10-23-2021  2:28 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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Portland-Based Footwear Designer Plans to Reopen the Only HBCU in Michigan

Dr. D'Wayne Edwards, a Portland-based designer, announced his plans to reopen the Lewis College of Business, the defunct HBCU in Detroit. 

$2.1M Penalty for Roofing Company Over Emission Violations

Malarkey Roofing Products was penalized after the company disclosed it may have been emitting a large amount of formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen, since 2009.

Tool for Police Reform Rarely Used by Local Prosecutors

Brady Lists flag officers whose credibility is in question due to misconduct – a designation that must be shared with defense attorneys. Defense attorneys, public defenders, civil rights groups and some prosecutors are calling for an increased use of the lists.

Portland Parks & Recreation’s Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC) Proposed as a Center for Black Arts and Culture

Feasibility Study for community-led vision moving forward thanks to Parks Local Option Levy


Bootcamp for Prep Cooks Supplies Ingredients for Entry Into Food Service Career

Individuals interested in starting a career in food service have an exciting new choice – Prep Cook Bootcamp ...

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'A Dangerous Time': Portland Sees Record Homicides

Unlike previous years, more bystanders are being caught in the crossfire — from people mourning at vigils and sitting in cars to...

State Agency Inadvertently Releases Employees Vaccine Status

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Simple Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treating After Fauci Greenlighted Halloween 2021

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Transgender council member likely first in Washington state

ABERDEEN, Wash. (AP) — A crowd is pouring into a parking lot on Broadway Street in Aberdeen. People in booths are hawking homemade goods. There’s rainbow flags. Tweens with kitchen-sink dye jobs. Old folks and strollers. Everyone is cheering for the drag performers...

Grocer sues Oregon beef producer for [scripts/homepage/home.php].7M over outbreak

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Lawyers representing New Seasons Market have filed a [scripts/homepage/home.php].7 million lawsuit against an Oregon beef producer accusing the company of negligence for delivering beef tainted with E. coli in 2019, court records show. Several people were sickened by the...

No. 21 Texas A&M runs over Missouri, 35-14

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher warned his team all week that it couldn’t afford a letdown after its upset of top-ranked Alabama. His message got through, as the 21st-ranked Aggies buried Missouri early in a 35-14 victory Saturday. “We preached it,...

No. 21 Texas A&M heads to Mizzou after 'Bama upset win

No. 21 Texas A&M (4-2, 1-2 SEC) at Missouri (3-3, 0-2), Saturday at noon EDT (SEC Network). Line: Texas A&M by 9 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Series record: Texas A&M leads 8-7. WHAT’S AT STAKE? ...


How Food Became the Perfect Beachhead for Gentrification

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Homelessness, Houselessness in the Richest Country in the World: An Uncommon Logic

When and why did the United States of America chose the wealth of a few over the health, wealth, and well-being of so many ...

American Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

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Waters Statement on 20th Anniversary of September 11 Attacks

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'Widespread' racial harassment found at Utah school district

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Oklahoma St. coach Gundy agrees to perpetual 5-year deal

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has agreed to a new contract that will keep him on a perpetual five-year deal at his alma mater. The OSU/A&M Board of Regents has approved the recommendation from Oklahoma State president Dr. Kayse Shrum and Oklahoma State athletic director...

Debut of Huey Newton bust spotlights an influential figure

It was the first time in decades that she’d seen his glow. At the California foundry that fired a bust of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Percy Newton, his widow supervised as a bronze caster put finishing touches on what is to become the first permanent public art piece...


In memoir, Katie Couric writes of feeling betrayed by Lauer

NEW YORK (AP) — On a summer day in the Hamptons last year, Katie Couric and her husband, John Molner, went out for a walk and saw a familiar white jeep drive by with Matt Lauer at the wheel. No waves, no hellos. Couric writes in her new memoir, “Going There,” that she...

Review: 'Ron's Gone Wrong' has the movie code all jumbled

There's a clear message in the new film “Ron’s Gone Wrong” and that message is to stop watching films like “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” A derivative tale about a middle schooler and his quirky computer sidekick, the animated film seems to want to preach we should all...

Caro exhibit 'Turn the Page' is a window into his world

NEW YORK (AP) — Days shy of his 86th birthday, Robert A. Caro has reached the point where his own life is a piece of history. The New-York Historical Society has established a permanent exhibit dedicated to Caro, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and many other honors for his epic...


Disruptions to schooling fall hardest on vulnerable students

Even as schools have returned in full swing across the country, complications wrought by the pandemic persist,...

