The 4 million women you can thank for your last meal

From the Restore Fairness blog-

They’re the backbone of our food supply. Their hands sliced the chicken breast we had for lunch. Their sweat brought the fresh tomato to our plates. Their backs bent to pick the lettuce in our salads. They are America’s undocumented workers.

Every day, on farms and factories across America, millions of women work to produce billions of dollars worth of fruit and vegetables that fill our stores and kitchens and nourish our children. At least 6 out of every 10 farm workers in this country are undocumented, and almost all of them live on the fringes of society, earning below minimum wage and facing humiliation, exploitation and sexual assault from their employers on a regular basis.

According to a new report, ‘Injustice on Our Plates,’ published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the 4.1 million undocumented women living and working in the U.S. are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of our society. These women form the backbone of the agricultural system in this country, looking after their families, often working weeks without getting paid, working in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, with little or no recourse to any protection against the indignities they suffer at the workplace. They live in constant fear of being discovered and sent back to their home countries, with the looming threat of being separated from their children, many of whom are American born. It is grossly unfair that while contributing as much as $1.5 billion a year to the Medicare system and $7 billion a year to the Social Security system, undocumented immigrants will never be able to collect benefits upon retirement.

The report was compiled by SPLC researchers who conducted extensive interviews with 150 women from Mexico, Guatemala and other Latin-American countries who are or have been undocumented, and are working in the food industry, picking tomatoes, apples, green beans, lettuce, etc. in places like Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, New York and North Carolina. From a CNN article about the report-

Regardless of what sector of the food industry these women worked in, they all reported feeling like they were seen by their employers as disposable workers with no lasting value, to be squeezed of every last drop of sweat and labor before being cast aside.

Interviewed for the report, a woman called Maria reported being paid as little as 45 cents for each 32-pound bucket that she filled with tomatoes, and said that one employer did not allow his workers to go to the bathroom during their work-shifts. Olivia, a 46-year old meatpacker who came to the U.S. from Mexico to run away from her abusive husband and build a better life for herself, told the SPLC the horrific story of how she was raped by one of her supervisors after working a 12-hour shift. When she tried to report the incident to the senior management, her complaints were met with the retort, “What is so bad about that? He left you in one piece, didn’t he?” Despite extreme medical injuries and severe emotional trauma from the attack, Olivia was too scared to report the rape to the police out of fear that her immigrant status would be found out and she would be deported. Like countless women in similar circumstances, she was bound by the desperate need to work in order to look after her daughter and her parents who depended on her, and she had no option but to continue working for the man that beat her unconscious and raped her. The new report tells us that Olivia’s story is not the anomaly, but the norm-

Undocumented immigrant women are, in most cases, virtually powerless to protect themselves against such attacks…Some feel too much shame to report harassment or sexual violence, leaving them extremely vulnerable to exploitation by male co-workers or supervisors…Their abusers use their lack of legal status against them, knowing they are not likely to report sexual harassment or even violent attacks. Because of the many obstacles arrayed against them — fear, poverty, shame, lack of access to legal resources, language barriers, immigration status and cultural pressures — few immigrant women ever come forward to speak out against the wrongs committed against them. Too often, they are forced to compromise their dignity — to endure sexual harassment and exploitation — to obtain a better life and a measure of economic security for themselves and their families.

These women are economic refugees, running away from lives beneath the poverty line, hunger and desperation in their home countries, with the hope of working hard to provide their children with basic amenities like education, health and stability. The fact that such injustice and degradation is suffered by tens of thousands of hard-working women in this country on a regular basis is horrific and shameful on a number of levels. These women, responsible for putting food on our tables, are part of a systemic malady that is only getting worse. This is indicative of the sad irony of a world where high-level trade and capital move across borders with uncanny speed and ease, lining the pockets of nations and people in power, while the hands that build these “globalized” empires are forced to remain circumscribed within their lot, regardless of how unfair a lot it might be.

Deporting all 10.8 million undocumented immigrants would cost the economy over $2.6 trillion over the next ten years, not to mention the huge human rights violations that would occur as a result. Moreover, legalizing undocumented workers would raise the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over a decade. The report stresses the importance of immigration reform that would address these injustices in a way that is comprehensive, while respecting fundamental American values of dignity and justice.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Canadian Disgrace: Migrant Nannies & Caregivers.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Migrant nannies and caregivers in Canada are falling through the cracks of numerous federal and provincial government departments. In a recent series of stories the Toronto Star exposes unscrupulous and unregulated recruiters who exploit nannies and other domestic caregivers by luring them to Canada with false promises of nonexistent jobs, charging extortionary fees and confiscating their passports.  

A recent editorial asks:

You have to wonder: If there were fly-by-night recruiters scamming prospective construction workers or oil rig roughnecks from overseas, would the government be ignoring these rogue agencies while merely punishing the illegal labourers?

I'd bet no.

But what if those foreign workers were women, whether from the West Indies or the Philippines, who disappear into middle-to- upper class homes for minimum wages and maximum hours as nannies and domestic workers?

