We need your immediate help. 54-year old Eladio Hernandez died while working under the scorching California sun. He was working for the farm labor contractor (FLC) YNT Harvesting at Hillside Orchards on May 9. The orchard is located just outside of Kettleman City in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Eladio’s story is especially horrendous as he got sick at around 1 pm and the company waited for almost 3 hours before calling for medical assistance. We need you to send a message to Cal OSHA immediately and tell them to conduct a full criminal investigation of this death and prosecute to the full extent of the law.
We first heard about this situation when we got an anonymous e-mail from a farm worker. It took time to follow up because workers were afraid. After a week of investigation this is what we learned.
According to workers, on the afternoon of May 9th at about 1pm, Eladio Hernandez complained about being sick, but was ignored by his foreman and told to get back to work. As Eladio started to climb up the ladder to continue picking peaches, he fell. He was told to go and sit under a tree. The foreman went over and yelled at him, "Get it up. Don’t be lazy, you son of a bitch" and told Eladio that he was faking. At around 3pm several workers told the foreman that he needed to do something about Eladio. That he was not getting better. At around 3:30 the foreman Manuel Gomez took Eladio and dropped him off near the sorting facility where workers were sorting the fruit that the harvesting crews were picking. He just left him there and went back to his crew.
Eladio walked over to the workers. He looked visibly sick. His lips were white, parched and dry and he had had blue and purple markings around his eyes. Several workers went up to him and asked him if he was okay. He said no, he felt really sick. Workers attempted to fan him with cardboard to give him fresh air and wiped water on his mouth. Eladio started to shake and have convulsions. Co-worker Rodrigio Gonzalez told us Eladio told them "I don’t want to die."
The workers got scared and someone finally called 911. Eladio lost consciousness while waiting for the ambulance and sorter Alma Andrete told us a co-worker gave him CPR and revived him twice. When the ambulance got there at approximately 4:20 they continued to try to revive him again, but it was too late.
Worker Rodrigio Gonzalez told us “I thought his life could have been saved, but nobody did anything and just left him there waiting to die.” Sorter Alma Andrete added, “I could not believe that all of the upper management were just letting this worker die in front of us”.
Cesar Chavez Day is soon approaching. Is your school or organization putting together a program for Chavez Day? Are you putting together a video on Cesar Chavez for a school project? Are you going to a Chavez Day march? Please share these special events/projects with the UFW and enter our Cesar Chavez Day YouTube Contest (http://www.ufw.org/youtube). Producer of the winning video will receive a UFW flag signed by Cesar's widow Helen Chavez and UFW President Arturo Rodriguez. Second prize will be a limited edition UFW padfolio. The winning video will also be featured on ufw.org RULES: 1. Videos must be five minutes or less. 2. All submissions must be made to the United Farm Workers YouTube Group (http://www.youtube.com/group/unitedfarmworkers) between March 1 and April 15. Include your name and local number. Voting will continue through March 1 and the winner will be announced by April 23. 3. Judging will be based on a combination of ratings by United Farm Workers YouTube Group members and reviews by UFW and Cesar Chavez Foundation staff. How to get started: 1. Create your personal YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/signup). 2. Complete the official entry form (http://www.ufwaction.org/ufwcontests/join.html) 3. Upload your video to your YouTube Channel. Be sure to tag your video with the keyword “chavezday.” You can use a web cam, video camera or cell phone. Find out more about how to create a video for YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/t/howto_makevideo 4. Join the United Farm Workers YouTube Group (http://www.youtube.com/group/unitedfarmworkers--look for the “Join This Group” link). Add your video to the group by clicking the “Add Videos” link. 5. For more information please go to: http://www.ufw.org/youtube. **Note: We must receive an entry form for your video to be entered in the contest.
The news is full of stories about the freeze and how California's multimillion dollar citrus crop is being hit hard. The harsh January freeze that ravaged California citrus also damaged strawberries, avocados and possibly other crops. It could also ravage the lives of an estimated 20,000 farm workers and their families in citrus alone. While growers are assessing the situation, the United Farm Workers is already hearing from citrus workers who are out of work. Workers have told us they think it will be almost a total loss.
News reports talk about the negative effects of this disaster on growers. However, growers can apply for relief under emergency declarations and many have insurance to cover some of their losses. There is little or no aid for the farm workers who pick the crops. Please help the UFW fight for these farm workers. Contact California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein. Thank the governor for calling a state of emergency and ask Sen. Feinstein to work to get the federal government to declare a national emergency, as she did after the 1998-1999 freeze. Ask them to make sure emergency assistance provides unemployment insurance; rent or mortgage assistance; utilities assistance; and organized food distribution to farm workers and their stricken families. When the assistance comes in, the UFW will be there to get it to all those who need it--just as we did back after the last freeze.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Fair Minimum Wage Act that would increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.
Please take a stand because farm workers desperately need this pay raise. The only time most non-union farm workers get a wage increase is when the state or federal governments require employers to raise the minimum wage rate. Take a stand for farm workers like vegetable worker Olga Velarde who says, "I have been working for the last 30 years at D'Arrigo Bros. Life has not been easy due to the wages I receive from there, I can barely pay for the most essential needs such as the rent and food. My children have gotten their education through loans and they are still paying for them. As if that's not enough, we only received wage increases from the company when the state minimum wage would go up."
Please help make a difference.There hasn't been an increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. The current minimum wage of $5.15 leaves a family of three 31 percent below the poverty line and buys about 20 percent less than it did back in 1997. A 2005 U.S. Conference of Mayors study found 40 percent of adults seeking emergency food aid were employed. In 2003 there were 3.7 million workers who worked full-time and year-round, but still lived in poverty along with their families.
E-mail your Member of Congress today. Say it's time to pass a clean minimum wage bill without tax breaks for big business, the wealthy or other unrelated proposals to benefit special interests. Unnecessary amendments will just defer a fair increase for hard working Americans even longer. Ten years is long enough. It's time to protect America's working people.
In recent months, there have been numerous alarming stories in the news media about occurrences of food-borne illness caused by fresh produce. Just last week, there was a new incident regarding people getting sick from Taco Bell and the lettuce they used. This incident has sickened 71 people in five states, causing kidney failure in some victims.
Federal officials are investigating this E-coli outbreak. A few months ago, residents of 21 states got salmonella poisoning from tainted tomatoes served at restaurants. In the most widespread incident, Calif. spinach contaminated with E. coli sickened more than 200 people in 26 states, killing three.
Farm worker voices have been absent from media coverage and the policy debate. It's time to hear from the people who labor daily in our fields and see what occurs day in and day out.
Send an e-mail today to your congress members and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who will chair the agriculture subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and will be holding hearings on this issue. Tell them farm workers need to be part of the debate. It's time to invite the UFW and farm worker advocates to testify at the oversight hearings.
Fired Charles Krug-Mondavi workers are calling for a nationwide boycott of all Charles Krug and C.K. Mondavi wine labels. The contract between the United Farm Workers and Charles Krug-Mondavi expired and the company has refused to return to the bargaining table to re-negotiate an agreement.
In July of this year, all vineyard workers from the Krug-Mondavi winery were fired just after the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board told the winery it was filing a formal complaint against it. The ALRB complaint alleges Krug-Mondavi has no right to refuse to bargain with its vineyard workers over renewing their United Farm Workers contract.
Krug-Mondavi doesn't care about its employees and doesn't seem to be worried about what the law says, either. It had no legal or moral right to fire these workers—many of whom had worked for the company for decades. Now, workers with children and families to support are unjustly out of a job.