In 1948 The Democratic Party convention passed a resolution against lynching. All people, the Party said, have a right not to be hung by a mob. I thought of that when I read in Commondreams that the Environmental Protection Agency has just passed legislation to protect farm workers — even undocumented workers — from being sprayed by pesticides. Human beings, the EPA said, have a right not to be poisoned at work.
The legislation will require vigilance to make sure it is carried out. The fight will continue. On a broader level, farmworkers continue to demand other rights that no human being should have to fight for: the right not to be sexually harassed or abused, the right to drink clean water, take shade, use a toilet, the right to be paid for your labor, the right to a childhood, the right not to work every day of the week.
The United Farm Workers in California, ( currently fighting unsafe conditions that have led to deaths at DARIGOLD,) the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in south Florida with their fair food campaign, (currently asking consumers to pressure Wendy’s to join, and asking students this week to take action on campuses) and the midwest Farmer Labor Organizing Committee, currently fighting to end child labor in tobacco farms, have all been fighting for these basic rights for decades.
Human rights – a concept more essential than civil or labor rights – are things no government can take away, not subject to debate. They don’t disappear if you cross a border without papers, land up in prison, don’t have a home, work on a farm, migrate for work.
Human rights for farm workers. Let the struggle be for higher wages, not the right to be a person.