All posts by TomP

Take action to Stop Farmworker Deaths on the Anniversary of Maria Isabel’s heat death

I want to tell you a story of agribusinesses greed, indifference, and death.  It’s the story of a young girl whose life was lost before she even had a chance to start living it.  On May 16, 2008, a 17 year old farmworker, Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, died in the California fields from the heat and lack of water. At least five other California farm workers died last summer from the heat. Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004.

Yesterday, the United Farm Workers and many others marked the one year anniversary of when 17-year old Maria Isabel collapsed of heat stroke. Maria’s uncle Doroteo Jimenez spoke:

How we can help prevent more deaths, after the fold.  

First, let’s go back in time to a year ago:

Maria collapsed while working for Merced Farm Labor in a vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming outside of Stockton, CA. Maria worked for nine hours in temperatures that reached 101 degrees. There was no water nearby. There was no shade.

After about 2 hours of delays, Maria was finally taken to a clinic. Her temperature upon arrival was 108.4 degrees. Maria’s heart stopped six times in the next two days before she passed away. Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez:

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

Doroteo Jimenez, uncle of 17 yr-old Maria Isabel, spoke at a Los Angeles area vigil commemorating Maria’s life yesterday:

Maria was a beautiful human being who came to this country with a lot of dreams and the desire to work hard and help her mom and younger siblings, but her dreams were cut short. A year after her passing, the best way to honor her is by making sure farm workers are protected and treated with dignity and respect.”

The United Farmworkers Union explains why we need to act:

Governor Schwarzenegger came to her funeral and said words that gave workers hope: “Maria’s death should have been prevented, and all Californians must do everything in their power to ensure no other worker suffers the same fate. We have put in place employer regulations to prevent heat illness, and I cannot say strongly enough that they must be followed…There is no excuse for failing to protect worker safety.”

Unfortunately, these were words, like the words said in movies. The state has finally filed charges in Maria’s case. This is good. However, violations occur every day and little is done. Complaints regarding lack of drinking water, shade and work breaks to make use of these simple but lifesaving measures are an everyday occurrence for farm workers (see worker stories). Last year five other farm workers died of heat-related causes after Maria’s death.

This is why SB789, CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers (Steinberg) must be passsed and signed by the Governor.  The bill will make it easier for farm workers to organize and help enforce the laws that California’s government cannot enforce.  Where the union is strong, water is available and the legally mandated heat breaks happen.  It literally is a matter of life and death.  

SB789 passed the California state senate and will next be heard in the state assembly and then go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Let’s stop the deaths in the fields and help those who earn their bread by the literal sweat of their brow not just live a more decent life, but LIVE.  

Please take action today and tell the California Assembly to pass SB789, a bill that will give farm workers the power to protect themselves.

Please sign the letter:

Take action on the anniversary of Maria Isabel’s heat death

Today I join with the UFW and thousands of others to mourn the passing of 17-year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died one year ago. Maria collapsed on May 14 while working for Merced Farm Labor in a vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming outside of Stockton, CA. Maria worked for nine hours in temperatures that reached 101 degrees. There was no water nearby. There was no shade.

After about 2 hours of delays, Maria was finally taken to a clinic. Her temperature upon arrival was 108.4 degrees. Maria’s heart stopped six times in the next two days before she passed away. Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

Maria’s unnecessary death is not alone.  Five other farm workers died of heat related illnesses last summer. Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004. The UFW will be conducting vigils on the anniversary of each of their death to keep the memory of these hard working men and women alive and to tell you that enough is enough–farm workers need a tool where they can protect themselves.

The state has finally filed charges in Maria’s case.  However, violations occur every day and nothing is done. Complaints regarding lack of drinking water, shade and work breaks to make use of these simple but lifesaving measures are an everyday occurrence for farm workers. Last year five other farm workers died of heat-related causes after Maria’s death.

Please support SB789, CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers (Steinberg), which has passed the senate and will next be heard in the assembly. This important bill will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that California’s government is not enforcing.

We need your help to do more to prevent unnecessary deaths from occurring this year. Having laws on the books that often are not enforced is not enough. Please pass SB789, a bill that will give farm workers the power to protect themselves.

