha de 50 libras por hora para el pago de los diez dólares. Por cinco libras más, se da un bono de 1.50, o sea 11.50 por hora. Pero sólo los trabajadores que trabajan rápido pueden conseguir eso. Desde 2013, el pago semanal ha venido disminuyendo, tanto en las fresas como en los arándanos. El año pasado y éste las personas han estallado en huelga porque no están de acuerdo con los salarios.

Cuando los trabajadores estallaron la huelga el año pasado, aunque yo estaba trabajando en otra empresa fui con ellos. No quería dejar a los otros mixtecos solos; son mi pueblo y me eligieron como vicepresidente del sindicato. Tuve que viajar desde muy lejos para llegar con ellos, pero había cerca de 250 personas esperándome. Me dijeron que había que hacer algo, así que fuimos a un campo donde la gente todavía estaba trabajando. Nos dijeron que el pago no era bueno, y dejaron de trabajar también.

Cuando demandamos un contrato colectivo, los supervisores dijeron que no discutirían eso. Después enviaron a la policía. La policía pidió hablar conmigo, y dijo que yo no trabajaba allí. Alfredo Juárez, de nuestro comité, dijo que yo tenía derecho a estar allí porque soy el vicepresidente del sindicato. Los policías dijeron que iban a arrestarme. Así que la gente preguntó: "¿Van a detenernos a todos nosotros?". La policía no supo qué decir.

Finalmente la policía dijo que si no nos salíamos del campo e íbamos hacia un lugar público, tendrían que sacarnos. Así que la gente dijo que estaba bien, y todos abandonamos el campo y nos fuimos al supermercado Costco, en Burlington, para manifestar el boicoteo. Al día siguiente, la compañía compró burritos para todo el mundo en el trabajo.

Este año ha habido más huelgas como ésta, y más manifestaciones de boicot. Es por eso que la compañía dice ahora que quiere negociar con nosotros.

Al hablar con Bonifacio, le pedí que la Alianza hiciera un boicot  también. Nosotros en el Norte y ellos en el Sur. De esta manera pondríamos más presión sobre Driscoll. Hablamos de las tácticas que usamos y le relaté nuestra historia. Él dijo que Driscoll y la Alianza habían ido con gobierno para pedir que los salarios se elevaran. Creo que eso no es bueno. El gobierno tiene su papel, pero Driscoll tiene que hablar con sus trabajadores, como Berrymex, y asegurar que van a pagarles bien. Eso es lo que nosotros le decimos a Driscoll. No vamos a detener el boicot hasta el día en que firmemos un contrato en Sakuma. Lo mismo con Driscoll y Berrymex.

Creo que la idea de un sindicato independiente en San Quintín es lo mejor que pudieron hacer, con un contrato directo. Los trabajadores agrícolas de San Quintín han estado sufriendo durante más de 20 años. Los salarios de hambre son la razón por la cual las personas se declararon en huelga. Están haciendo una cosa muy buena. Pero pienso que es mejor firmar un contrato colectivo con las empresas. El gobierno no es el propietario de las fincas. Es mejor forzar a los patrones a pagar. Ellos son millonarios. Las empresas tienen la responsabilidad principal de pagar bien a los trabajadores. Estamos exigiendo las mismas cosas aquí y alla, y la empresa es la misma, Driscoll.

El año pasado me invitaron a hablar por teléfono en la radio en San Quintín, para que todos allá pudieran oír sobre nosotros. Quería decirle a la gente que se involucrara en el movimiento. Es bueno para todos. La huelga es la mejor manera de conseguir un salario justo. Quería decirle a la gente que no se desanime, que en el estado de Washington estamos luchando también. Pero entonces las personas de la estación de radio dijeron que no estaban autorizados, y finalmente no me dejaron hablar.

Gente de Santa María y Madera, en California, nos está apoyando. Muchos de ellos vienen a Washington en la temporada de berries, y están trabajando en Sakuma hoy día. Son miembros de Familias Unidas. No sé si la gente también esté pensando en hacer huelga en California. En Greenfield, en el Valle de Salinas en California, hay una gran cantidad de personas de la región triqui, y organizan muchos movimientos. Son muy combativos. Tal vez van a organizar un movimiento allí. Sería maravilloso.

Todos somos parte de un movimiento indígena. En San Quintín la mayoría de las personas son indígenas. En la radio no hablan mixteco, zapoteco, triqui ni náhuatl. Su movimiento de huelga es indígena. Todos los involucrados en nuestro sindicato en Washington también son indígenas.

Aquí los indígenas están muy preocupados por el riesgo de ser despedidos. Los supervisores y capataces les gritan y empujan con fuerza. Ellos abusan de los trabajadores indígenas más que de cualquier otro. Es lo mismo aquí y en Baja California. Lo que queremos es el respeto de todos. No importa si eres de Guatemala u Honduras, Chiapas o Guerrero. Los derechos humanos son para todo el mundo. Pero a veces la gente nos ve como si fuéramos inferiores. Creen que no tenemos derechos. Pero se equivocan. El derecho de ser humano es el mismo. Debería haber respeto para todos.

Cuando nos fuimos a la huelga en 2013, muchos de nosotros no hablaban bien el español. Algunos de los jóvenes en el trabajo pudieron haber dicho: "Estas personas no saben cómo hablar. No saben lo que están haciendo". Seguramente los supervisores decían eso también. Un año más tarde, ganamos una demanda legal para obligar a Sakuma a pagarnos el tiempo de descanso. Ganamos más de 800 mil dólares. Después de eso, la gente que nos rechazaba comenzó a buscarnos. Los jóvenes que se burlaban de nosotros se nos acercaron, pues querían dinero.

Hay más rabia ahora. La gente cree que no deberían estar viviendo en malas condiciones, las personas no deben ser maltratadas. Más personas están defendiendo sus derechos. Una gran cantidad de gente nueva que viene de California ya está con nosotros. Tienen una buena manera de pensar. Si no luchamos por nosotros mismos, ¿quién lo va a hacer? Si los patrones quieren pisotearnos, si el gobierno y la policía no nos quieren, no hay otro camino más que luchar.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

BLOOD ON THE TEXTBOOKS

BLOOD ON THE TEXTBOOKS
Mexico's Striking Teachers Stand Firm Against State Repression
By David Bacon
The Nation, 8/25/16
https://www.thenation.com/article/mexicos-striking-teachers-stand-firm-against-state-repression/


 Teachers marching against education reform in Mexico City. (David Bacon)
 

OAXACA- Since the killing of eleven demonstrators at a street blockade in the Oaxacan town of Nochixtlán on June 19, Mexico has been in an uproar over the use of force against teachers resisting corporate education reform. As the Mexican school year is starting, teachers and supporters in four states have refused to return to classes until there is a negotiated agreement to change the government's program, and until the perpetrators of the Nochixtlán massacre are held responsible.

