David Bacon

Key Democrats Could Deny Farm Workers Overtime Pay as Battle Goes Down to the Wire

As Assembly Bill 1066, which would grant overtime pay to California farm workers, heads for a vote in the Assembly, farm workers and faith and civil rights groups are fighting for the votes needed to pass it. In June similar legislation, Assembly Bill 2757, failed when 14 Democrats either voted no, or failed to vote at all — the functional equivalent of a no vote.

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Why Many Retired Farm Workers Have No Choice but to Go Back to Work

Editor's note: For this two-part series about farm workers facing retirement, David Bacon received a Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America, sponsored by the Scan Foundation. Read Part 1.

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Immigration Laws Are Creating a Desperate Situation for Indigenous Farm Workers

Editor's note: For this two-part series about farm workers facing retirement, David Bacon received a Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America, sponsored by the Scan Foundation. Read Part 2.

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Why Is Silicon Valley So Bent on Destroying Public Education?

Nearly every metropolitan area these days has its own wealthy promoters of education reform. Little Rock has the Waltons, Seattle has Bill and Melinda Gates, Newark has Mark Zuckerberg, and Buffalo has John Oishei, who made his millions selling windshield wipers.

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A Hard Life in the Fields Starting at Age 7

Ed. Note: Three bills now making their way through Sacramento promise to dramatically improve conditions for California farmworkers, including one on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk that requires overtime pay for shifts above eight hours. For Javier Mondar-Flores Lopez, an indigenous Mixtec farmworker in Southern California, the bills are welcome news. A recent high-school graduate, Lopez has worked in the fields since he was in elementary school. He lives in an apartment with his family in Santa Maria, California, but has become an activist and plans to go to Los Angeles. He told his story to NAM Associate Editor David Bacon.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Growing up in a farmworking family -- well, it's everything I ever knew.  Whenever I got out of school, it was straight to the fields to get a little bit of money and help the family out. That's pretty much the only job I ever knew. In general we would work on the weekends and in the summers. When I was younger it would be right after school, and then during vacations.

My sister Teresa slept in the living room, and one night, when I was doing my homework at the table, I could hear her crying because she had so much pain in her hands. My mother and my other sister complained about how much their backs hurt.  My brother talked about his back pain as well. It's pretty sad. I always hear my family talk about how much they're in pain and how's it's impossible for me to help them. 

I always moved. In my high school years, I moved six times. In junior high I moved three times and in elementary school, I’m not sure. I went to six different elementary schools. For a while we went to Washington to work, but aside from that it’s always been in Santa Maria.

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We Made Them Rich and They Called Us Criminals

Vernon, California - The production lines at Overhill Farms move very quickly. Every day, for 18 years, Bohemia Agustiano stood in front of the "banda" for eight or nine hours, putting pieces of frozen chicken, rice and vegetables onto plates as they passed in a blur before her. Making the same motions over and over for such a long time, her feet in one place on the concrete floor, had its price. Pains began shooting through her hands and wrists, up her arms to her shoulders.

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Why Tens of Thousands of Migrant Workers Will Fill the Streets on May Day

In a little over a month, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people will fill the streets in city after city, town after town, across the US. This year these May Day marches of immigrant workers will make an important demand on the Obama administration: End the draconian enforcement policies of the Bush administration. Establish a new immigration policy based on human rights and recognition of the crucial economic and social contributions of immigrants to US society.

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Black/Brown Coalition Fueled Big Union Win

When workers at Smithfield Foods' North Carolina packing house voted in the union on Dec. 11, 2008 the longest, most bitter anti-union campaign in modern labor history went down to defeat. Sixteen years ago workers there began organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers. The successful union strategy relied on organizing resistance to immigration-related firings, and uniting a diverse workforce of African Americans, Puerto Ricans and immigrant Mexicans.

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There Needs to Be Change Immigrants and Labor Can Believe In

Since 2001 the Bush administration has deported more than a million people -- including 349,041 individuals in the fiscal year ending just prior to the election. It has resurrected the discredited community sweeps and factory raids of earlier eras, and started sending waves of migrants to privately run jails for crimes like inventing a Social Security number to get a job. Every day in Tucson 70 young people, including many teenagers, are brought before a federal judge in heavy chains and sentenced to prison because they walked across the border.

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