Si, Se Puede!

Please, please, sign the letter, even if you do not live in California.  The Assembly should know the whole world is watching. So should the Governor.

Take action on the anniversary of Maria Isabel’s heat death

You can learn more details about this continuing tragedy in these diaries I wrote last year:

Sixth Farm Worker Dies from the Heat this Summer in California.  A Call for Action.

Another Farm Worker dies. Does anyone give a damn?  The Netroots Do.

United Farm Workers Calls for Manslaughter Charges Against Company in Death of 17 Year Old  

How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker’s Family We Care

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

Please sign the letter.

Take action on the anniversary of Maria Isabel’s heat death

Fighting Back on Heat Deaths: Farm Workers going to Sacramento

I have been writing about the heat deaths of the farm workers in California since May.  (After the fold are links for diaries for background.)  

Six have died since May.  The latest one was Maria de Jesus Alvarez, 63, mother of nine, who died early this month.  The first one to die was 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, who died in May.  Marie was about one month pregnant when she died, and likely did not ever know she was pregnant.  The state fined the labor contractor $262,700 for failing to follow heat illness prevention regulations at the time Jimenez was stricken, but that won’t bring her back.  And the deaths have continued at an accelarated pace since then.

You can help to end this tragedy!

This Monday, August 18, more than 800 farm workers from throughout California want to go to Sacramento.

They want the chance to tell the governor and their elected officials to support AB 2386, “Secret Ballot Elections for Farmworkers,” which has moved out of the assembly and which will be voted on that afternoon in the state senate.

After the fold, I’ll tell you how you can help the farmworkers help themselves.

(also on docudharma and a version will be on Daily Kos tomorrow)

I have been writing for months on the deaths of farm workers in California from the heat. Six farm workers deaths are being or have been investigated because of heat-related causes since May.

This brings to 15 the number of farm workers whose death have been investigated as heat-related since Governor Schwarzenegger took office.

You can learn more details of this continuing tragedy in these diaries:

Sixth Farm Worker Dies from the Heat this Summer in California.  A Call for Action.

Another Farm Worker dies. Does anyone give a damn?  The Netroots Do.

United Farm Workers Calls for Manslaughter Charges Against Company in Death of 17 Year Old  

How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker’s Family We Care

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

As UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez:

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

The state has fined the labor contractor for whom Maria Isabel worked:

Atwater-based Merced Farm Labor, the contractor investigated in the death of Lodi teen Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez last spring, was fined $262,700 by the state [in July] for failure to follow heat illness prevention regulations at the time Jimenez was stricken.

Jimenez, a 17-year-old pregnant farm laborer, collapsed May 14 in a Farmington vineyard operated by West Coast Grape Farming and died two days later. Her death from heatstroke was ruled an occupational death by the San Joaquin County coroner.

State fines labor firm over death

Since then, five more farm workers have died from what appears to be heat-related causes.  

August 2, 2008: Maria de Jesus Alvarez.

July 31, 2008: Jorge Herrera.

July 9, 2008 Ramiro Carrillo Rodriguez.

July 9, 2008 Abdon Felix Garcia.  

June 20, 2008 Jose Macrena Hernandez.  

These deaths make it clear the state does not have the capacity to protect farm workers.  With all the budget cuts and other issues in California now, the state, even if well intentioned, simply has not been able to protect these workers.  So they must protect themselves.

We can make a difference and it will not take much.  

The vital legislation that Nunez has introduced–and the workers want to go to Sacramento and lobby for–protects farm workers’ right to a secret ballot election and will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that the state cannot enforce.

Please TAKE ACTION TODAY and ask California legislatures to support this vital bill. .

If you can’t attend please make a donation to help the United Farm Workers rent 14 buses, additional vans, plus pay for food and other supplies which will cost in excess of $31,770 for the day.

There is nothing more powerful than hearing a farm worker story face-to-face, especially to lawmakers.

Doroteo Jimenez, grape worker and uncle of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died in May explains why she must go to Sacremento.

I want to go to Sacramento and speak to the legislators.