The government says it will not negotiate, and Mexico's corporate leaders are demanding that the government use force to suppress the teachers and reopen the schools. The danger of further bloody confrontation is greater than ever.

The resisting teachers are concentrated in a highly organized network, the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE), within the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), the largest union in Latin America. The CNTE now controls the union in four states: Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Michoacán. In other states, especially Mexico City, it has a large base of support.

Teachers in assemblies in those four states voted on August 18 not to start classes on the 22. As of August 23, the government was claiming that over 90 percent of schools had opened. The CNTE says that over half of the schools in Oaxaca and Chiapas remain closed. Adelfo Gómez Alvarez, of the Chiapas teachers' union, told the Mexico City daily La Jornada that "there were strikes and demonstrations in 28 states, including in Mexico City itself."

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declared: "There will be no more dialogue if we don't guarantee beforehand that children can receive an education in their classrooms, which today are closed. First education, then dialogue." Enrique Enriquez Ibarra, general secretary of Sección 9, Mexico City's teachers union, responded that for a year teachers had tried negotiating with the government while continuing to stay in their classrooms, but the government didn't budge. "Today we no longer believe in classes first and then dialogue. The teachers strike will continue," he warned.

Mexican business interests began proposing changes to the country's education system over a decade ago, as part of a series of economic reforms that have privatized much of the country's economy and rolled back rights and protections that workers and farmers won decades ago. Supported by education reform groups in the United States and by the US Agency for International Development, these corporate reforms concentrate on standardized testing for students, and especially teachers. Testing is then used to eliminate educators' job security and punish militant resistance.



Memorial to the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa in the teachers' plantón in Oaxaca. (David Bacon)
 

"The real goal is privatizing education," said Tranquilino Lavariega, a classroom teacher and general secretary of his union chapter in Santa Cruz Ocotlán, in Oaxaca. "These corporations see education as a business. And because our union has been part of the opposition to their growing power in Mexico, they see us as a political threat."

Heading the push for corporate education reform is Claudio X. González, scion of one of Mexico's wealthiest and most powerful families. He heads Mexicanos Primero (Mexicans First), the voice of the country's right-wing ed-reform lobby, whose program for reform was pushed through the Chamber of Deputies three years ago.

Last year, as the government began implementing the tests, thousands of teachers refused to take them. In limited job actions, many refused to report to classes. When resistance mounted, the government began arresting CNTE leaders. (For more on how the conflict developed this past spring, see Bacon, "Why Are Mexican Teachers Being Jailed for Protesting Education Reform?") Adding fuel to the indignation were demands by González that the teacher-training schools, or "normals," be abolished and replaced with private institutions (fresh in the memory of Mexicans is the disappearance, and probable murder, of 43 students at a normal in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, two years ago). On March 22, Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño Mayer proposed a measure that would eventually fulfill González's goal of eliminating them.

"The students in these schools come from poor families," Lavariega explains, "so of course they are very critical toward the government and want to fight for their rights. That's why the government wants them to disappear-those students are a threat too. Nuño Mayer went to private schools. He thinks any professional can teach-that there's no need for a school to teach anyone to do it."

After the two top leaders of the union in Oaxaca were arrested, police fired on demonstrators at the blockade in Nochixtlán, killing eleven and wounding dozens. People in Oaxaca and throughout Mexico reacted with outrage. A protest march in Mexico City, organized by the left-wing MORENA party (National Regeneration Movement), headed by former mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, drew over 100,000 participants. More streets were blockaded, especially (but not only) in the four states, and plantóns (occupy-style encampments) sprang up in commercial centers targeting big enterprises like Wal-Mart, Bimbo, and Coca-Cola.




A plantón by Mexico City Section 10 outside the Federal Secretariat of Public Education. (David Bacon)
 

On the US side of the border, teachers and unions joined in demanding that the government release the imprisoned teachers. Protests were organized in front of Mexican consulates, and in San Francisco teachers called for suspending military aid to Mexico. Chicago Teachers Union activists made a video, chanting, "We are Oaxaca!"

The California Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association, and the American Federation of Teachers all sent letters demanding the teachers' release. "We are all facing the same attacks," CFT president Josh Pechthalt told local chapters of his union. "The same corporate interests in both of our countries seek to privatize public education, undermine our ability to function as professional and socially responsible educators, and end our right to unions and collective bargaining and action."

In July, the Secretariat of Public Education announced it would not proceed further with the firing of thousands of teachers. And on August 13, two teachers finally walked out of prison on bail, the last of seven prisoners held in federal custody (other teachers remain in jail in different states, however).

While the Peña Nieto administration was forced into negotiations with the CNTE, it continued to say that changes in its education reform program weren't up for discussion. Ibarra, of the Mexico City CNTE, responded that teachers would not back down and would keep developing an alternative democratic education plan.

Teachers have not simply gone on strike or organized demonstrations and street actions. They have recognized that Mexico's schools do need change, and have proposed a series of reforms of their own, called "democratic education." The most advanced of these proposals, the Plan for the Transformation of Education in Oaxaca (PTEO), was actually implemented in Oaxaca in the first years of the administration of its current governor, though he eventually gave way to federal government pressure to scrap it (see Bacon, "US-Style School Reform Goes South").

In Mexico City, Claudio González refuses to allow any possibility of changing the government's testing program. He warned Peña Nieto the week before the start of the school year that he would take any agreement made with the CNTE to court to have it overturned if it changed the reform program he has sponsored. He also called on the president to use force to open the schools. "If it is determined that this is what has to be done in defense of the right of children and other affected citizens, then it must be done," he told the media.

González was backed up by the Business Coordination Council, which called the CNTE teachers "a minority group impeding the daily life of millions of Mexicans." Enrique Solana Sentíes, president of the National Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, filed suit against the CNTE, accusing it of "acts that have violated human rights, principally in denying the right to education of children." He is seeking a court order to force the federal government to uproot the blockades, which he says have cost businesses 7.5 billion pesos. Corporations themselves organized a "business strike" against the teachers on August 8.

Renato Sales Heredia, head of the National Security Commission, announced that the government would use force, which Peña Nieto called "a last resort...to regain social harmony."

In Oaxaca, especially after the Nochixtlán shootings, "many parents have supported the strike," says Ezequiel Rosales Carreño, Oaxaca director of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations. In 2006, Rosales was head of Sección 22 during the strike and insurrection that paralyzed the state for weeks that year. "Despite what the Constitution requires, education is not free in Mexico any more. The government and media are trying to demonize teachers and promote hatred, but most parents know this will not resolve their problems. Unfortunately, though, they are creating a lot of polarization, and there will be confrontations in a lot of schools."

