|Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez.|
Maria's death sparked controversy, however, sadly, she was only one of many who perished in the fields of California while working. According to Dan Bacher:
Maria was one of six immigrant workers who died from heat exposure in the agricultural fields of California last  summer. The deaths all have a tragic character, but what ties them together is that in every case the sub-contracting agencies, who are responsible for hiring most farmworkers, failed to implement basic health and safety standards.
In 2005, 12 farmworkers died from heat-related illnesses. In 2006, the number of reported deaths was 8. The death toll has continued to rise during Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration. But this is just one aspect of the problem. The total number of farmworker deaths due to accidents on the job in California over the last five years exceeds 700.
Perhaps one of the most surprising numbers is the staggering fact that out of roughly 35,000 farms in California, only 750 inspections were conducted by Cal/OSHA in a year, as of two summers ago. There is no real way of telling how may abuses, both lethal and non, have occurred on farms statewide in the grueling summer months; only the stories of the workers themselves would do justice, if they had more means to be heard.
|Factory in the fields.|
attacks on farm workers in the form of ICE raids, attacks on workplace organizing, and preservation at any costs of poor working conditions, are not the result of poor or bad government, but instead political decisions made in order to preserve class divisions in society that impoverish some and make others rich. It is this constant fear of deportation or violence from the state, as it is completely designed to do, which keeps a large population of farm workers in fear of fighting back and from organizing to better their conditions.
Even as the nation in the post-Civil War era was beginning to evaluate the high cost of racism as reflected in the system of slavery of persons of black skin, the growers were embarking on their own “Southern strategy.” This included full use of persons of color as workers in the fields but it did not require that the employers of such labor feed and house these workers while they were not employed in the fields. In this respect the California growers went their southern slaveholder cousins one better. The racism in the fields was in numerous instances reflected in the actions of white workers, also oppressed by the capitalist system, who were temporarily turned against workers of different skin color. This prejudice was intensified by the desperate competition for jobs, especially during periods of economic stress, and was supported by reactionary union officials, many of whom had been mere echoes for the employers...
Non-migrant workers. White workers. Are you going to back the bosses? When you hear of another death in the fields or on the border or at the hands of guards or ICE - will you turn the other way? Will you say nothing when people blame the problems of this country on immigrants? When they say they are "stealing" "our" jobs, will you agree or will you know bullshit when you smell it? Will you start to see other poor and working people in struggle as part of the human community which can destroy capitalism? Not that long ago in the Central Valley, workers in the fields: brown, white, black, and yellow - organized together to fight the bosses. Sometimes they did it in organizations like the anti-capitalist Industrial Workers of the World, only to be the targets of the police and the government:
In the 1910's, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organized and led strikes in California among workers of all nationalities. The IWW believed in letting growers' crops rot until they paid a living wage. They pioneered direct action tactics, like chasing scabs out of the fields.
By 1917 the IWW had over 10,000 migrant field worker members, but the growers and government teamed up in the following years to jail their leaders and shut down their union halls in Fresno, Bakersfield, San Diego and elsewhere.
|Proles up, bosses down.|
But the crumbs are coming less and less.
So just who is your enemy? The boss, or another worker? It's not a hard decision and it's time we let the upper class everywhere understand the meaning of that answer. In the fields. In the factories. In the schools. Everywhere.
Half a world away, in Egypt they chant: "