Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The first page of the Facing South blog has a lot of interesting posts for tomorrow's reading.
Pay special attention to:
1. Formaldehyde presents special problems for Katrina's children
2. Nagin to present upbeat "State of the City" amid ongoing social disaster
3. Jena 6 case still unfolding
4. Anti-coal pranksters target Duke Energy CEO at home
5. A day to remember
6. Coal lobby responds to Facing South report on deceptive phone call
7. Big Coal makes deceptive phone calls on climate change legislation
Also, remember that they are organized by newest first, so it would be better to read from the bottom up.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Most people tend to think of the
Sadly, as revealed in the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s “The Story of FLOC”, the average life expectancy of a migrant worker in the United States is a mere 49 years. Many migrant workers and their families suffer are plagued by infectious and chronic diseases in addition to malnutrition. Infant and maternal mortality rates are much higher than the national average, and countless migrant workers and their children are forced to live in cramped huts without running water. Because farmworkers are oftentimes paid by the agricultural corporations according to a “piece” rate (ex. a set price for a basket of tomatoes, strawberries, etc.), they are not subject to laws regarding minimum wage. Although I knew that farmworkers received unfair wages, I was surprised to learn that they may receive less than 1 percent of the price that consumers pay for the foods that they helped to provide. I was also horrified to learn that if migrant and H2A workers complain of ill treatment or unjust conditions, they face either being blacklisted from future employment.
Urbano Ramirez’s story was heartbreaking to me. It’s terrible to think that it took people two weeks to even find Urbano’s dead body under the tree, and the people who found the body were not even the supervisors; they were Urbano’s co-workers. Sadly, Urbano was not the only worker to die of heatstroke in 2006; 4 others also died. I really feel for Urbano’s and the other workers’ families. All of this just goes to show how inhumane the conditions that they had to work under were. Personally, I feel that the agribusinesses and supervisors are responsible for the deaths.
Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC’s founder, has worked throughout the years to provide hope for impoverished farmworkers by encouraging them to fight for their basic rights and to recognize their dignity as human beings. I think that it is important for workers to be able to have the right to play a role in making decisions that ultimately affect them. I found it ridiculous although not surprising that Campbell Soup Company lied about not employing farmworkers when in fact they were. Fortunately, Velasquez and others spoke out against
As a nation, we need to find ways in which we can provide ourselves with food without taking advantage of migrant workers. Some possible strategies, as outlined by the FLOC article, include extending the same legal rights given to other American workers to farmworkers. Agribusinesses can also give some of their benefits to basic production workers.
How much importance do you give to finding ways in which to better the lives of migrant workers?
What can we do to support the FLOC campaign? In what concrete ways can we help FLOC achieve justice for migrant workers and how can we get others involved in the effort?
What is your role in the system that is responsible for the invisibility, abuse, and exploitation suffered by immigrant workers? What are some ways in which you can change your role and work for bettering the lives of migrant workers?
What changes need to take place in our social and economic structures to ensure that migrant farmworkers are treated with respect?
What specific issues regarding migrant workers have you heard of recently or have been following? How do you feel about them? What do you think you can do?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
For Thursday's class please read labor section of the Institute for Southern Studies' Facing South blog. http://southernstudies.org/facingsouth/labels/labor.asp
Also, have a look at the (Black Workers for Justice), (Coalition of Immokalee Workers), (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) websites.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Another reason why I felt this reading was very interesting was because Korstad mentioned how there where twice as much women as they where men, so pretty much women where the ones who were doing all the movement during that time, working in the tobacco companies and not getting paid the sufficient for the work being done by them, was not a good thing but these women needed to stay in these jobs in order for them to be able to support there families. Women I believe played a very important role during that time. And another thing I could not believe while I was reading this reading was how it was mentioned that these women worked in the tobacco plantations as well as the rich family homes. These jobs these women held were very difficult but the good thing was that they were still able to hold them. It comes to show that women are very strong and they we are also able to hold many difficult tasks at once.
by Maria Campos
In this reading, I found the church's involvement to be particularly interesting. Because of the exclusion of African Americans from participating in politics (through voting, etc.), the community turned to their churches for political involvement. Voting to elect deacons, etc., "(t)he surrogate politics carried on in the Black Church became an intensive training ground of political experience with all of the triumphs and disappointments of which the political process is capable." (pg. 161) In this way, African Americans were perhaps more ready to participate in union politics that white workers (who could participate in local, state, etc. politics), as the church more closely mimics the scale, etc. of a union and parishioners that may not otherwise vote, might be more likely to participate within their church.