My niece Maria Isabel died because growers treat us like tools instead of like people.  I spoke up and I was unjustly fired.  This needs to change now.  I don’t want to see other families suffer like our family has.  This bill can change farm workers’ lives for the better.

Please help us.

Margarita Hernandez, grape worker knows that that there must be changes in the workplace:

The reason for me to go to Sacramento is because I want changes in the working conditions at my job and the other companies. In the place where I work, Sun Pacific, we don’t have shade and the drinking water is without ice until 9 am-though they know that by that hour it is already hot. There have been people have felt sick from the heat and the company people always ask if they feel bad because of something they ate…I feel there is no respect for the farm worker, even though many farm workers have died. The companies don’t change their treatment towards the farm workers. That is why I am going to Sacramento. I have the hope that one day, we will be treated better.

Just to rent the buses and vans needed, will cost $26,570 and that does not cover the food and other supplies needed.

The UNF hopes that internet supporters would contribute $5,510 towards this expense.  This will cover the transportation costs of 140 workers at $39.36 per worker.   Let’s show them that Daily Kos can do it and more!

Can you make sure Doroteo, Margarita and others get seats on the bus?  

Where farm workers are protected by union contracts, the laws are honored.

And when growers know it is easier for farm workers to organize and bring in the union, employers are much more careful about obeying the law because they don’t want to give the union an advantage.

So the answer, sisters and brothers, is self-help-making it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields. Then more important human beings like Maria Isabel won’t have to die.

Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers of America, Honoring Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, June 4, 2008

Please help.

Please TAKE ACTION TODAY and ask California legislatures to support this vital bill. .

If you can’t attend please make a donation to help the United Farm Workers rent 14 buses, additional vans, plus pay for food and other supplies which will cost in excess of $31,770 for the day.

Yesterday we mourned,

Today we act,

Tomorrow we will gain justice.

Si, Se Puede!

Sixth Farm Worker Dies from the Heat this Summer in California. A Call for Action.

(This is an incredibly important story. (Also on Daily Kos and Docudharma) – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

(a commenter on Daily Kos suggested I cross post this diary here.  It’s the right place.  Please hit the link in the diary and send a message to your legislator.  This cannot go on.  Not in California and not in America.)

I have been writing about this story since May.  (after the fold are links for diaries for background).  Yet another farmworker has died from the heat. This is the sixth this summer.

Maria de Jesus Alvarez, 63, mother of nine, died from heat exposure in the fields on August 2.  Her death makes six farm workers who died of heat exposure since May and the 15th farm worker heat death since California Governor Schwarzenegger took office.  Even one is too many.  Six this year is a tragedy.  These deaths show that the state of California is unable to protect farm workers.  

We must act.  We must force action by the state to allow farm workers to protect themselves.  For there are no others to do so.

If you care, join me after the fold.

I have been writing for months on the deaths of farm workers in California from the heat.  You can follow the details of this continuing tragedy here.

Another Farm Worker dies. Does anyone give a damn?  The Netroots Do.

United Farm Workers Calls for Manslaughter Charges Against Company in Death of 17 Year Old  

How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker’s Family We Care

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

As UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez:

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

Yet another has fallen, a 63 year old woman, working in the fields.  Would people ignore her death if this were their mother or grandmother?  She’s somebody’s mom and somebody’s grandmother.  She has value in herself. We all do and this should not happen to anyone.

Here’s the story of her final hours:

Maria de Jesus Alvarez, 63, mother of nine died on August 2. Maria had been picking table grapes for Anthony Vineyards and was employed through farm labor contractor Manuel Torres during the afternoon of July 15. She began feeling ill and went home. According to witnesses, she was working in a crew of 150 workers and they had no shade nor had they received training in heat stroke prevention and precautions as mandated by state law. According to weather.com, the high that day was 111 degrees.

After Maria’s condition deteriorated, she was taken to a hospital on July 19. The doctor determined she was severely dehydrated and had suffered heat stroke. After being treated and admitted by two different hospitals, Maria died Aug. 2.

Maria’s death makes six farm workers who died of heat exposure since May and the 15th farm worker heat death since CA Governor Schwarzenegger took office.

