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

In June 2008, United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez asked that question at the funeral for Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17 year old who died from the heat in the fields . Maria had been working for nine hours that day with little to no water and no protection from the sun, even though it was required by state regulations.  

Here's a picture of Maria:

Well, we know how much the life of a farmworker is worth to the State of California: not very much.  The State wants to plea bargain the charges against the individuals involved so they do no jail time.  NONE.

Can you imagine what would have happened had Maria been a white, middle class young woman?  Cable news would have been all over it and someone would have paid with serious jail time.  But Maria was a 17 year old from Mexico, so she will get no justice.  That's white, Anglo privilege at its most basic.

Attorneys in the wrongful death case of Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, a teenage farm worker, have reached a plea deal, sparing her employers from having to serve prison time.

Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old Lodi resident, collapsed in a Farmington vineyard after a nine-hour shift May 14, 2008. She died of heat stroke two days later.

A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Vasquez Jimenez came to the United States to join her fiancé, Flaurentino Bautista. She left a widowed mother in Mexico.

Her employer, the company safety coordinator and the crew supervisor initially faced involuntary manslaughter charges.

No prison time in teen farm worker's death

The terms the DA appears to be currently offering the people responsible for Maria's death are little more than a slap on the wrist.

* 3 years probation and 40 hours community service for the owner of the labor contractor company?

* 400 hours of community service and a $1000 file for the company's "Safety Coordinator"?

* Even reducing the Safety Coordinator's charge from felony to misdemeanor after he finishes probation?

Simply outrageous! Could you please help the family ensure that District Attorney James Willett hears a strong public backlash!

 Please send an e-mail immediately and tell the District Attorney, James Willett, not to set a precedent that farm workers' lives are unimportant.  

Relatives and the fiancé of the 17-year-old female farm worker who died from heat stroke after working in the fields for nine hours under the scorching sun in 2008 will join the United Farm Workers in launching a campaign urging a San Joaquin County judge to dismiss a plea bargain for two of three defendants in her case.

It is part of a month-long drive to persuade San Joaquin County Judge Michael Garrigan to reject a plea bargain from two of the three defendants in the Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez case. They were charged with felonies for contributing to Maria Isabel’s death. The family wants the defendants to be held accountable and go to jail for their role in the 17-year-old’s death instead of just receiving probation and community service.

Family of teen heat stroke death victim launching campaign to demand judge reject plea bargain deal

More than 10,000 people have sent the DA e-mails to date.  (and folks have been making follow up phone calls to his office too)

Go Here to send email  

Vigil Photos here  

Here is a short clip of UFW VP Merlyn Calreron's speech about this travesty of justice:

[More information here and links to a number of diaries I have written about the heat deaths in the fields  Yesterday we mourned, Today we act, Tomorrow we will gain justice. Sí se puede!  

And here:

Farmworkers Sue California Over Heat-Related Death and Illness ]

Go Here to send email  

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Comment Preferences

    •  funny - KCRA was airing the story about this (10+ / 0-)

      just as I began reading the diary. Hubbie is like WTF??!!! I laughed - I'm reading the diary on KOS right now. Email sent... Here's what I said...

      Dear Mr. Willet,

      Commmunity service and fines are NOT enough. The only way to ensure safety in the fields is to set a precedent that workers lives are important. Shade and water and decent working conditions must be a fundamental right. This girl should not be dead. Jail time and fines must be applied to this case to send a message. Obviously, the state cannot afford to inspect all farms. The only protection farm workers have is the rule of law. If those laws can be recklessly disregarded by employers and contractors with no fear of prosecution or fines and sanctions, the working conditions WILL deteriorate and deaths and injuries will increase.

      Please takes these issues into consideration. Maria deserves nothing less.

      "I have ferrets with fins" - African Cichlids. And (3 - nope....) 2 pooties too! Ren (crossed the Rainbow Bridge 10/19/10), Stimpy (16 yrs) and Rocky (4 yrs)

      by mrsgoo on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 06:50:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The most culpable defendant.. (11+ / 0-)

    ....appears to be missing in action:

    Thomas said his clients had never met Vasquez Jimenez. He said the crew supervisor, Raul Martinez, the other defendant, was properly trained, but apparently didn't pass on the training to workers.

    Martinez is believed to have fled the country. Fleming said Martinez is the one who told crew members not to take Vasquez Jimenez to the hospital.

    "He's the one we would have wanted to come down more heavily on," Fleming said. "He's the one that made that decision not to call 911 and get immediate assistance."

