Laboring for Justice

Blog by Sr. Judy Morris, OP
Blog by Sr. Judy Morris, OP

Earlier in July I had the opportunity to travel to California and enjoy the diverse beauty of that state.  As we traveled to Yosemite National Park, the tour guide announced, “You are viewing the salad bar of the United States.”   For endless miles I viewed lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and countless vegetables and fruits I have too often enjoyed without reflecting on the labor that brought these wonderful foods to me.  In those fields were many farm workers struggling to survive.

As we approach Labor Day, I am especially mindful of the many thousands of farm workers who work endless hours for poor wages, enduring extremes in weather to bring me food.  Unfortunately the media does not cover the plight of farm workers across the country,  and politicians never discuss the poor in their midst.

Recently farm workers and supporters gathered in Long Island, New York for a march to Albany to call for passage of the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act.  The issues to which they drew attention are many – farm workers often work seven days a week, with no day off; no overtime pay; no right to collective bargaining; a lack of bathrooms and clean water in the fields and overcrowded housing.  This remains a familiar scene for 60,000 farmworkers around the country.

Many undocumented workers today were forced to leave their countries, just as agricultural workers have been forced to do throughout history.  Most often, the reason for migration is directly related to U.S. policies.  When NAFTA was signed in 1994, government-subsidized corn produced in the U.S. flooded the market in Mexico.  As a result, many farmers migrated to the U.S., not by choice, but by necessity.

When focusing on trade policies in the United States, immigration and unemployment, we need to follow the dots.  They are all connected and, without public demand and political will, this tragic exploitation will remain the same.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

10 responses to “Laboring for Justice

  1. You blog is so very true to life!
    Sister Roserita and I went to Mexico December of ’96 and January of ’97 to study Spanish. The college students who were our teachers at the Instituto were so very happy for NAFTA. They were seeing the first wave of persons who were getting paying jobs instead of living at a subsistence level. By March they were totally disillusioned. By then far too many people were flooding in to work at the factories. They ended up living in cardboard or scrap tin shanties on the outskirts of towns without means to provide anything for their families. All was falling apart for them.
    Their next move in desperation was to come north to the US by any means, hoping to be able to send money to feed their children. NAFTA had wrecked havoc for the poor there as it had done so for those in the US whose jobs had been outsourced to Mexico.

  2. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I had no idea it was so bad. We saw and needed lots of farm workers when I was in WA and sent our students to help them take care of their children when the adults were working. That is another issue.

  3. Thanks, Judy, for the reminder – will remember who to thank when I enjoy so much of what I take for granted!

  4. Judy,
    Thank you for raising our awareness of this.
    I don’t recall hearing about the Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act prior to this. I will say an extra prayer for those who brought that produce to my table and will also keep my eyes and ears open to be more aware of these issues.
    You embody what Catherine of Siena said, “Speak as if you had one thousand voices. It is silence that kills.”

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