These recent deaths make it clear the state does not have the capacity to protect farm workers. As California’s summer sizzles we must do everything we can to ensure that no more farm workers fall victim to the heat because the laws written to protect them are not enforced.

Speaker Emeritus Fabian Nunez has introduced secret ballot legislation which has moved out of the assembly and which is now in the state senate. The bill, “Secret Ballot Elections for Farm Workers”, protects farm workers’ right to a secret ballot election and will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that the state cannot enforce.

Please take action immediately and click to send a e-mail to  California legislators and tell them something needs to be done NOW.

It’s time to put a law in place that will allow farm workers to protect themselves!

A sixth farm worker died of heat stroke

Go to United Farm Workers.  Sign up to get emails.  Keep informed.  Donate what you can.

Your donation will help us keep the pressure on by launching a media campaign, lobbying the politicians, pressuring the growers, marching in the street, and doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again.

Governor Schwarzenegger came to Maria Isabel’s funeral and said he would do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.  But 5 more have died since then.  E-mail Gov. Schwarzenegger today!

If you know of any heat violations on California farms please call the United Farm Workers at 1-800-894-0746.

There are political and moral aspects to this, and they intertwine.  The moral aspect is we simply cannot call ourselves civilized human beings and let this continue.  Not In Our Nation.  

The political aspect is that we can help make it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields:

This governor issued the heat regulation in 2005, after three previous governors refused to act. Yet Governor Schwarzenegger is well aware of the limits of government. One of those limits is that even legal protections issued by a well-meaning governor mean little if we cannot give farm workers a way to use our good laws to protect themselves.

Our union has always believed that given the chance, farm workers could solve their own problems by organizing themselves and winning UFW contracts.

Where farm workers are protected by union contracts, the laws are honored.

And when growers know it is easier for farm workers to organize and bring in the union, employers are much more careful about obeying the law because they don’t want to give the union an advantage.

So the answer, sisters and brothers, is self-help-making it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields. Then more important human beings like Maria Isabel won’t have to die.

Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers of America, Honoring Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, June 4, 2008-State Capitol, Sacramento

The netroots can do what it does best here.  Spread the word.  Pressure politicians.  Speak up loudly.  Make this issue your own.  

SPEAK SO LOUDLY THAT EVERYONE HEARS AND ADDS THEIR VOICES.

Yesterday we mourned,

Today we act,

Tomorrow we will gain justice.

Please help.  It really is a matter of life and death.

Teamsters Go Green: Leave Pro-Drilling Group and Now Oppose ANWR Drilling

(Cross posted from Daily Kos and various other places.  This diary talks about issues important to all, including Californians.  If you want to protect the coast from off-shore drilling, the change in Teamster policy is a good thing.  As the Blue/Green coalition grows, it’s good for all of us, no matter where we live.  It’s the future.  I also included the updates from Daily Kos in this diary)    

This is big.

Great news for all of us who seek a Blue/Green Alliance!  The Teamsters today left the ANWR coalition, a group in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Jim Hoffa has just announced that the Teamsters are pulling out of the coalition supporting drilling in ANWR and are shifting their support to efforts to build coalitions with green groups to create a sustainable energy economy around sources like solar, wind and geothermal.


We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facing-not here and not in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Hoffa told labor and environmental activists at an Oakland, Calif., summit on good jobs and clean air. “We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.”

Hoffa Rejects ‘Drilling Our Way Out’ of Energy Crisis, Demands Long-Term Policy Solutions

More, after the fold.  

Jim Hoffa announced the union’s withdrawal from the ANWR coalition, citing the need to build a green economy that fosters the development of alternative energy sources and creates good union jobs-instead of lining the pockets of big oil tycoons.

“Our economy is in shambles. Gas is climbing to $5 a gallon. The dollar has collapsed. Inflation is on the rise. Americans are seeing their paychecks shrink. Their family health care is being slashed,” Hoffa said. “Finding a long-term solution has a tremendous upside. It will be environmentally friendly and will serve as a much-needed boost to our sagging economy.”

Hoffa also thanked labor’s partners in the environmental movement, who are currently working to reduce emissions from port trucks. He urged the strengthening of the alliance, known as the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, to achieve a common goal: Good jobs and clean air.

