Wednesday, August 09, 2017


This is the opening to journalist David Bacon's latest:

By David Bacon
The American Prospect, 8/8/17

Picking blueberries on a Washington State farm.  Risking deportation, Washington state farmworkers protest dangerous conditions in the fields

A farmworker's death in the broiling fields of Washington state has prompted his fellow braceros to put their livelihoods in jeopardy by going on strike, joining a union, being discharged - and risking deportation.

Honesto Silva Ibarra died in Harborview hospital in Seattle on Sunday night, August 6.  Silva, a married father of three, was a guest worker - in Spanish, a "contratado" - brought to the United States under the H2-A visa program, to work in the fields.

Miguel Angel Ramirez Salazar, another contratado, says Silva went to his supervisor at Sarbanand Farms last week, complaining that he was sick and couldn't work.  "They said if he didn't keep working he'd be fired for 'abandoning work.' But after a while he couldn't work at all."  

Silva finally went to the Bellingham Clinic, about an hour south of the farm where he was working, in Sumas, close to the Canadian border.  By then it was too late, however.  He was sent to Harborview, where he collapsed and died.

Silva's death was the final shove that pushed the contratados into an action unprecedented in modern farm labor history.  They organized and protested, and when they were fired for it, they joined Washington State's new union for farmworkers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia.  As this article is being written, 120 H2A workers are sitting in tents on a patch of land near the ranch where they worked, protesting their treatment and demanding rights for guest workers.

On the website of CSI Visa Processing, which recruited Silva, Ramirez and others to work at Sarbanand Farms, a statement reads: "The compañero who is hospitalized, the cause was meningitis, an illness he suffered from before, and is not related to his work."  Ramirez and other workers doubt that explanation.  Silva had been working in the U.S. since May, and did not arrive with symptoms of meningitis.  Instead, they insist that it was the consequence of increasingly bad conditions at the ranch.  

According to Ramon Torres, president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, H2-A workers at Sarbanand Farms had been complaining for weeks about bad food, temperatures in the 90s with no shade, warm drinking water and dirty bathrooms in the fields.  In the last two weeks, the air near the border became smoky from forest fires just to the north in Canada, making it hard to breathe.  Some workers fainted amid the blueberry plants where they were picking.

 When Silva collapsed and went to the hospital, a group went to the ranch management and asked for safer working conditions.  When they were turned away, they organized a one-day strike on Friday, August 4.  Familias Unidas por la Justicia, which just signed its first union contract with Sakuma Brothers Farms in nearby Burlington, held its first convention that Friday.  When the H2-A workers came from Sarbanand Farms, they decided to join.

Also check out David Bacon's new book:

In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte
Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte

302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95

order the book on the UC Press website:
use source code  16M4197  at checkout
receive a 30% discount

En Mexico se puede pedir el libro en el sitio de COLEF:

Die Apfel-Pflücker aus dem Yakima-Tal
THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog

EN LOS CAMPOS DEL NORTE:  Farm worker photographs on the U.S./Mexico border wall
Entrevista sobre la exhibicion con Alfonso Caraveo (Español)

Cat Brooks interview on KPFA about In the Fields of the North  - Advance the time to 33:15

"Los fotógrafos tomamos partido" - Entrevista por Melina Balcázar Moreno - Laberinto

Attack on Immigrants - video of presentation about immigration raids and migration

Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center

KPFA - Upfront with Brian Edwards Tiekert

Books by David Bacon

The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

En Español:  

EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA  (Critica - Planeta de Libros)


For more articles and images, see and