The week before the schools were set to open, that polarization erupted in one small Oaxacan town, La Luz Tenexcalco, in the municipality of San Miguel Ahuehuetitlán. Supporters of the PRI (Mexico's governing Institutional Revolutionary Party) came to a meeting on the schools and demanded that the town expel striking teachers and bring in strikebreakers willing to teach, Rosales recounts. When heated arguments escalated, gunfire broke out. Teodulo Pavia Guzmán was killed and Miguel Herrera Pérez was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Using force to open Oaxaca's schools will replicate shootings like this and the ones in Nochixtlán. "The main responsibility in this conflict is the government's," declares López Obrador. "Just remember the policy that caused it."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

FARM WORKER OVERTIME BILL HEADS FOR ANOTHER VOTE

FARM WORKER OVERTIME BILL HEADS FOR ANOTHER VOTE
By David Bacon
Capital and Main, August 11, 2016
http://capitalandmain.com/latest-news/issues/labor-and-economy/farm-worker-overtime-bill-heads-for-another-vote-0811/


A farm worker harvests romaine lettuce near Mecca, in the Coachella Valley, where the temperature this summer reached 115 degrees.  Workers cutting lettuce in this crew are paid by the piecerate, and work so fast they are almost running through the field, bent over double all day.


The fight for farm worker overtime is going down to the wire in the current legislative session, which will adjourn at the end of August. And as Assembly Bill 1066, which would require it, moves through the legislature, Jewish and African American organizations have made a commitment to win the votes it needs for passage.

A bill that would have phased in overtime pay for farm workers, Assembly Bill 2757, passed the State Senate earlier this year, but then failed to pass the State Assembly in a vote on June 2. Since then a new bill, AB 1066, has progressed through the Senate's Appropriations Committee, and may be sent to the Assembly within days.

The bill would then need to pick up the four votes by which AB 2757 failed in June. They will have to come from either the eight Democrats who voted "no" or the six who failed to vote at all.

Both Jewish and African American organizations are planning to win those votes. They point to the racism behind the exclusion of farm workers from New Deal-era laws that guaranteed most other workers overtime pay after eight hours of work in a day.

As Rabbi Aryeh Cohen notes in the Jewish Journal, "When FDR began to amass the coalition which would pass the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, Southern Senators, Senators from the Jim Crow, slave-owning former Confederacy, refused to sign on unless worker protections for domestic workers, and agricultural workers were not included. It was no coincidence that these workers were almost all African-Americans. The country, and our state, has begun to address these injustices. There is now a domestic workers' bill of rights, and agricultural workers are now paid minimum wage (which will gradually increase to $15 an hour). The final hill is overtime wages. This is the last vestige of this racist holdover."

The exclusion of African Americans was highlighted in a letter from Alice A. Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "The enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 excluded farm workers from wage protections and maximum hour standards," she said. "During the time this law was put into place, there was a large population of minorities who were indeed farm workers, and for the last 78 years California has failed to bring equality in our workforce. This can no longer be justified or tolerated."

AB 1066 phases in overtime pay, so that farm workers will receive time-and-a-half after 9.5 hours in a day in 2019, 9 hours in 2020, 8.5 hours in 2021, and 8 hours in 2022 (when they will also receive double time after 12 hours).

Growers have argued in AgAlert, the weekly newspaper of the California Farm Bureau Federation, that "the higher cost of providing overtime pay-particularly when coupled with scheduled increases in the state minimum wage-would force farmers to reduce employee work hours to control labor costs."

The phase-in sections of the bill are intended to allow growers to make the transition gradually. And since they have complained that they also have to raise wages to comply with new minimum wage requirements, AB 1066 allows the Governor to suspend the overtime provision. But he can only do so by also suspending the popular minimum wage increases at the same time. That might prove politically very difficult for the current Democratic governor.

Faith groups have already begun meeting with some of the 14 Democratic holdouts. Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice went with two other Southern California rabbis from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to meet with the staff of Assemblymember Richard Bloom. Bloom, whose district includes Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, did not cast a vote on AB 2757, which was the equivalent of voting no.

"What we got was uncertainty," Klein reports. "They said there were no studies about it and that it might lead to a drop in the economy. But Bloom voted for increasing the minimum wage, which is a much bigger economic challenge, so what sense does that make? The growers have a lot of money, and I think legislators are afraid of it."

A bill guaranteeing overtime for domestic workers, who were also excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act, is proceeding through the legislature at the same time as AB 1066. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which enacted the overtime requirement, was passed three years ago. But it expires this year if the legislature does not act to renew it. Assembly Bill 1015 would restore the requirement and make it permanent.

In a recent march in Sacramento, domestic workers, their children and supporters drew a parallel between their situation and that of farm workers. They lobbied Democratic legislators, who almost universally spoke out strongly in favor of requiring overtime for domestic workers. Some Democrats, however, were silent about farm workers, and had voted against farm worker overtime in June.

"Just like domestic workers, farm workers also deserve overtime pay," declares Lillian Galedo, director of Filipino Advocates for Justice, a member of the California Domestic Workers Coalition.

Bloom did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Mark Levine and Bill Quirk, Democratic assembly members from the Bay Area who voted no on AB 2757 in June. Assemblymember Jim Cooper's staff said he would not comment on AB 1066 or the NAACP letter, which notes that the bill "is a commonsense solution that will make farm workers eligible for overtime pay like every other worker." Cooper, an African American legislator whose district stretches from Sacramento to Lodi, was a "no" vote in June.

The 14 Democratic holdouts "are going to have a chance to redeem themselves on AB 1066," says Giev Kashkooli, legislative director for the United Farm Workers. If  the bill passes it will then be up to Governor Jerry Brown to sign it.

Brown has made his support of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the bill that guaranteed union rights for farm workers, a cornerstone of his political career since he signed it in 1975 during his first term as governor. While pressure from California growers to draw the line at overtime pay is intense, the measure is as popular as the original ALRA, even among some Democrats supportive of agricultural interests.

Senator Diane Feinstein, who has sponsored federal legislation for growers throughout her career, signed a letter advocating overtime for farm workers. Prior to last June's vote, she announced, "I support Assemblywoman [Lorena] Gonzalez's legislation [AB 2757] because it will allow for the fair treatment of those who make up the backbone of our U.S. agricultural industry."