Today, according to documents obtained by Brazao and Cribb, Canada Border Services Agency officials actually acknowledge that there is "ongoing fraud and misrepresentation," but the federal government is doing nothing.

Nothing.

So vulnerable women, isolated and frightened, are forced to give up their passports and their pitiful wages to some 20 Toronto-area agencies and individuals suspected of abuse and fraud until those illegal fees are paid off.

Meanwhile, their families back home starve.

That's if the victims aren't deported, burdened by crushing debt.

And yet the practice continues, right under our noses.

Is this the government's solution to the daycare crisis in this country?

To date, most of the foreign caregivers in Canada are from the Philippines. While the Filipino consulates try to help abused workers, they are powerless to enforce Canadian labour laws and standards.

Tears flowed down her cheeks, but Maribel Beato didn't let go of the microphone. "My employer cared more about the dog than me," said Beato, a nanny who had a horrific experience with a North York family last year.

The family dog bit her three times but she wasn't allowed to seek medical help, she said.

When she decided to quit eight months later, the employer wanted her to sign a paper that said the family wasn't responsible for the dog attacks. "I was told I won't get the record of employment or T4 if I didn't."

She didn't get the papers.

Ontario's lack of regulation of nanny recruiters contrasts dramatically with Manitoba's tough stance against fraudulent agencies. Legislation set to take effect April 1 in Manitoba bans agencies from charging placement fees to foreign nannies, beefs up enforcement and requires every agency to be licensed by the province.

Further, the Manitoba legislation portends that nanny recruiters must be members in good standing of a Canadian law society, the Chambre des notaires du Québec or the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. Names of all licensed recruiters and agencies will be posted on a provincial website so families can be sure they're dealing with a legitimate operator.

Provincial Labour Minister Peter Fonseca has repeatedly avoided this issue however. Confronted by opposition MPPs in the Legislature, he passed the buck onto the federal government. When reminded by reporters that other provinces have begun to ban recruitment fees for foreign workers, Fonseca grudgingly agreed to contact Manitoba's labour ministry to learn more about its planned April 1 crackdown.

A member of Fonesca's own Liberal caucus, Mike Colle, has upstaged him by introducing a private member's bill that, like Manitoba, bans fees paid by workers (which are also illegal in the Philippines).

"The exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers by unscrupulous recruiters cries out for government intervention," said Colle when introducing the bill this week. It's a cry that Fonseca and his labour ministry, set up 90 years ago to protect workers, have shut out for too long.

Meanwhile Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently acknowledged the problem and is looking to "blacklist" unscrupulous nanny recruitment agencies that exploit foreign caregivers in an attempt to put them out of business.  Kenney added that the move is among a series of reforms he is considering to the federal Live-in Caregiver program.

It is an outrage that these injustices continue to take place and that both the federal and provincial governments have turned a blind eye to exploitation and abuse.

There's more...

Wikileaks: 600 docs show UN Peacekeepers raping and stealing!

This bulletin just came in from Wikileaks:


Wikileaks has released over 600 United Nations investigative reports, over 70 of which are classified. The reports expose sensitive matters from allegations of hundreds of European peace-keepers sexually abusing--and impregnating--refugee girls, to generals in Peru using Swiss bank accounts to engage in multi-million dollar procurement fraud.

A number of the reports have not only been marked "Strictly Confidential" but as an additional measure have had selected regions redacted before before internal distribution.  Often these redacted regions can be "unredacted" by simply "cut and pasting" the blanked area.  On the description page for each report, where possible, Wikileaks has provided a simple text version of the report that includes the redacted portions.  

Since the number of reports is subtantial we ask that journalists, bloggers and other investigators take responsibility for those those reports closest to the month and day of their date of birth before considering the material at large.

(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)

There's more...

Sexism: The mother of all 'isms'.

Sexism is the 'gateway 'ism'', that makes all other 'isms' possible.  It precedes all other forms of discrimination, setting the example that there are some people that view others as inferior and they use brutality upon them.  What I mean by that is that because our family and society models are built around the model of inequality, injustice and brutality - we accept that behavior as normal.  So, too is racism, classism, speciesism and any other oppression by one group toward another.  The behaviors of sexism are the behaviors of bullying, injustice, intolerance and cruelty.

(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)

There's more...

Greed, Murder and Cowardice: The Pillars of Democracy?

"The true strength of rulers and empires lies not in armies or emotions, but in the belief of men that they are inflexibly open and truthful and legal. As soon as a government departs from that standard, it ceases to be anything more than "the gang in possession," and its days are numbered."(H. G. Wells, as quoted in the Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers.)

The enemies of democracy are the enemies of the rule of law.
"enemies both foreign & domestic..."

Our Presidents and our armed forces swear to protect the Constitution from this threat - with good reason.  The Constitution is the rule of law and it is the one thing that can prevent tyrants, thieves and murderers from the ruinous world of their unchecked greed and brutality.

(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)

There's more...

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