Some Relief for Farmworkers in Mexico; Corporations Still Not Held Accountable

Thousands of farmworkers in San Quintin, Mexico went on strike in March.  The US imports nearly $7 billion worth of fresh fruits and vegetables annually from Mexico, much of if from the San Quintin region, on the Baja Peninsula. In the early weeks of the strike, roads were blocked and millions of dollars and produce lost.

In recent weeks, the situation has again escalated, with dozen injured in a violent class with police last week.

Farmworkers have been demanding better conditions as well as the equivalent of $13/day.  In a breakthrough late last week, the Mexican government agreed to subsidize the wages of farmworkers to reach this rate.  The deal will be formalized June 4th.

Although this is good news for farmworkers, it leaves much unresolved. As Food Chain Workers Alliance asked when they reported the latest news, “Why can’t the growers pay the workers? How can $13 per day be too much for these agribusinesses?”

As part of the deal, the government also guarantees social security benefits, including pensions and healthcare. It does not, however, guarantee a safer working and living environment and farmworkers report health risks like exposure to pesticide drift even when they are not in the fields.

This new deal should bring some relief to farmworkers and families in the San Quintin area, but true transformation will not come without holding corporations responsible for their role in keeping wages low and working conditions poor.

Posted on May 19th 2015

Fast Track: The Next Steps

The key to defeating Fast Track is the House of Representatives. That has been the message of groups like Citizen Trade Campaign for years and remains true today, where proponents of the bill report they are twenty votes short.

call your repWe’ve reported before that the growing opposition to Fast Track includes hundreds of labor rights, environmental, and sustainable agriculture advocates, but also businesses, food writers, and legislators as well (including 110 state legislators from 41 states who recently sent a letter to Congress).

After a roller coaster week, the Senate will begin debating Fast Track next week. It is expected to pass, but that vote will not mean defeat. What is important in the Senate is the momentum it brings to the House of Representatives. This is why the initial rejection of cloture, the procedure that brought the bill to the floor for debate, was a major victory. Proponents hoped to build momentum by bringing it to the floor and passing it quickly. When that did not happen, a strong signal was sent to the House that this is not a popular bill.

After gaining some concessions, enough Senators who initially voted against bringing Fast Track for full debate have now voted for it. Although it will eventually pass, opponents can still keep the victorious momentum. As Senator Sanders of Vermont explains: “Time is on our side. The longer we keep it on the floor, the more the American people understand what a disastrous agreement this is, the better it is for us.”

While the Senate wraps this up, you can send your own signal by calling your Representative in the House. Show support to those who have publicly opposed Fast Track, and encourage those who have not opposed it to Vote No. Here is a resource to help you determine where your Representative stands.

Also follow us on Twitter for updates as things unfold @fairworldprj.

Major Fast Track Victory

No on Fast TrackToday the Senate voted on whether to debate Fast Track on the Senate Floor. Votes fell short, a huge victory for Senators who have been critical of Fast Track, like Senator Harry Reid and Senator Elizabeth Warren, as well as grassroots organizers. Citizens and activists have been calling and writing their Senators and Representatives and demonstrating in the streets. Those protests have been heard!

The procedural vote today, known as cloture, blocks the current Fast Track bill from being debated on the Senate floor, but does not kill Fast Track outright. It does, however, send a strong signal that President Obama will not be given a blank check on trade deals.

Among the Senators blocking Fast Track today were a handful who are committed to trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), but want to see certain provisions in place first.

Because the critics of Fast Track and TPP are most concerned with the process (TPP has been negotiated by secret with large corporations and their lobbyists at the head of the table) as well as elements that are known or suspected to be included (such as Investor State Dispute Settlement, which allows corporations to sue governments if they feel the government impedes their ability to make a profit), this is a good time for President Obama to open up the process and the text of the TPP.

Before Fast Track is taken up again, we need a full analysis of what we would be Fast Tracking. Tell President Obama to show us the text of the TPP.

Posted on May 12th 2015