"I hope the Governor calls her," Kashkooli said.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

DOMESTIC WORKERS AND THEIR CHILDREN MARCH FOR THEIR RIGHTS

DOMESTIC WORKERS AND THEIR CHILDREN MARCH FOR THEIR RIGHTS
Photoessay by David Bacon
Capital and Main, August 9, 2016
http://capitalandmain.com/latest-news/issues/labor-and-economy/domestic-workers-and-their-children-rally-to-campaign-for-rights-0809/


Over 300,000 California housekeepers, nannies and personal attendants provide support and care to seniors and people with disabilities, putting in long hours caring for an estimated two million households. With no overtime protections, they suffer exhaustion, damage to their health and that of their clients, and can't earn enough to pay their own bills. In a recent survey, 76 percent of domestic workers still reported working more than 45 hours a week, with 24-hour shifts being common.

The California Domestic Workers Coalition started fighting for a bill of rights for domestic workers seven years ago, to give the same overtime protection to the state's domestic workers that most other workers already have. California did pass these protections three years ago. But the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights had a flaw - Governor Jerry Brown insisted that it had to come up for reapproval after three years or it would disappear.

Last week domestic workers, their children and the clients with disabilities they care for marched on the California state Capitol to support a bill that would eliminate the sunset provision on their overtime protection. The State Senate passed Senate Bill 1015 several months ago, which would make the bill of rights permanent. The State Assembly has started to consider it and the coalition hopes it will pass before the legislature's session ends at the end of August. 

According to one domestic worker, Honorata Nono of Filipino Advocates for Justice, "Caregiving is overlooked and undervalued.  We take care of the most vulnerable people who need constant care. The people under our care also deserve love, respect and dignity. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights means economic justice and permanent dignity for us all!"





















Tuesday, August 2, 2016

FACING BULLETS AND PRISON, MEXICAN TEACHERS STAND UP TO EDUCATION REFORMS (English y Español)

FACING BULLETS AND PRISON, MEXICAN TEACHERS STAND UP TO EDUCATION REFORMS
by David Bacon
Equal Times, August 2, 2016
http://www.equaltimes.org/facing-bullets-and-prison-mexican#.V6DaBa5hpBt




Teachers from Zimatlan, a town in the central valley region of Oaxaca, march in Mexico City to protest the federal government's corporate education reform program. The teachers belong to Sección 22, Oaxaca's teachers union. The march was organised by the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE), and brought teachers from all over Mexico to the capital to protest.


On Sunday, 19 June, demonstrators blocked a highway - a common form of protest in Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca - after the federal government arrested leaders of the state's teachers union. Heavily armed police then fired on teachers, students, parents and supporters. Nine people were killed, and many more were wounded.

Nochixtlán, the town where the massacre took place, has since become a symbol of the resistance of Mexican teachers to corporate education reform. In the United States educators quickly responded to support their embattled Mexican colleagues, condemning the attacks and calling for the release of the imprisoned unionists.

These events were set into motion a week earlier, when Rubén Núñez - head of Oaxaca's Sección 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) and a national leader of the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE or Coordinadora, a group within the SNTE organized in the late 1970s) - was arrested as he left a meeting in Mexico City. He was then flown a thousand miles north to Hermosillo, Sonora, to a high-security federal lockup.

Hours earlier the same thing happened to Francisco Villalobos, the union's second-highest officer. Both joined Aciel Sibaja, Sección 22's financial secretary, imprisoned in the same penitentiary since 14 April.

The union officers were accused of accepting dues given voluntarily by teachers across Oaxaca. Sección 22 has had to collect dues in cash for the last year, since federal authorities froze not only the union's bank accounts but also even the personal ones of its officers. The government called dues so collected "funds from illicit sources."

Five other union leaders have been imprisoned since last October. Luis Hernández Navarro, a former teacher and now opinion editor for the Mexico City daily La Jornada, calls them "hostages".

"Their detention is simultaneously a warning of what can happen to other teachers who continue to reject the [federal government's] 'education reform,' and a payback to force the movement to demobilise," he says.

On 19 May, Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño Mayer announced that he was firing 4,100 teachers from the CNTE stronghold states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas and Michoacán for not having worked for the days when they were on strike.

One much-hated provision of the federal government's education reform requires teachers to take tests to evaluate their qualifications. Those who do not get good enough marks are fired. Thousands of teachers have refused to take the tests.

Earlier on 22 March, Nuño also announced a measure that would spell the end to Mexico's national system of teacher training schools, called normales. Since the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the normales have been the vehicle for children from poor families in the countryside, and from the families of teachers themselves, to become trained educators.

Guerrero's normale school in Ayotzinapa was the target two years ago of an attack that led to the disappearance and possible murder of 43 students, which has since galvanized Mexico.

Oaxaca became a target of repression because Sección 22 proposed its own alternative education reform over six years ago. It concentrates on respecting indigenous culture and forging alliances between teachers, students, parents and their communities.

For several years the union used its political strength to implement its program, rather than that of the federal government. Observers like La Jornada's Navarro believe that the federal government sees defeating Sección 22 as the key to forcing acceptance of its corporate education reforms instead.

Solidarity protests

After the enormous public outcry following the shootings in Nochixtlán, however, demonstrations against the federal education reform spread across the country. A protest march in Mexico City, organised by the left-wing MORENA party (National Regeneration Movement) headed by former mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, drew over 100,000 participants. Highways were blocked in several states.

Protests were also organised by teachers in the United States, including pickets of the Mexican consulates in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. A statement read by Lita Blanc, president of United Educators of San Francisco, announced a campaign to convince the US Congress to suspend military aid to Mexico "until the Mexican government stops these massive abuses of labor and human rights."

In Chicago demonstrating members of the Chicago Teachers Union made a video in which they chanted, "We are all Oaxaca!"

Formal protests and calls for freeing the imprisoned teachers also came from Josh Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, and Dr. Lorretta Johnson, secretary treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Pechthalt asked all the union's local chapters in California to join the demonstrations and write to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

"We are all facing the same attacks," he told them. "The same corporate interests in both of our countries seek to privatise public education, undermine our ability to function as professional and socially-responsible educators, and end our right to unions and collective bargaining and action."

In Mexico, the Peña Nieto administration was forced into negotiations with the CNTE, but said that changes in its education reform program weren't up for discussion. Enrique Enríquez Ibarra, head of the Mexico City teachers union, responded that teachers would not back down and would keep developing an alternative democratic education plan. Demonstrations and strikes would continue, he said, until "all our fired colleagues are returned to their jobs, their lost salaries paid, and our bank accounts unfrozen."

Trains were blocked leading to Michoacán's main port of Lázaro Cárdenas, and the state's governor then met with the CNTE. Highways in and out of Chiapas' capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Guerrero's capital Chilpancingo, and Tabasco's capital Villahermosa were blocked as well.

Amanda, a parent in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, told La Jornada that: "One of the main jobs of parents now is to protect the public schools during the teachers' strike." Other parents called for abolishing school fees and ending the government's education reform.

