Advocating for Fair Treatment for Farm Workers during Fire Season…

A hot Sonoma County early evening and maybe 100 or so Latinex and Mexican farm workers and friends came together outside the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors office July 18th, anticipating a July 19th, 8:30am Board of Supervisors’ review of farmworkers needs for hazard pay and language justice via zoom and in person.

We won something; a better understanding of the plight of workers going into fire prone vineyards; final vote Tues. Aug. 30, 8:30am? 

Together with nearly entirely Latinex and Mexican friends, we painted a glorious black, white and red woodpecker and mural photographed by drone and sent to media. Drums, chanting and singing accompanied our jubulent march around the words and pictures we were painting before the doorway.

We called on the Board to offer actual Hazard Pay and Language Justice; ex. if a worker entered a fire-prone area, say in a vineyard, and can’t ask WHICH DIRECTION is fire because no one knows his/her language, he could die.  Damaged lungs require more than a visit to the doc.  What’s fair? The Board is faced with this decision and we/they wanted to weigh in big time.  The final vote is likely Tues. Aug. 30, 8:30am so we’ll write more letters to supervisors calling for allocation of money from the PG&E settlement and annual budget.

I knew it wasn’t ok, but wanted to ask the salt of the earth farm worker, “are you Mayan?” He looked Mayan and that was Hollywood intrigue.  Seemed a very hardworking man with kind, wise eyes.

We wrote out cards calling for Hazard Pay and attcached them to the glass to right of the front door of the Supervisor’s office, a.t least a hundred cards taped to the glass.

We planned to zoom the next morning to keep in touch but also because if I might be able to add to the discussion and make a difference. We listened to people more directly involved and glad to note Evan Wiig, CAFF now and a journalist, called in and made great points, talking so fast the translator couldn’t keep up. But that’s his brain usually.  Great comments!

It seemed the Board’s conversation and group mind changed in a healthy direction when people who spoke up in person and on zoom Tues. am.  Supervisor David Rabbitt expressed support for the Sheriff’s Office overseening safety. However, the Sherriff’s Office responded they could in no way supervise all the AG land/vineyards in question. The wine industry sent in (probably paid) several speakers to say they always got clean water and breaks. Thanks, but not the point and the Supes noted that. More is at stake.

Max Alper, ED of Jobs With Justice. spoke both brilliantly and simply, telling the Supes what the picture is when fire danger lurks. 

I’ll be writing each Supervisor a note before that time – because it feels great to be on the justice side of history.

Very glad Will Carruthers @ North Bay Bohemian  wrote up the story here



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