Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Humanitarian Concept: "Crop Pickers Empowerment Enterprise"

Hello All,

Today is "International Workers Day" (Link) otherwise known as May Day as its celebrated elsewhere in the world. So in honor of Immigrant crop pickers laboring away for a better life for their collective families. I dedicate this concept to them in the spirit of goodwill and humane treatment of such a worker class.

The humane treatment is easy to comprehend since the novelist John Steinbeck of "Mice & Men", besides "Grapes of Wrath". Famously wrote about the American "Dust Bowl" era in the 1930's of California Salinas Valley. Yes, that was eighty years or so away still the abusive plight against documented and especially undocumented crop pickers persists. Unscrupulous fruit and vegetable growers prey on the cheap labor denying them access to social services, clean water, adequate housing stock, even wage theft. If that wasn't bad enough as reported by the "Coalition of Immokalee Workers" (Link) here in Florida's Treasure Coast.

I quote from the top line paragraph:
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"The CIW's Anti-Slavery Campaign is a worker-based approach to eliminating modern-day slavery in the agricultural industry. The CIW helps fight this crime by uncovering, investigating, and assisting in the federal prosecution of slavery rings preying on hundreds of farm workers. In such situations, captive workers are held against their will by their employers through threats and, all too often, the actual use of violence -- including beatings, shootings, and pistol-whippings. ---CIW"
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This concept of mine was inspired in part from a PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) America's response to public television similar to the British BBC stations. On a weekly news and issues show called "Need To Know". From their Season 3 Episode 24 (Link) which first aired back on March 1st, 2013 titled "Down in Salinas Valley". (Of the aforementioned John Steinbeck fame)

Although "Need To Know" didn't cover so much the slavery aspect of migrant workers on America's farms. They did focus like a laser on the systemic poverty amongst such a population of mostly undocumented crop pickers. Although scattered within are documented Americans of Hispanic descent. Communities such as the one within "Salinas Valley, California" are scattered across the American Border States with Mexico. If not further into other States like in the deep south for instance. The United States even has antiquated Agriculture Child Labor Laws (Link) that harken back to America's pre Industrial Revolution days. Which only last year literally to the day the U.S. Congress struck down a bill to improve such child labor practices. That largely affect migrant children working for an income for their respective families.

I quote from a Huffington Post article dated April 27th, 2012:
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"Norma Flores Lopez, a child farm workers' advocate at the nonprofit Association of Farm Worker Opportunity Programs, told The Huffington Post that the rules were "common sense" and would have helped protect children who work as migrants, not because of tradition but because their families need money.

We felt that these were commonsense protections that maintained the traditions of family farms and would have saved many kids' lives. We're sad about it," said Lopez, who herself was a migrant worker as a child. "All the misinformation being put out there was really misrepresenting what these rules were. The benefits were overshadowed. The ones who will be paying for that is kids." ---Dave Jamieson.
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It sadly seems America's boisterous ideals of Freedom and Liberty are only applying to its citizens. Not in its domestic or foreign policy as much as it should when dealing with large swath's of demographic groups that originate elsewhere within our borders. 

Now after this lengthy set up of an introduction allow me to get to the meat of my concept for a sense of empowerment for crop pickers within America. Although it could be applicable to other nations that the "Rule of Law" matters. My "Crop Pickers Empowerment Enterprise" model is part a funding mechanism to further bolster such Hispanic populations entrenched in poverty. Mixed into an equitable working business model to give self ownership and self dignity to the victims from such abusive bad acting produce growers. In regards to the seasonal or year long migrant crop pickers across America. It would take one or more communities to experiment within their locality to see if such a concept could work for them in the final analysis.

There are 3 legs to such an operation in total:

First: To find a "Coalition of the Willing" as founding member organizations to launch such an enterprise. Be it social services to advocacy groups that focus on Immigrant to regular fare farm workers across America. Such as the aforementioned "Coalition of Immokalee Workers" (CIW),  "Farm Labor Organizing Committee" (FLOC), or "Fair Food Standards Council" (FFSC) which is an off-shoot organization of the "CIW" servicing the Floridian Tomato industry.