As protests mounted, the Secretariat of Public Education announced on 10 July that it would not proceed further with the firing of thousands of teachers. During a national day of protest on 16 July, secciones 7 and 40 of the SNTE in Chiapas occupied radio and television stations to inform the public of their reasons for opposing the federal education reform, and to condemn the shootings in Nochixtlán. Marches on the same national day of protest took place in Puebla, Jalisco, Hidalgo and Mexico states.

Finally two of the imprisoned teachers were released in mid-July - Aciel Sibaja and Roberto Abel Jiménez.

And as they sat in prison, Rubén Núñez and Francisco Villalobos were reconfirmed as general secretary and organisational secretary respectively of Sección 22 in the union's monthly state conference. "While recent dialogues between CNTE and the Secretariat of the Interior are promising," the AFT's Johnson said in her letter to the Mexican ambassador to the US, "their legitimacy is lessened as long as these leaders remain in prison."


LOS MAESTROS/AS MEXICANOS LUCHAN CONTRA LAS REFORMAS EDUCATIVAS A PESAR DE LAS BALAS Y LAS PENAS DE PRISION
por David Bacon
Equal Times, 2 de agosto de 2016
http://www.equaltimes.org/los-maestros-as-mexicanos-luchan?lang=es#.V6DbAK5hpBs


Maestros y maestras de Zimatlán, una localidad en la región oaxaqueña de los valles centrales, se manifiestan en la Ciudad de México para protestar contra el programa de reforma educativa corporativa del gobierno federal. Los maestros y maestras forman parte de la Sección 22, el sindicato de trabajadores/as de la educación de Oaxaca. La manifestación fue organizada por la Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) y reunió a maestros/as de todo el país en la capital para protestar contra las reformas.


El domingo 19 de junio, numerosos manifestantes cortaron una de las carreteras principales del estado mexicano de Oaxaca (una forma común de protesta al sur del país) después de que el gobierno federal detuviera a los líderes del sindicato de maestros/as del estado. Agentes de policía fuertemente armados abrieron fuego contra los maestros, estudiantes, padres y simpatizantes. Nueve personas murieron a consecuencia de las heridas de bala y muchas más resultaron heridas.

Desde entonces, Nochixtlán, la localidad donde tuvo lugar la masacre, se ha convertido en el símbolo de la resistencia de los maestros y maestras mexicanos frente a la reforma educativa corporativa. En Estados Unidos, los trabajadores y trabajadoras de la educación respondieron rápidamente para apoyar a sus colegas mexicanos en lucha, condenando los ataques a los maestros/as y exigiendo la liberación de los sindicalistas encarcelados.

Estos hechos se desencadenaron una semana antes, cuando Rubén Núñez, presidente de la oaxaqueña Sección 22 del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) y líder nacional de la Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE o la Coordinadora, un grupo dentro del SNTE fundado a finales de la década de 1970), fue detenido en la Ciudad de México cuando salía de una reunión. A continuación le metieron en un avión y le encerraron en una prisión federal de alta seguridad en Hermosillo (estado de Sonora), a miles de kilómetros de distancia al norte.

Varias horas antes hicieron lo mismo con Francisco Villalobos, el segundo dirigente más importante del sindicato. Ambos corrieron la misma suerte que Aciel Sibaja, el secretario financiero de la Sección 22, encarcelado en la misma prisión desde el 14 de abril.

Los dirigentes sindicales fueron acusados de haber aceptado cuotas entregadas voluntariamente por los maestros/as de todo el estado de Oaxaca. Durante el último año, la Sección 22 ha tenido que recaudar las cuotas en efectivo, pues las autoridades federales no solo congelaron las cuentas bancarias del sindicato, sino también las cuentas personales de sus dirigentes. El gobierno tildó las cuotas recaudadas de esta forma de "recursos de procedencia ilícita".

Desde el pasado octubre, otros cinco líderes sindicales han sido encarcelados. Luis Hernández Navarro, ex maestro y actual director de Opinión del diario La Jornada en la Ciudad de México, ha descrito a los líderes como "rehenes". "Su detención es simultáneamente una advertencia de lo que puede ocurrir a otros maestros si continúan rechazando la 'reforma educativa' [del gobierno federal] y una venganza para obligar al movimiento a desmovilizarse".

El 19 de mayo, el Secretario de Educación Pública Aurelio Nuño Mayer anunció que iba a despedir a 4.100 maestros y maestras de los estados de Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas y Michoacán (los baluartes de la CNTE) por no haber trabajado durante los días que hicieron huelga.

Una de las disposiciones más polémicas incluidas en la reforma educativa del gobierno federal obliga a los maestros/as a presentarse a unos exámenes para evaluar sus aptitudes. Los que no obtengan la puntuación suficiente serán despedidos. Miles de maestros y maestras se han negado a presentarse a dichos exámenes.

Asimismo, el 22 de marzo Nuño anunció una medida que significaría el fin del sistema nacional mexicano de escuelas para la formación de maestros/as, llamadas escuelas normales. Desde la Revolución Mexicana (1910-1920), las escuelas normales han sido el medio mediante el cual los niños y niñas de las familias pobres en zonas rurales y de las familias de los mismos maestros/as se han convertido en educadores/as formados.

Hace dos años, la escuela normal de Ayotzinapa (en el estado de Guerrero) fue el objetivo de un ataque que provocó la desaparición y posible asesinato de 43 estudiantes, lo cual movilizó a toda la sociedad mexicana.

Oaxaca se convirtió en el blanco de la represión, pues hace algo más de seis años la Sección 22 propuso su propia reforma educativa alternativa que hace hincapié en el respeto a las culturas indígenas y en la formación de alianzas entre los maestros, los padres y sus comunidades.

Durante varios años, el sindicato utilizó su fuerza política para aplicar este programa en lugar del programa del gobierno federal. Numerosos analistas como Navarro, que trabaja en La Jornada, aseguran que el gobierno federal considera la derrota de la Sección 22 como la clave para obligar a la sociedad a aceptar sus reformas educativas corporativas.

Protestas solidarias

Tras la enorme indignación popular que provocó la masacre en Nochixtlán, las manifestaciones contra la reforma educativa federal se extendieron por todo el país. Una manifestación de protesta en la Ciudad de México, organizada por el partido de izquierdas MORENA (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional) presidido por el antiguo alcalde capitalino Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reunió a más de 100.000 participantes. En varios estados consiguieron cortar las principales carreteras.

Asimismo, los trabajadores/as de la educación organizaron protestas en Estados Unidos, incluidos piquetes en los consulados mexicanos de Los Ángeles, San Francisco y Chicago. Lita Blanc, presidenta del sindicato United Educators of San Francisco, leyó una declaración en la que anunciaba una campaña para convencer al Congreso estadounidense de que suspenda todas las ayudas militares a México "hasta que el gobierno mexicano ponga fin a estas flagrantes violaciones de los derechos humanos y laborales".

