Monday, June 9, 2008
Last week, MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña joined Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), AFL-CIO, and marched with 500 farm workers to the state capitol in honor of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old pregnant farm worker, who died from heat-related exhaustion. (For our story on this tragedy, click here.).Ms. Jimenez fell unconscious in the field but her contractors refused to take her to a clinic, costing the young woman her life.
Forty years ago, Senator Robert Kennedy brought national attention to the plight of America’s farm workers. MALDEF now marches in that spirit for basic protections for the men and women who are so vital to providing food for America and the world. During the march at Southside Park, Mr. Trasviña addressed the crowd and his prepared remarks were as follows:
Brothers and sisters, my name is John Trasviña and I am the President and General Counsel of MALDEF. Founded 40 years ago, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of 50 million Latinos in the United States through litigation, advocacy, community education and scholarships. I am honored to join this pilgrimage with Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, and all of you here today.
First, my deepest condolences to the family and survivors of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez and the child she carried.
It is with great sadness that we are gathered here to honor and memorialize the lives of Maria Isabel and her unborn child. But their tragic deaths will not be in vain. Today and every day from this day forward we renew our commitment to bring justice, respect and honor to farm workers in the fields of California and across this nation.
Our anger and tears will become the determination and the fire that burns in our hearts to bring human decency in working conditions to the men, women, including pregnant women, and young people, who labor to provide food for our tables.
All workers deserve decent working conditions. But those who work the hardest should have the greatest protections. Instead we see that those who work the hardest, may have legal protection—but that protection is only good if it is enforced. The protections that could have saved Maria Isabel and her unborn child were not enforced. The governor has said we must make sure this never happens again, but it should not have happened even once. MALDEF vows to do everything possible to protect the rights of farm workers so that Maria Isabel and her unborn child did not die in vain.
SI SE PUEDE!
To view the Spanish translation of the speech, please click here: http://www.simplesend.com/clientimages/maldef/UFW_PILGRIMAGE_Spanish.pdf. The 4-day pilgrimage, which began on Sunday, June 1, concluded on Wednesday at the steps of the California State Capitol where Bishop Leonard Blaire led a memorial service for Ms. Jimenez.