“If we are to prosper as a nation, our future lies in a green economy,” he said. “But it’s up to us to help define the rules of that new green economy. A green economy means we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it means creating good union jobs in America’s growing industries.”

Hoffa Rejects ‘Drilling Our Way Out’ of Energy Crisis, Demands Long-Term Policy Solutions

This is the core of the Blue/Greeen alliance that will rebuild and remake a just America:

“A green economy means we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it means creating good union jobs in America’s growing industries.”

Both.  

The Sierra Club praised the Teamsters for this move.

“The Sierra Club and the environmental movement applaud your announcement and look forward to building a powerful movement together-a movement that helps workers, protects the environment, prevents global warming and rebuilds our economy with good, green jobs,” said Greg Haegele, The Sierra Club’s Director of Conservation. “We are proud to stand here today, as allies and friends of the Teamsters.”

Hoffa Rejects ‘Drilling Our Way Out’ of Energy Crisis, Demands Long-Term Policy Solutions

Hoffa and the Teamsters are joining with Al Gore and Barack Obama in working to build a Green economy and all realize that we cannot drill our way out of this mess.  We need alternative energy.

Barack Obama last week:  

“For decades, Al Gore has challenged the skeptics in Washington on climate change and awakened the conscience of a nation to the urgency of this threat. I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power and advanced biofuels, and those are the investments I will make as President.  It’s a strategy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced, and one that will leave our children a world that is cleaner and safer.”

Gore:  “end our reliance on carbon-based fuels”

Al Gore last week:

We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of “solutions summits” with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

Gore:  “end our reliance on carbon-based fuels”

Jim Hoffa today:

We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facing-not here and not in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.”

Working together with labor, environmentalists and Democratic candidates, we can change America, solve our energy crisis, rebuild a greeen economy with good union jobs, and address global warming.  

Jim Hoffa at Yearly Kos in 2007.

We need to work with the Teamsters and other unions to rebuild a Green America.  Thank you Mr. Hoffa and all Teamsters! Solidarity!

Update.  From Change to Win in the comments.  Grist has a good write up on this:

For years, the Teamsters have supported opening the Arctic Refuge and other protected areas to oil drilling; they ran ads bashing John Kerry on it in 2004. So it is a Very Big Deal that the Teamsters have just come out and rejected drilling as a solution to the energy crisis.

At an event in Oakland, Calif., Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said that drilling won’t do anything to help; he announced that the Teamsters are withdrawing from the coalition pushing for Arctic drilling; and he stressed that pushing for “alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power” will revitalize the economy and create jobs.

It looks like reality is finally starting to bite in American politics.

UPDATE I: Kate called up Teamsters spokeswoman Leigh Strope for more on the move.

Americans are suffering in this difficult economy,” said Strope. “[President Hoffa] really realized, like a lot of people have, that there needs to be a long-term energy solution. Like he said, we can’t drill our way out of this problem … We need a comprehensive energy policy to deal with this crisis.”

“It’s important to our members,” Strope continued. “There’s an opportunity to really explore the whole issue of green jobs, and that would obviously benefit Teamsters and all Americans.”

grist: Blockbuster Teamsters announcement rejects oil drilling as an energy solution

Update II:  The Republicans are doubling down on drilling.  This shows how important the Teamster decision to support alternatives is.  Hoffa, Gore, and Obama all said it: “we can’t drill our way out of this.”

Senate GOP hands Dems oil ultimatum  

By Manu Raju  

Posted: 07/23/08 07:43 PM [ET]  

Senate Republicans have threatened to block nearly all other bills pending before the August recess if Democrats refuse to vote with them on expanding offshore drilling.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said bills that do not pertain to energy can wait until after the August recess, with gas prices now surpassing $4 per gallon. McConnell and top Republicans indicated Wednesday they would oppose any procedural votes to take up other legislation, which require 60 votes to succeed.

We think there is nothing more important that we can do right now than to deal with the Number One issue of the country,” McConnell said. “This is the biggest issue since terrorism right after 9/11. People are pounding on their desks, saying, Why don’t these people get together and do something about this problem?”