En Chicago, numerosos manifestantes del sindicato Chicago Teachers Union realizaron un vídeo en el que corean la frase: "¡Todos somos Oaxaca!".

Josh Pechthalt (presidente del sindicato California Federation of Teachers), Eric Heins (presidente de la organización sindical California Teachers Association) y la Dra. Lorretta Johnson (tesorera de la central sindical American Federation of Teachers; AFT) también llevaron a cabo protestas formales y exigieron la liberación de los maestros encarcelados. Pechthalt solicitó a todas las secciones locales del sindicato californiano que se unieran a las manifestaciones y escribieran al presidente mexicano Enrique Peña Nieto.

"Todos nos estamos enfrentando a los mismos ataques", les explicó. "Los mismos intereses corporativos en ambos países pretenden privatizar la educación pública, socavar nuestra capacidad para trabajar como educadores profesionales y socialmente responsables y eliminar nuestro derecho a formar sindicatos, negociar colectivamente y emprender acciones".

En México, el gobierno de Peña Nieto se vio obligado a emprender negociaciones con la CNTE, pero advirtió que los cambios en su programa de reforma educativa no se someterían a debate. Enrique Enríquez Ibarra, presidente del sindicato de maestros/as de la Ciudad de México, respondió que los maestros y maestras no cederían y seguirían desarrollando un plan educativo democrático y alternativo. Según declaró, las manifestaciones y huelgas seguirían produciéndose hasta que "todos nuestros colegas despedidos se reincorporen a sus puestos de trabajo, les paguen sus salarios atrasados y desbloqueen nuestras cuentas bancarias".

En Michoacán cortaron todos los trenes en dirección a Lázaro Cárdenas, el puerto principal del estado, por lo que el gobernador se tuvo que reunir con la CNTE. Asimismo, bloquearon las carreteras de entrada y salida a las capitales de Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutiérrez), Guerrero (Chilpancingo) y Tabasco (Villahermosa).

Amanda, una madre que vive en Tuxtla Gutiérrez, explicó a La Jornada que: "Ahora una de las principales tareas de los padres consiste en proteger las escuelas públicas durante la huelga de los maestros". Otros padres exigieron que se supriman las tasas escolares y se ponga fin a la reforma educativa del gobierno.

Como las protestas se generalizaron, el 10 de julio la Secretaría de Educación Pública anunció que no seguiría adelante con el despido de miles de maestros/as. Durante la jornada nacional de protesta del 16 de julio, las secciones 7 y 40 del SNTE en Chiapas ocuparon cadenas de televisión y radio para informar al público de sus motivos para oponerse a la reforma educativa federal y para condenar la matanza de Nochixtlán. Ese mismo día se llevaron a cabo manifestaciones en los estados de Puebla, Jalisco, Hidalgo y México.

Finalmente, a mediados de julio, liberaron a dos de los maestros encarcelados: Aciel Sibaja y Roberto Abel Jiménez.

Aunque se encontraban en prisión, en la conferencia estatal mensual de la Sección 22, Rubén Núñez y Francisco Villalobos volvieron a salir elegidos como secretario general y secretario de organización, respectivamente. "Aunque las últimas sesiones de diálogo entre la CNTE y la Secretaría de Gobernación son esperanzadoras, su legitimidad seguirá siendo reducida mientras dichos líderes sindicales sigan en prisión", declaró Johnson de la AFT en una carta al embajador mexicano en Estados Unidos.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

CALIFORNIA DOMESTIC WORKERS WANT THEIR RIGHTS MADE PERMANENT

CALIFORNIA DOMESTIC WORKERS WANT THEIR RIGHTS MADE PERMANENT
Photoessay by David Bacon
The Progressive Magazine, July/August 2016
http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/07/188849/fighting-good-fight-california-domestic-workers



COTATI, CA - 2009
Betty Johnson changes the diaper on a boy she's caring for. Over 300,000 California housekeepers, nannies and personal attendants provide support and care to seniors and people with disabilities, putting in long hours caring for an estimated two million households.  With no overtime protections, they suffer exhaustion, damage to their health and that of their clients, and can't earn enough to pay their own bills.  In a recent survey, 76 percent of domestic workers still reported working more than 45 hours a week, with 24 hour shifts being common.



SACRAMENTO, CA  2012
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka joined domestic workers and their children to lobby and rally at the California state capitol, to urge legislators to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. He talked with Sascha Bittner, a disabled person who employs domestic workers, and a member of Hand in Hand, an organization of domestic worker employers that advocates for workers' rights.





SACRAMENTO, CA  2013
Domestic workers and their children marched and rallied on the steps of the California state capitol building.  California did pass the Bill of Rights three years ago, which finally gave overtime protection to the state's domestic workers.  But the Bill had a flaw - the Governor insisted that it had to come up for reapproval after three years or it would disappear.




BERKELEY, CA  2016
Honorata Nono (67), a Filipina domestic worker, helps Michiko Uchida (94) in her home in Berkeley.  "Honorata is very important to me," Uchida says.  "She's funny, she wakes me up, she helps me exercise, makes breakfast and lunch, cleans the house and makes my bed.  What a difference in my life she makes!"   Nono belongs to Filipino Advocates for Justice. "Caregiving is overlooked and undervalued," she says.  "We take care of the most vulnerable people who need constant care.  The people under our care also deserve love, respect and dignity.  The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights means economic justice and permanent dignity for us all!"




SAN FRANCISCO, CA  2016
Maria Reyes, an activist with Mujeres Unidas y Activas (United and Active Women) urges the State of California to pass SB 1015, finally making the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights permanent. 




SACRAMENTO, CA  2016
Domestic workers and the disabled clients they care for demonstrate inside the California state capital as the state Senate begins debate on SB 1015.  The California Domestic Workers Coalition started fighting for the bill of rights seven years ago, and is determined that workers' overtime rights will become permanent. The State Senate has passed SB 1015, and the State Assembly has started to consider it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Exhibition Review: ON THE STREETS, UNDER THE FIELDS

Exhibition Review:
ON THE STREETS, UNDER THE FIELDS
Photographs by David Bacon
Review by Lydia Gans
Street Spirit, Art of the Spirit July 18, 2016
http://www.thestreetspirit.org/on-the-streets-under-the-trees/



A farm worker raises her young son in a tent on a hillside in Del Mar. There is no running water for washing her child or for cooking over the camp fire.


David Bacon's photographs of homeless people in cities and rural areas were born out of his commitment to social justice. They capture the uphill struggle for survival faced by millions living in the virtually invisible landscape of poverty.

