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.

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.

Racism in the strawberry fields

Most people in the United States don’t think racism is a problem. While they’ll agree it was a “problem of the past,” the lack of formal segregation (the only kind of racism people were taught to understand) suggests to them not only have things gotten better, they’re pretty good overall.

This perspective is rooted in the post-Civil Right Era debates between the Left and the Right, a debate the latter largely won.  When Reagan seized the rhetoric of “personal responsibility,” he worked from the assumption that people were unencumbered by any formal structural kinds of impediments to their own progress and, so, if they were poor, it was their fault.

The lack of recognition of racism in our present-day is ultimately linked to our lack of understanding regarding how “race” actually operates in our society.  As I suggested above, that is not surprising considering the historic contest of the last thirty years over ideology and interpretation, a struggle of public policy and accountability as much as anything else.  But our condition is also expected when you consider the complexity with which race actually does operate in our present moment.

Take strawberries.

In 2007, over the objection of 50 medical and scientific experts, the Bush Administration’s EPA approved the use of the pesticide methyl iodide.  The chemical is promoted by the strawberry industry, despite the fact it “has been found to cause thyroid toxicity, neurological damage, and fetal loss in lab animals.”

The letter written by the group opposing its approval in 2007 said, in part, “We are concerned that pregnant women and the fetus, children, the elderly, farm workers, and other people living near application sites would be at serious risk.”  The EPA approved it anyway.

You and I and anybody else who might ever eat a strawberry is at risk because of this chemical.  Honestly, we have been for a long time.  Strawberry production is reliant on a host of chemicals, not to mention systemic labor abuses, some of which were detailed in Eric Schlosser’s 1995 exposé of the industry.  The long and short of it is, none of us should at strawberries, for both health and moral reasons.

The most disturbing part of this, however, is the way racism is at play.  Brown bodies toil in those fields, almost without exception. Those brown bodies are not valued by government or society as embodying the same kind of human being as do white bodies.  Their cancer rates are irrelevant; their wombs are collateral damage.  Their humanity is dismissed as an appropriate risk and loss in order for us to have big, red strawberries.

The use of methyl iodide has been banned by the State of New York. The decision on whether to scrutinize its use in California is currently in the governor’s hands. In the next two weeks, Schwarzeneggar will make his decision: to be a pawn of agribusiness or to recognize the humanity of poor, brown workers.  We will see.

A tremendous h/t goes to Barry Estabrook and his coverage of this issue on Gourmet.  Their “food politics” coverage is almost without rival.

Read more LATINO LIKE ME.

Schwarzeneggar is a dick

Guest column written by the People of the State of California.

Look.  Governor Head-Up-His-Butt needs to check his self-importance right now and get California a budget.  Sitting back and essentially saying it is a waste of time for Democrats (who are the majority) to send him majority-approved solutions because they are not what “he” (as a representative of a minority party) wants is tantamount to his balls getting in the way of my state’s health.

I don’t care what you want Governor Steroids.  Just because a Democratic budget couldn’t survive the two-thirds veto threshold doesn’t mean it isn’t a solution.  Just because a small minority CAN scuttle the majority-driven process doesn’t mean it MUST every time.

You, Governor Jackass, are the one standing in the way of a state budget because you are the one who decided that your opinion is more important than the majority we elected, a majority that is making compromises and concessions while you flex for the cameras.

So quit being such a dick.  People who don’t have the benefit of being as rich as you and your family are depending on some adult leadership right now.  Not a pissing contest.

Read more LATINO LIKE ME.

25 years ago today a man came from the future

Have you ever tried to cook enchiladas and bake a coffee cake at the same time?  It doesn’t work.  You end up with bad dinner and dessert, or even worse–sweet enchilada coffee cake!  Well, that’s why I haven’t been writing much on the blog lately, because other, more serious, more “finish or else you lose your job” kind of writing is taking my time.

But I couldn’t let the day pass without some mention.  After all, today is the 25th anniversary of May 12, 1984.

You can watch the scene here.

This scene, from James Cameron’s 1984 classic Terminator, has it all:  sci-fi technology; butt; humor at the expense of a hobo; time travel; the inference of gay, alley sex; and a killer Casio™ keyboard score right out of a John Carpenter movie.  It drips with the 80s.

Hardcore sci-fi/Terminator fans will note that “12th, May, Thursday” in 1984 was really “12th, May, Saturday.”  Rumor has it the movie was set to film in 1983–when it was a Thursday–but due to Schwarzeneggar’s contractual obligations to Conan, had to be postponed.  They never updated the day in the script.  I say, when a naked man steals your gun and points it at you, you are bound to get a few facts wrong during an impromptu quiz.  Eh…

After seeing the new Star Trek movie last week, Terminator has been on my mind.  In it, Kyle Reese (the naked man you see above) is sent back from the future by a man named John Connor to save Sarah Connor.  Sarah is the future mother of John Connor, the leader of the resistance in the war against the machines.  In that future, the machines have sent one of their own back to kill her, thereby hoping to extinguish the resistance (by making sure their leader is never born).  What we learn in the movie, of course, is that Kyle Reese is the one who gets Sarah Connor pregnant.  He is the father of John Connor.

But how could John Connor be alive to send his father back in time so that he would be born if he wasn’t already alive?

Ah! Because time is connected but not dependent.  Instead of a Back to the Future space-time continuum, we have a series of dots in time/space where new lines of dots can emerge from the others and not change the course of the ones already in existence.  Sound familiar?

So Skynet was sending back a Terminator to 1984 to kill that Sarah Connor so as to kill off the possibility of a John Connor being born in the future that comes from then.  Get it?  Skynet was so fucking pissed off, it sent a machine back in time to do something that would have no effect whatsoever on its own present reality.  It just wanted to fuck it up for another human reality.

Aw, forget it.  Just bask in the glow of commemorating an anniversary of something that happened in cinematic fiction.

Read more LATINO LIKE ME.

I want a new governor

At first I thought this was a picture of my uncle wandering around because he lost the remote control, again. (Tío Bill!  Barney Miller hasn’t been on for years!)  But then I looked closer.

I’m telling you, the Cyberdyne Systems 101 models just don’t hold up well over time.  I think we should trade in our T-850 for a T-1000, at least, glitches and all.

p.s. Interesting that his name includes the words “war,” “zen,” and “egg.”  Coincidence??