Song also played an interesting role in the unity among the workers in Winston-Salem and elsewhere. The reading describes the singing during work (as begun in the plantation fields of the antebellum South). Not only did workers sing during their work, but some began choral groups with their fellow workers outside of the workplace. Workers often overlapped as preachers, parishioners, and neighbors, and singing together created the unity needed for a successful workers' movement.
Again, women seem to be an important part of the movement. It seems that in nearly every movement we have looked at, women have played a very important role. I think that the success of women in organizing goes back to the many different roles they are forced to play. In Winston-Salem, women were workers, mothers, often heads-of-households, many times domestic workers, and the caretakers of the community. These different roles gave them the power to influence the community as well as the perspective to know how and what needed to be done. One of the most interesting points for me was the fact that many women worked both in the tobacco plants and in the households of the rich, white community in Winston-Salem, giving them an insight on the inner-workings of white society. They were able to better understand the way the people in power thought and worked, and thus how to effectively influence them.
I was also interested in the description of the living conditions in the African American parts of Winston-Salem followed by the line, "You wouldn't believe it, living in a country like America, that people would have to live under those conditions." (pg. 59) This seems to be a common sentiment in this country-the idea that certain things 'just don't happen' in the United States. It is an interesting and conflicting idea that I think has both good and bad repercussions. In some cases, I think it drives people to work for change. When someone sees or experiences and injustice, this mentality can drive them to work for change/justice, because in the US, we are supposed to be entitled to certain things. On the other end, however, I think people who are not experiencing the injustices can be disillusioned. They think that hunger, etc. is something that happens in other countries, but not here in the U.S., and they go about with their lives. This, clearly, can be dangerous.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Throughout the first handout Davis is responding to other authors criticisms of blues singers, and the idea that blues is music of apathy. When you hear the blues there is not a feeling of apathy left within you, as much as there is a feeling of sadness. Davis describes them as addressing, “seemingly insurmountable but obscure social forces that have created the overall contest of misery and oppression.”(Pg 116) The feeling or portrayal of apathy that Paul Oliver expresses is because none of the blues songs actually say “Action.” Davis comes back to this by saying that they were not really in a position to be saying things like take action. I mean Billie Holiday said she remembered not even being able to eat at restaurants in the south when she performed with one of her bands.
Davis also points out that by just describing a situation, they were calling attention to the harshness of life in the poor community which would later help the flame of the uprising. Davis commented directly on the nature of these songs, “requires absolute honesty in the portrayal of black life.......As a rule, these songs do not criticize the institution, but simply treat it as an existing reality.” (Pg 107)
It was strange reading this quote because if we were to read any text describing the religious spirituals at the time, all of them were about hope, and escaping the hardships on earth. The blues was about recognizing the harshness, and embracing and mourning their way of life. I use the word mourn because of the feeling it evokes, like a helpless cry, but none-the-less a cry. Humans need this expression, even if it isn’t supposed to get at something directly, there still needs to be expression. Their worth is in the sincere human suffering that is catalogued in these songs. Davis said they do not criticize a poor mans way of life, but simply relay it.
It is this recognition of the living conditions that these people endured that allowed some identification from all the poor community in general. In the Strange Fruit chapter they mention how the depression had an effect on race relations, “circles of people who had been sensitized by both the transracial economic and social tragedies of the Great Depression and by the multiracial mass movements seeking to redress the grievances of the blacks and whites alike.” She goes on to talk about the movement among the white community which began to trickle into mainstream mentality. Because of the depression there was a recognition that the power was not just in the hands of white people, but a very few white people. This distinction left for identifications with class instead of race.