Asian Resource Gallery, May 1 - July 22 2016
310 Eighth St., Oakland, CA


An exhibit of photographs by David Bacon, "On The Streets, Under The Trees," is far more than a picture show. The 50 photos, together with extensive captions, form a documentary picture that is deeply moving, as well as informative about the struggle of homeless people to survive in the cities and farmlands of California.

Bacon's compassion and concern for the people he photographs shines through, as does his commitment to activism in the cause of social justice. The exhibit will remain on display throughout the month of July at the Asian Resource Gallery, 317 Ninth Street at Harrison in Oakland.

Many people remain unaware that poverty and homelessness are not just hardships faced by those living in large cities, but also affect countless numbers of unhoused people in rural areas. Bacon's exhibit remedies that blind spot by giving equal attention to low-wage workers and homeless people in the countryside.

That is why the full title of the exhibit is "On The Streets, Under The Trees: Homelessness and the Struggle for Housing in Urban and Rural California."

The show offers compelling portraits of people who are homeless, or as Bacon terms it, "people living outside."

He traveled throughout California, connecting with people in the cities and on the farms, taking their pictures and hearing their stories. He is fluent in Spanish, enabling him to learn from the experiences of farmworkers and undocumented immigrants.

Homeless in the Cities and in the Fields

In words and pictures, Bacon gives viewers a sense of the lives of the immigrant workers on the farms and the homeless poor people in the cities, as well as the people and organizations that are reaching out to help them. His subjects come from San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and from rural areas and farms in San Diego, Sonoma County and elsewhere in California.

The photographs are beautiful and visually striking, and capture the images and stories of "people living out of doors" - people who "don't have a fixed place to live, no apartment, no house."

Taking the photographs and creating public exhibits is an integral part of Bacon's work for social justice.

"It's the way I do my work as a photographer," he explained in an interview with Street Spirit. "I don't do my work as an individual person, I do it in cooperation as part of different social movements and social organizations. So the photographs, most of them, have been taken in long-term projects with other organizations."

He has worked in collaboration with the Los Angeles Community Action Network that works with homeless people on Skid Row, and with California Rural Assistance providing legal aid for farm workers.

The pictures are powerful, and the captions are also instructive and important. "The captions help people understand," Bacon says, "and also they are useful. I think photographs have to be useful, not just something to hang on a wall."

Bacon describes the value of "being able to combine photographs that show the nitty-gritty of what the reality is of living on the street with photographs of peoples' movements against evictions, for instance. I think that's really important because we want to show that people are active in changing their reality, changing the world. We want photographs that show that."



Erica in the plywood shack she built with two brothers, Fernando and Vladimir.  A grower allowed them to build it next to his field, in exchange for protecting it. Erica was born in the U.S.  Her parents are Huichol indigenous migrants from Nayarit, in central Mexico.




Clifford Brumley lives on the street in El Centro, in the Imperial Valley, just north of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.. His hands show a lifetime of work.  He lost parts of his thumb and two fingers to frostbite when the weather got very cold one winter and he had no place to go.


Wretched housing for farm workers

No housing is provided for farmworkers who work on farms in rural California. They are expected to manage as best they can. Bacon captures the challenges they face in his photograph of Enrique Saldivar, Leoncini Mendoza and Alfonzo Leal who come from Mexicali to pick grapes in the Coachella Valley every year.

Bacon writes, "At the height of the harvest they eat and sleep next to their car in a parking lot of a market in Mecca. There is no housing for the hundreds of workers at the height of the grape harvest and at night the parking lot is full of sleeping people."

Bacon exposes the wretched, inadequate housing endured by Erica, a farm worker who lives in a tiny, primitive plywood shack she built with her brothers.

"A grower allowed them to build next to his field in exchange for protecting it. Erica was born in the U.S. Her parents are Huichol migrants from Nayarit in central Mexico."

Mothers must raise their children in substandard - or nonexistent - housing. One striking image depicts a mother and child of the fields, a Mexican immigrant farm worker who lives with her young son in a tent on a hillside in Del Mar.

Bacon writes, "There is no running water for washing her child or his clothes or for cooking which is done over a fire. She keeps perishable food in a cooler. She speaks only Mixteco, the language in her home town in Oaxaca."

Some photos show the physical toll taken by years of hard work in the fields, and the punishing costs of extreme poverty and homelessness. One of the most revealing images is a stark close-up of the hands of a homeless man, Clifford Brumley, who lives on the street in El Centro in California's Imperial Valley.

Bacon writes, "His hands show a lifetime of work. He lost part of his thumb and 2 fingers to frostbite when the weather got very cold one winter and he had no place to go." Another photo simply shows a homeless man's feet, hugely swollen and calloused from always being on his feet.



A man sleeps on a San Francisco sidewalk as passers-by pretend he's not even there.



On Los Angeles' Skid Row a man posts a sign on the shopping cart holding his belongings, telling police and city workers not to take them.  The Los Angeles Community Action Network just won an order from the City Council, telling police not to take the belongings of people living on the street.


Homelessness in the Cities

Conditions in the cities are different. Homeless people sleep on the sidewalk, on bus benches, and in doorways. The only constant in their lives is that they are continually being forced to move.

Santa Barbara has a reputation as a pleasant seaside community. Yet the city has been harshly inhospitable to homeless people for many years, and the climate of repression has worsened despite the best effort of advocates to defend the human rights of unhoused people.

One photo seems to be a peaceful portrait of a homeless veteran asleep on a bench on Main Street in Santa Barbara. Yet, as Bacon writes, "Every so often the police come through and move him and his friends off the street so that tourists won't see homeless people sleeping there."

For the past 20 years, San Francisco has been one of the meanest cities in the nation for homeless people, and has criminalized virtually every aspect of their existence. Police have issued tens of thousands of citations, arrests and fines of homeless people for quality-of-life crimes.

Yet, homeless people in San Francisco face something that is arguably even more inhumane than police harassment - the public indifference to the highly visible suffering of extremely poor and desperate people.

In one of Bacon's pictures, "a man sleeps on the sidewalk on Market Street in San Francisco while people walk around him and pretend he's not even there."

Skid Row, Los Angeles

For many years, the Skid Row area of Los Angeles has been a place where homeless and hungry people could find a place to survive. Yet like so many inner-city neighborhoods, Skid Row is now being "developed" - and development means displacement for poor residents.

Bacon shows the clear connection between big business, real-estate development, and the mass eviction of poor people. A photograph shows a street scene on Los Angeles' Skid Row.

Bacon writes, "In the distance rise the office towers of downtown. The encroachment of development threatens poor downtown residents and has led to a big increase in evictions and people forced to live on the street."