Biden to meet Pope Francis amid some rifts with US bishops

There’s an intriguing subplot to President Joe Biden’s upcoming meeting with Pope Francis. The world’s two...

EXPLAINER: How wildfires impact wildlife, their habitat

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The porcupines were walking slow and funny, more so than they usually do. ...

Hurrican Rick gains force off Mexico's Pacific coast

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Hurricane Rick gathered force Saturday off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast and is forecast...

Prince Charles warns of narrow window to face climate change

LONDON (AP) — Prince Charles issued a warning to the world days before leaders gather in the U.K. for crucial...

Spain pledges quicker help for La Palma volcano damage

SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA, Canary Islands (AP) — Spain’s prime minister announced Saturday that his government...

Seth Holmes New America Media

Update: After a four-hour meeting with owners of Sakuma Bros. Farms, striking workers reached an agreement Thursday morning and plan to return to work Friday.

Hundreds of largely indigenous farmworkers in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington went back on strike this week after negotiations with farmowners failed to reach agreement. The striking workers are protesting for better pay and respectful treatment by supervisors as well as against plans to bring in guest workers.

About 200 workers, mostly Triqui and Mixtec from southern Mexico, rallied Wednesday morning in a labor camp on the berry farm where they work. These workers say that the plans to hire some 160 guest workers will cut the hours of those who have been working there for the entire season and will lead to differential pay rates for the same work. 

Their list of grievances also includes racist treatment of indigenous Mexicans by certain supervisors, lack of sick leave, and unfair firing of one particular farmworker. 

These issues are not new. 

In the mid-2000s, as part of my field research as an anthropologist and physician, I lived in a labor camp and picked berries on a large family farm in the Skagit Valley. Then, as now, there was a strike of indigenous Mexican farmworkers with a very similar list of demands.

What should we learn from these two Washington State farmworker strikes almost a decade apart? 

Although most people do not tend to think of the Pacific Northwest in this way, the region is an important site of migrant farm labor, especially of indigenous Mexican people. The Department of Employment Security (DES) recently estimated that Washington State has a peak of 90,000 migrant workers over the course of the summer and fall, when pruning and harvesting take place. Also, despite Washington State having one of the highest minimum wages, the DES estimates that farmworkers earn an average of only $8,600 per year, far below the average for workers overall at $38,300.

Many of the migrant farmworkers in Washington and Oregon are indigenous Mexicans, especially Triqui and Mixtec people from southern Mexico. Unlike U.S.-born or mestizo Mexican farmworkers, indigenous workers tend to have less desirable jobs with less pay and live in less comfortable conditions on the farms they work. 

While language barriers in both English and Spanish present their own problems, racism is a significant factor in these disparities. On the farm, one often hears indigenous farmworkers being called such things as "stupid Indian," "donkey," or "dog" in Spanish. These same individuals, it should be noted, plant, prune and harvest much of the prized fruit and wine from the Pacific Northwest. Their presence in the region contributes significantly to the local economy. 

But despite these contributions, the labor rights of indigenous farmworkers and farmworkers in general in the Northwest are not well established. It is important to note that the right of farmworkers to organize into unions in Washington is not as protected as it is in California under that state's Agriculture Labor Act. In addition, many other legal protections applied to workers in general do not apply to agricultural workers (for example, agricultural workers can be younger than those in other industries and can work 7 days a week in Washington State without being paid overtime). Finally, those labor protections that are in place are not well enforced in agriculture. 

At the same time, agriculture is more dangerous than most other professions, with a fatality rate approximately five times that of workers overall. Given the strenuousness and danger of the work, it is important to support labor protections and the right to organize for all agricultural workers. Simultaneously, it is important to support Northwest farm owners, who can feel caught between a desire to do the best for their workers and a fear of bankrupting their entire farms as they compete in an increasingly harsh global economic system. Indeed, many of these farmers have watched neighboring farms fail. 

Perhaps most importantly, both today's farmworker strike and the strike in the mid-2000s speak to the need for fair immigration reform. Notably, the majority of farm and nursery owners (including the owners of the Skagit Valley farm), known collectively as the Agricultural Workforce Coalition, support immigration reform in order to help secure a more stable workforce that does not have to cross a dangerous border only to live in fear of deportation. 

For these reasons, it is critical that Pacific Northwesterners stand strongly on the side of indigenous Mexican farmworkers while also supporting local farmers in today's economy. Labor protection for all agricultural workers and fair immigration reform can only ensure the good of the region's people, food, and economy.

Seth Holmes is Martin Sisters Endowed Chair Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology and Public Health at UC Berkeley and author of the recent book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

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