The Hill: Senate GOP hands Dems oil ultimatum

Update III:  Think Progress now has this story.  Here are some fun quotes from their post:

Hoffa’s call on behalf of workers is echoing leaders of the environment, energy, and economic justice:

If you’re in a hole, stop digging!” – Al Gore

We can’t drill our way out!” – T. Boone Pickens

We cannot drill and burn our way out of this problem. If we do, we will burn this planet!” – Van Jones

Think Progress: Teamsters Join Fight For Good Jobs, Clean Air, Clean Future┬╗

MLK III to Edwards: “Keep Fighting. My Father Would Be Proud.”

X-Posted from MyDD


Martin Luther King, III Praises Edwards For Leading The Fight For Economic Justice In America.

Following a meeting at the King Center in Atlanta on the afternoon of Saturday, January 19th, 2008, Martin Luther King, III sent John Edwards a letter praising Edwards’ commitment to fighting poverty and speaking out for those without a voice. King, the first son of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the President and CEO of Realizing the Dream, said his father was a fighter and urged Edwards to continue the fight for justice and equality. He also urged the other candidates to follow Edwards’ lead.

So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter.


As a friend and a believer in my father’s words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.


Sincerely,


Martin L. King, III


Full letter, after the fold.

January 20, 2008


The Honorable John R. Edwards

410 Market Street

Suite 400

Chapel Hill, NC 27516


Dear Senator Edwards:


It was good meeting with you yesterday and discussing my father’s legacy. On the day when the nation will honor my father, I wanted to follow up with a personal note.


There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of back and forth in the political arena over my father’s legacy. It is a commentary on the breadth and depth of his impact that so many people want to claim his legacy. I am concerned that we do not blur the lines and obscure the truth about what he stood for: speaking up for justice for those who have no voice.


I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are – a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.


You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don’t have lobbyists in Washington and they don’t get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.


I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.


From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you. I know you know what it means to come from nothing. I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.


I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.


So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father’s words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.


Sincerely,


Martin L. King, III


http://www.johnedwards.com/news/headlines/20080121-mlk3/

John Edwards will be our First Green President

President Bush plans to play the part of the hero by visiting California, now ravaged by fire. But on this issue he’s the villain — it’s two years after Hurricane Katrina and the only progress he’s made is actually acknowledging that global warming exists. If we’re going to avoid tragedies like this in the future, we must take the long-term view. On this point, the science is clear: global warming has already led to increased wildfire activity in the U.S., and if we don’t dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future, the problem is going to get much worse. 

Friends of the Earth

More than ever, we need a president committed to making real and deep change in how we treat the planet. 

 

“After 7 years of George Bush – the worst, most destructive environmental president in modern history – it is definitely time for change, and that change starts by electing John Edwards as President.” 

Come around after the fold with me for Part II of my interview with Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth Action.

This week, I interviewed Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth and FOE Action, via email about the FoE Action endorsement of John Edwards. 

FOE Action provides political muscle on legislative battles in the U.S. for its sister organization, Friends of the Earth, which is part of a network of affiliates in over 70 nations around the world.  On October 14, FOE Action became the first major environmental organization to endorse a candidate for president, and they endorsed John Edwards:

“Friends of the Earth Action enthusiastically endorses John Edwards for President,” said Brent Blackwelder, president of FOE Action.

Friends of the Earth Action Endorses John Edwards

FoE Action well understands that you cannot sit down at the table with the corporate polluters and their lobbyists, and then expect them to treat the planet right.  As John Edwards has said, if you sit down at the table with them, they’ll eat your lunch.  You’ve got to beat them:

Q:  You have been President of Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth Action since 1994.  In that time, you have witnessed the buying of the American government by corporate power and their lobbyists.  How important is John Edwards’ willingness to take on these entrenched interests to you in making your endorsement?

A:  This played a big part in our decision. John Edwards has taken a stand against the lobbyists and special interests that have so driven environmental policies in the Bush Administration. Only when candidates refuse to take money from the lobbyists for big oil and big coal can they pursue the kind of environmental polices that protect health and safety of our families. Of all the leading candidates running, we believe John Edwards has the greatest potential to stand up to corporate special interests in the White House.

