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.
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!
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.
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)
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!