Another photo exposes the police harassment faced by homeless residents of Skid Row, who often have their belongings confiscated by the L.A. police.

Bacon's photo is captioned, "On Skid Row, a man posts a sign on the shopping cart holding his belongings telling police and city workers not to take them. The Los Angeles Community Action Network just won an order from the city council telling police not to take the belonging of people living on the street."



Oakland activists protest the eviction of a family with four children in a foreclosure.


Defending the rights of the poor

Both in rural and urban areas, outreach workers from community organizations are talking to people and helping them secure their rights. Bacon's photos document the work of outreach workers from California Rural Legal Assistance who talk with migrant workers who pick wine grapes all day and sleep under tarps at night in the fields near Santa Rosa. CRLA outreach workers help them learn about their rights as workers and immigrants.

In urban areas, homeless and housed activists are carrying on protests against anti-homeless laws and the unjust treatment of people living on the streets.

Bacon photographed a cop giving a ticket to a poor bike rider on Skid Row, Los Angeles. He writes, "Community activists accuse the police of harassing poor residents in order to force them out of the neighborhood, to make room for more upscale development and residents."

Another set of pictures tells the story of an Oakland family with four children being evicted from their home. They had an adjustable mortgage and couldn't manage the payments when interest rates increased. Sheriff's officers came to evict them while supporters tried to hold them off.

Bacon captured the eviction on camera, and he described the scene: "Home Defender activists sit in on the steps of the home of Tosha Alberty, her husband, four children and two grandchildren, who were evicted after First Franklin Mortgage Services, owned by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, foreclosed on the home."

Liberty City in Berkeley

Bacon took many photographs at the occupation set up by homeless activists at old City Hall in Berkeley as a protest against the draconian anti-homeless laws passed by the City Council last winter. He wrote a lengthy article on the Liberty City occupation that showed how homeless activists used the creative nonviolent tactics of the civil rights movement and the farmworkers movement.

Bacon found this Berkeley homeless occupation to be a very meaningful effort to create a political movement for social change, while also building a self-governing community that could provide a safe space for those without housing.

Bacon dedicated his photo exhibit to the homeless people who created Liberty City. He wrote, "This show is especially dedicated to the homeless activists of Berkeley, who were first driven out of Liberty City last fall. Then they were drive from the Post Office Camp, where they'd lived for 17 months, just as I was printing the photographs shown here. Their vision is one we should pay attention to.

"Instead, the U.S. Post Office refused to listen or see what is in front of them, and used the brute force of the Postal Police to drive people away. Instead of the camp and its residents, the City of Berkeley now has this fence and empty, fenced-off space - a monument to hostility to the poor and an eyesore in this supposedly progressive community."

Liberty City was a self-governing community organized on the principles of consensus and grassroots democracy, and that involved many meetings of those occupying the tents. Bacon photographed organizer Mike Zint holding a strategy meeting while huddling in his tent.

Bacon writes, "In Liberty City, the camp outside the old Berkeley City Hall called by the residents an occupation, Mike Zint meets with camp residents. Liberty City was a protest against the Berkeley City Council passing an anti-homeless ordnance. Zint was a leader of the homeless protesters and a veteran of Occupy San Francisco."



In Oakland, a homeless woman sleeps on a bus bench while a homeless man watches protectively over her. Other homeless people brought her food and blankets. David Bacon photo


Images of Friendship and Love

Hardship and struggle is not all that the show is about. Bacon also witnessed many acts of friendship and love on the streets and in the fields - moments of kindness and mutual support in the midst of desperate hardship. There are housed people who care and will reach out to the homeless, and there are homeless people who will help each other in times of need.

One photo shows how vulnerable homeless women are on the streets in the dark of night. But the picture also shows the crucial acts of friendship that help sustain this woman - the protection and care offered by a friend who watches over her as she sleeps, and the gifts of food and blankets brought to her by other friends in the homeless community who help one another.

Bacon describes this mutual aid on the street: "A homeless woman sleeps on a bus bench while a homeless man watches over her. Before she went to sleep she got a bag of food and a blanket from Vinny Pannizzo, who cruises the streets of Oakland every night handing out bags he and his friends fill under the freeway."

There are many examples of homeless people looking out for one other. "Adam is a homeless vet who sleeps next to railroad tracks and an irrigation canal near the Fresno airport," Bacon says. "He sleeps in a tent and takes care of a dog whose owner was picked up for being homeless and thrown in jail."

He also photographed Jeremy White, his partner Kelly and their dog who live under a bridge by an estuary at the edge of the bay. Jeremy repairs bicycles and stores them for other homeless people, a kind of sharing among homeless people that the general public never seems to see.

There are other moving photos of friendship and good times. Two homeless veterans hug each other on Main Street in Santa Barbara. Three young men sit under the trees and play guitar. Bacon writes, "Three Mexican farm workers share a small camp under the trees. They called it living 'sin techo,' or without a roof."

Bacon photographed another young guitarist in a farmworker's camp who is highly dedicated to his music, despite the hardships he faces. Bacon explains, "A young Mixtec migrant plays the guitar and sings in Mixteco, in a camp on a hillside outside Delmar. Because of his commitment to the music of his home town, this young man carried his guitar with him on the long journey from Oaxaca."

A really sweet picture lets us see a loving relationship on the street. A homeless couple kiss tenderly in an image that expresses more than just a moment's affection; it expresses the longtime commitment they made to each other.

"Marcus Lego and Heather Sheppard live in a van parked in a city lot in Santa Barbara. They say they made a commitment long ago to take care of each other regardless of where they have to live."



Two homeless vets hug each other on Main Street in Santa Barbara.



Marcus Lego and Heather Sheppard live in a van parked in a city lot in Santa Barbara.  They say they made a commitment long ago to take care of each other, regardless of where they have to live.


Deportees take over hotel

Not long ago, some people had a brilliant idea about how to help each other survive. Hotel Migrante is an old abandoned hotel near the border in Mexicali. Bacon explains that people who had nowhere to live after their deportation from the United States, took the building over and they "now give other deportees a place to sleep and food before they go home or try to cross the border again."

"The work of cooking, washing dishes and cleaning the hotel is shared by all the people who live in it," Bacon writes.

This kind of mutual assistance was seen during the Dust Bowl when refugees helped one another. It occurred during the Depression when people joined together to defend families from being evicted.

David Bacon's exhibit shows that the spirit of solidarity is alive and well today in Oakland when people protest the eviction of families, and at the Hotel Migrante near the border when people help those made homeless by deportation.



People made homeless by deportation opened a hotel to feed and house one another.


"On The Streets: Under the Trees" will run until July 22 at the Asian Resource Gallery in Oakland.