We also talked about John Edwards’ plan to address global warming:

Q:  At present, part of the costs of global warming are externalized on all of us. Does Edwards favor measures to auction polluter permits to, at least in part, ensure that part of the cost of global warming goes back to where it belongs – on the actual product?

A:  Yes, polluter permits are an important component of Edwards’ plan. He would require polluters to pay for their global warming pollution, a portion of which will raise $10 billion a year for a New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart clean, renewable, and efficient energy technologies and create 1 million jobs.  

Q:  What is Edwards’ position on the annual taxpayer funded subsidies that currently exist for oil companies?

A:  Edwards calls for eliminating $3 billion in annual government subsidies to oil companies. He even says he is “very open to the possibility of an excess profits tax” on oil companies. We feel this is a crucial first step in getting our country back on the right track with its energy policy. 

I don’t know about you, but I agree with Brent Blackwelder and John Edwards about building new nuclear power plants: don’t do it!  This is a clear distinction between John Edwards and the other two major candidates: Clinton and Obama:

Q.  Senators Clinton and Obama have joined one of the top Republicans in the race, Senator McCain of Arizona, to sponsor the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007. The measure includes more than $3.6 billion in funding and loan guarantees for the planning and construction of nuclear plants using new reactor designs.  Does FOE Action oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize the nuclear power industry?  What is your position on this bill?

A.  Friends of the Earth wholeheartedly opposes the construction and development of nuclear power in the United States. Edwards is on the same page, here. He believes nuclear power is too costly, too dangerous, and too vulnerable to attack by our nation’s enemies. New Hampshire, where FOE Action announced its endorsement of Edwards, has the unfortunate distinction of being home to the last-constructed nuclear power plant in the country, Seabrook Station nuclear power plant. The plant places great environmental and health risks on the areas around it, and if constructing a nuclear power was a bad idea 30 years ago, it’s an even worse idea now, particularly given the new realities we face in terms of national security. Nuclear power simply isn’t worth it’s risks, when accidents can have environmental implications that last for generations.  And John Edwards is the only candidate to unambiguously say no to nuclear power. 

And what about Coal to Liquid?  I’m with Edwards and FoE Action on this.

Q:  What is your position on Coal to Liquid technology?  One Democratic presidential candidate cosponsored a bill to provide taxpayer subsidies for this technology.  Edwards opposes CtL.  What does using, let alone subsidizing, CtL really mean for our environment?

A:  Liquid coal is a bad idea for our country and planet. It contributes twice the amount of carbon emissions to our atmosphere that petroleum does, consuming an inordinate amount of water per unit of fuel, and requiring the expansion of ecologically and socially disastrous mining practices. Unlike Clinton and Obama, Edwards is the only leading candidate to oppose coal-to-liquid technology.

That’s right: “Liquid coal is a bad idea for our country and planet.” 

We need a green president now, if we are to survive:

Q:  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a President that actually enforced the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other environmental laws?

A:  After 7 years of George Bush – the worst, most destructive environmental president in modern history – it is definitely time for change, and that change starts by electing John Edwards as President. 

A final word from FoE Action President, Brent Blackwelder regarding what they and we can do to help elect a green president:

We plan to be especially active in New Hampshire, establishing an independent campaign and organization to carry the message about John Edwards’ global warming plan and his vision for a healthy environment. There is a powerful, untapped environmental constituency out there that is up for grabs in this country and we are here to lend our voice to push that constituency toward Edwards.  We believe he has the right vision and record to tap that constituency. 

In New Hampshire, there are a lot of Democratic primary voters who care deeply about the quality of their environment and cite it as a top concern when choosing a nominee for president. In particular, voters in the Granite State are looking for real action to combat global warming. We plan to spend the next 3 months letting these voters know that John Edwards is the candidate best qualified and most committed to help achieve this big and bold goal. 

Please visit the FoE Action website to find out how you can get involved in our campaign to elect John Edwards as president: FoE Action  (www.foeaction.org)

Help FoE Action to elect our first green president: John Edwards.

Friends of the Earth Action endorse John Edwards’ candidacy for President on October 14, 2007, in New Hampshire:

Crossposted at Blue Hampshire and many other places.