Schwarzeneggar supports Jim Crow

This  governor of California vetoed SB 1121.  The bill would have ended 70 years of blatant racial discrimination in California by extending the same overtime rights you and I enjoy to the nearly half million farmworkers toiling in the fields.

Let’s be clear:  this is a public official supporting with his power and authority the systematic abuse of the thousands and thousands of people who do the work that keeps you alive.  There is little other way to look at it.  History will judge him an even worse racist than those of 50 or 100 years ago because Schwarzeneggar should have known better.

The reason he gave for his veto is that the cost would be too high for the industry, forcing them to higher fewer workers. He wrote: “Unfortunately, this measure, while well-intended, will not improve the lives of California’s agricultural workers and instead will result in additional burdens on California businesses, increased unemployment and lower wages.”

This is the same reason that was given when they tried to ban the short-handle hoe; or get rid of the Bracero Program; or limit the use of cancer-causing pesticides; or force employers to provide restrooms for workers.  Like all those cases, the reason is bullshit.  In each of these instances, profits rose after the industry was forced to act ethically.

If you are so-inclined, you can email the governor and tell him what an ass he is.  If there is an afterlife, I hope his is spent bent over in the hot sun feeding a bunch of fat people who don’t know (or care) he exists.

Contact him at governor@governor.ca.gov.

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Monday Blues

Howlin’ Wolf (born in Mississippi; 1910-1976), performing Willie Dixon’s “Shake It For Me,” for European television, in 1964.

Support Overtime for CA Farmworkers

This is a picture of Arturo Rodriguez (UFW President); Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter, CA); Msgr. James Murphy (Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament); and scores of farmworkers. They are kneeling in California’s State Capitol building and praying that Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar will sign SB 1121 into law.

The bill–which is now on the Governor’s desk–would give farmworkers the same right you and I already have: overtime pay for overtime work.  Schwarzeneggar only has a limited amount of time to sign it.

Authored by Florenz, the bill “would lift a 1941 exemption in state labor code that excludes farmworkers from getting overtime pay after an eight-hour day or a 40-hour week. California farmworkers now get overtime pay only after a 10-hour day or a 60-hour week.”

You can read more about it here and here.

The 450,000 farmworkers in California deserve more than time and a half.  They perform the life-giving work that you and I depend on to do, well, everything we do.  Right now, you owe them your support.

Call or email Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s office NOW and tell him to sign the farmworker overtime bill into law.  Dial 916-445-2841 or send and email via the official correspondence link.

Troops to the border

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arm of the Department of Homeland Defense (DHS) is getting some armed assistance with the addition of 1,200 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The National Guard’s mission is to fortify the border until CBP can hire and train 1000 new agents.  The urgent needs are the twin tides of illegal immigration and drug/weapons smuggling.  As this release report from the Armed Forces Press Service attests, little distinction is made between the two kinds of criminal activity the National Guard is meant to curb.

This isn’t the first time the National Guard has stepped in to provide “relief” for a border police system that is seemingly always taxed to its limits.  For two years, from 2006 to 2008, more than 6,000 troops participated in “Operation Jump Start,” building fences and fortifying barriers for CBP while they sought to hire more people to fill their needs.

The drug and weapons situation at the border (as well as away from it) is a serious problem for Mexico, as it is for the U.S.  This latest deployment of troops by the Obama Administration is recognition of this, at some level.

The unfortunate thing is, this is little more than PR.  The drug and weapons problem at the border is tantamount to a raging widlfire.  The U.S. has just opened its garden hose.

The harder and more productive stance would be to ask how we can both snuff out the current blaze as well as stop promoting future fires.  That would mean interrogating the ways U.S. weapons producers help add dry tinder to an already combustible situation and how U.S. consumers of drugs are the match.

It would also mean interrogating the policies promoted by the U.S. and its international agencies that make economic life in Mexico what it is for the rural poor.

But this token deployment is not innocuous.  Anytime you send armed people to an incendiary situation there is the potential of danger.  Their non-offensive position is another boost to the low-intensity-conflict strategy at the border, one that hopes to scare the migrant flow into the hazardous terrain of the desert.  The end effect is a loss of life without a bullet fired.

Monday Blues

Jimi Hendrix (born in Seattle, WA; 1942-1970), here performing Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” in Monterey, CA, 1967.

Ask Profe

I’ve been trying out Formspring on the down low for a few months now. It’s been okay, a little monotonous over time, but that’s due largely (I think) to the fact I’ve been kind of anonymous on it (or ficticious?) and, really, what kind of questions do you ask a person you don’t know?

I’ve decided to try it out as myself, with the hopes it might inspire some interesting conversations about things I care about and others (at least one person) care about as well. On top of that, there seems to be a shortage of informed educators using the service, so maybe I can add to that trend as well.

You can ask me a question–anonymous or otherwise–related to anything at http://www.formspring.me/thebigtshow.