Once such a confederation of supporting organizations is put together to further empower farm to migrant workers. Especially those within abusive working conditions by unscrupulous produce growers. A cooperative not for profit business plan is patched into place to launch a series of "Urban / Suburban / Rural Green" spaces which are nursery community farms. Touted and utilized to reinvigorate urban spaces within America's impoverished neighborhoods. Pioneered by today's Green Hippies and/or yuppies in many suburban area's that supply larger "Farmer Market's" in American cities. The majority of which utilize organic farming practices as a community member driven enterprise.

Why not co-opt such a green initiative and utilize the professional impoverished crop pickers across America? To empower such a working class in taking partial ownership as a cooperative jump started by such a confederation of organizations. Where such plots of land are either donated or purchased outright by the enterprise itself. To literally rescue those workers found to have been exploited as forced labor. If not generally more so subjected to wage theft, poor safety working conditions, poor housing stock (access to utilities), and access to clean water for daily living conditions. Basically begin to Poach migrant workers away from the abusive produce growers overall where it'll hurt them where it counts, their bottom lines.

The funding mechanism does not just depend on grants or local small to medium sized business sponsors alone. To aid such a venture Crowd Sourced Funding websites can be utilized such as: Crowd Rise (Link) (focuses on Charities), Start Some Good (Link) (focuses on Social Intiatives), Fundly (Link) (focuses on Fund Raising), and Indiegogo (Link) (focuses on Ventures of all sorts as Start-ups).

Second: The listed organizations within the confederation that are mostly social services. In a custodial sense begin to serve those rescued migrant workers working on the nursery farm plots as a cooperative. Be it food security as in nutritional needs, access to housing including rental assistance, access to safe drinking water, wages that are supplemented by community grants, besides local business sponsors such as eatery's, hospitality industry, farmer's market, and the proceeds of the Urban / Suburban / Rural Green nursery farm plots.

Once the business model of the "Crop Pickers Empowerment Enterprise" proves itself. The profits could be either reinvested to launch additional Green spaces as in nursery community farm plots. If not Buy Out a fully fledged working Farm as a wholly owned operation. To compete on near equal terms within the agriculture industry itself within America. Allotting additional out growth in aiding disadvantaged migrant workers in secure job placement within a humane working and living environment.

Third: When step two is in full swing to reinvent such a cooperative into a workers Labor Union. Including gather decades long evidence of inhumane treatment of migrant workers of various ethnic origins in America. To launch an ambitious class action law suit against the solely bad actors that have literally enslaved such a class of people. Similar to the Tobacco industry wide settlement America experienced with the Federal government nearly a generation ago. The Labor Union acting in good faith will help shape the Federal and State laws regarding immigrants working within the agriculture industry, including the undocumented children.

An article from Time magazine from September 21st, 2012 by Alfonso Serrano. Stated not even regular American citizens can be induced to work in such an industry as crop pickers.

Bitter Harvest: U.S. Farmers Urge Changes to Immigration Laws (Link)

I quote:
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"Farming operations nationwide, from New York to Georgia to California, are reeling from similar labor shortages despite offering domestic workers competitive packages that include 401(k) plans and health insurance. Almost in unison, farmers complain that even when they are able to lure domestic workers to what often amounts to high-skilled, grueling work, it’s not long before they abandon the job. ---Alfonso Serrano."
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This is in light of recent stringent Immigration policies enacted by the States such as Arizona. Where literally tons of produce on farms across America lay unpicked rotting on the fields. Since migrant workers were in fear of crack downs by the government so they stayed home in their own host countries in Central to South America.

To use a bad pun America is a Basket Case right now in these post Great Recession days. If leadership from our elected government officials isn't forth coming. Since they are beholden to "Big Industry" or radical conservative wings that sign their election campaign checks. Than it is up to the "Coalition of the Willing" be it aspects of Industry that are acting in good faith for those they serve by means of capitalism. Or more so the ethically minded and passionate citizenry to demand a change for the better in governance and humane treatment of all. That just happen to find themselves within our borders regardless of national origin. By humane treatment I do not mean condoning illegal criminal acts that produce violence. I mean otherwise peace loving peoples that are often discriminated against and ill treated by other citizens that give America a bad name.

*Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) (Link)

**Fair Foods Standards Council (FFSC) (Link)