    De Los Angeles Colunga and Armenta also are in the process of settling a civil lawsuit filed by the county. They also have an upcoming hearing with the state division of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for more than $200,000 in fines.

     I would note that all of the defendants appear to be Hispanic, while both of the attorneys are Anglo.  I'm not sure that this is an example of racial privilege of any sort, but it is certainly an example of why we need better oversight of these kinds of operations.  When budgets are cut, this is the kind of stuff that passes through the cracks unnoticed by a diminished crew of state regulators.  

    "...after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

    by Alec82 on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 06:35:22 PM PST

    •  It's ethnic and class privilege (5+ / 0-)

      in the sense that an  Anglo, middle class victim would have received justice.  Of course, it's also privilege in that few of those are in the fields.

      Trumka: "Absolutely Insane" to Extend Tax Cuts for Millionaires

      by TomP on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 06:55:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's *possible* certainly (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Greg in TN, TomP, ZhenRen

        And that is certainly one way of looking at it; of course, that has a tendency to cut in interesting ways.  Many of the defendants challenging their death penalty sentences under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act are white defendants who were convicted of murdering white victims.  To show that race was a factor in their sentencing, they are pointing to 1) black defendants who killed black victims and white defendants who killed black victims, as well as 2) black defendants who killed white victims.  Group 1 is less likely to receive the death penalty, as the argument goes, showing that race played a factor in their sentencing, and therefore qualifying them for a reduction to LWOP.  

         Beyond that, though, I don't know that this incident shows any sort of privilege or indifference to the value of human life.  We don't have the most culpable defendant here; the one who would probably face the involuntary manslaughter charge is missing in action.  This might be a reasonable charge even where death results given the relative levels of culpability.  I don't really like the idea of encouraging judges and prosecutors to be more draconian.  

        "...after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

        by Alec82 on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 07:06:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  about right (0+ / 0-)

      Prosecuting the safety officer may not be the right thing.  As some one who has held the possition of corporate safety officer I have some sympathy, you need to go after the owner, those looking to make a proffit from the reduced safety standards.

      I have personally had to stand up to a very angy owner and owners rep wanting to know why things were not happening fast enough (why am i not making more money).  Trust me it is tough, explaining that in the long term they will make more doing it the right way does not always work.

      When the pressure is on to produce then it is hard to get a solid hearing for safety.  I would want to know how hard the safety officer pushed back and how much they had to del with before they were prosecuted.

      there is only one reality, republicans just forget at times

      by Bloke on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 09:04:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I remember reading this story when it (8+ / 0-)


    Until this country finds a way to deal with the undocumented immigration issue - and quash the idea that immigrants are bad for America when they are brown, stories like this will continue to be told.

    We are a nation of Immigrants, and any greatness which this nation might ever have had or hope to have is most certainly due in large part to that fact.

    Tip'd Rec'd and Tweeted.

    "in Order to form a more perfect Union"
    Basta de Guerra. No más. Enough War. No more.

    by Angie in WA State on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 06:48:29 PM PST

  •  Great Diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    TomP, thanks as always for helping us get out the good word.  You can always be counted on to help fight for justice for the downtrodden and we deeply appreciate your efforts.  Si Se Puede!

  •  DA Willets just got another e-mail (3+ / 0-)

      This entreaty will work. It has to
    From the Hive is some historical background:

    The Death of  Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez
     and the New Lynching

    To some, this may seem like slavery. But, in many ways, wage slavery is in fact much more desirable for the capitalists than chattel slavery itself. Instead of having to house and feed workers, or provide them with healthcare, bosses simply have to pay workers minimal wages. In many cases, farm workers have to pay bosses just to sleep in poor housing units the bosses own. And, if they complain or attempt to organize they can simply be fired or deported.

    Your years of effort on this is like a John Deere tractor... unstoppable TomP


    ...In the current age, we can still build a united, militant and fighting working class movement, for all workers...or, we can fight each other over the scraps that the capitalists throw at us.

    But the crumbs are coming less and less.

    So just who is your enemy? The boss, or another worker? It's not a hard decision and it's time we let the upper class everywhere understand the meaning of that answer. In the fields. In the factories. In the schools. Everywhere.

    Half a world away, in Egypt they chant: "Tell the police, tell the army, we cannot find a loaf of bread," and "Revolution, revolution, like a volcano!" How much longer will we stay hungry? How much longer until we blow?

     Thx TomP

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