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Take action to Stop Farmworker Deaths on the Anniversary of Maria Isabel's heat death

by: TomP

Fri May 15, 2009 at 13:09:34 PM PDT


I want to tell you a story of agribusinesses greed, indifference, and death.  It's the story of a young girl whose life was lost before she even had a chance to start living it.  On May 16, 2008, a 17 year old farmworker, Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, died in the California fields from the heat and lack of water. At least five other California farm workers died last summer from the heat. Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004.

Yesterday, the United Farm Workers and many others marked the one year anniversary of when 17-year old Maria Isabel collapsed of heat stroke. Maria's uncle Doroteo Jimenez spoke:

How we can help prevent more deaths, after the fold.  

TomP :: Take action to Stop Farmworker Deaths on the Anniversary of Maria Isabel's heat death
First, let's go back in time to a year ago:

Maria collapsed while working for Merced Farm Labor in a vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming outside of Stockton, CA. Maria worked for nine hours in temperatures that reached 101 degrees. There was no water nearby. There was no shade.

After about 2 hours of delays, Maria was finally taken to a clinic. Her temperature upon arrival was 108.4 degrees. Maria's heart stopped six times in the next two days before she passed away. Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez:

How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?

Doroteo Jimenez, uncle of 17 yr-old Maria Isabel, spoke at a Los Angeles area vigil commemorating Maria's life yesterday:

Maria was a beautiful human being who came to this country with a lot of dreams and the desire to work hard and help her mom and younger siblings, but her dreams were cut short. A year after her passing, the best way to honor her is by making sure farm workers are protected and treated with dignity and respect."

The United Farmworkers Union explains why we need to act:

Governor Schwarzenegger came to her funeral and said words that gave workers hope: "Maria's death should have been prevented, and all Californians must do everything in their power to ensure no other worker suffers the same fate. We have put in place employer regulations to prevent heat illness, and I cannot say strongly enough that they must be followed...There is no excuse for failing to protect worker safety."

Unfortunately, these were words, like the words said in movies. The state has finally filed charges in Maria's case. This is good. However, violations occur every day and little is done. Complaints regarding lack of drinking water, shade and work breaks to make use of these simple but lifesaving measures are an everyday occurrence for farm workers (see worker stories). Last year five other farm workers died of heat-related causes after Maria's death.

This is why SB789, CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers (Steinberg) must be passsed and signed by the Governor.  The bill will make it easier for farm workers to organize and help enforce the laws that California's government cannot enforce.  Where the union is strong, water is available and the legally mandated heat breaks happen.  It literally is a matter of life and death.  

SB789 passed the California state senate and will next be heard in the state assembly and then go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Let's stop the deaths in the fields and help those who earn their bread by the literal sweat of their brow not just live a more decent life, but LIVE.  

Please take action today and tell the California Assembly to pass SB789, a bill that will give farm workers the power to protect themselves.

Please sign the letter:

Take action on the anniversary of Maria Isabel's heat death

Today I join with the UFW and thousands of others to mourn the passing of 17-year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died one year ago. Maria collapsed on May 14 while working for Merced Farm Labor in a vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming outside of Stockton, CA. Maria worked for nine hours in temperatures that reached 101 degrees. There was no water nearby. There was no shade.

After about 2 hours of delays, Maria was finally taken to a clinic. Her temperature upon arrival was 108.4 degrees. Maria's heart stopped six times in the next two days before she passed away. Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

Maria's unnecessary death is not alone.  Five other farm workers died of heat related illnesses last summer. Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004. The UFW will be conducting vigils on the anniversary of each of their death to keep the memory of these hard working men and women alive and to tell you that enough is enough--farm workers need a tool where they can protect themselves.

The state has finally filed charges in Maria's case.  However, violations occur every day and nothing is done. Complaints regarding lack of drinking water, shade and work breaks to make use of these simple but lifesaving measures are an everyday occurrence for farm workers. Last year five other farm workers died of heat-related causes after Maria's death.

Please support SB789, CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers (Steinberg), which has passed the senate and will next be heard in the assembly. This important bill will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that California's government is not enforcing.

We need your help to do more to prevent unnecessary deaths from occurring this year. Having laws on the books that often are not enforced is not enough. Please pass SB789, a bill that will give farm workers the power to protect themselves.

Si, Se Puede!

Please, please, sign the letter, even if you do not live in California.  The Assembly should know the whole world is watching. So should the Governor.

Take action on the anniversary of Maria Isabel's heat death

You can learn more details about this continuing tragedy in these diaries I wrote last year:

Sixth Farm Worker Dies from the Heat this Summer in California.  A Call for Action.

Another Farm Worker dies. Does anyone give a damn?  The Netroots Do.

United Farm Workers Calls for Manslaughter Charges Against Company in Death of 17 Year Old  

How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker's Family We Care

"How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?"

Please sign the letter.

Take action on the anniversary of Maria Isabel's heat death

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Tips for helping the farm workers (6.50 / 2)
and preventing deaths this summer.

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