Labor

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

September 24, 2019

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

November 5 release date set for special anniversary edition of award-winning book whose stories of civil liberties struggles are all the more relevant now.

Inquiries Into Government Employees' Private Lives Constitutional

January 19, 2011

On January 19, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that the federal government can inquire about the personal finances, mental and emotional stability, and other personal matters of government contractors.

The high court overturned a 2008 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that such inquiries had little connection to security or other government concerns.

The lawsuit was brought by 28 scientists and engineers working for the NASA-funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory who objected to the invasive government background checks. The employees, most of whom have worked for decades for the California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA, had passed background checks when they were first hired. However, a 2004 Bush administration order compelled them to undergo a second background check in order to meet increased security standards.

Writing for six of the justices, Justice Samuel Alito ruled that such inquiries into the private lives government employees and contractors were "reasonable investigations."

However, he also said that he assumed a federal right to informational privacy exists, but that the background checks in question did not violate that right.

This drew a critical concurring opinion from Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, who lambasted the rest of the court for accepting a federal right to privacy. 

Since 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a federal right to privacy. In 1972, voters amended the California Constitution to add an explicit right to privacy.

None of the workers who brought the lawsuit were assigned to top-secret projects, but they nevertheless faced investigations, including probes into their medical and financial records, emotional and psychological condition, and other personal matters.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because as Solicitor General she was involved in the case.

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United States Supreme Court rules that government investigations of employees' and contractors' personal lives, finances, and emotional health are "reasonable" and do not violate the right to informational privacy.

Elaine and Stan on KPIX's "Bay Sunday"

Date: 
June 12, 2011

Watch an appearance by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi on KPIX's "Bay Sunday" program with host Sydnie Kohara.

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Dolores Huerta to Receive Medal of Freedom

April 28, 2012

President Obama named longtime civil rights and labor leader Dolores Huerta a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the United State's highest civilian honor. 

With Cesar Chavez, Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962 to fight against the exploitation and degredation of farm laborers. Three years later, that union joined a grape strike started by Filipino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.  Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers. 

The United Farm Workers called on people around the world to support the strike by boycotting grapes. Unions, churches, students and millions of consumers answered the call. After 5 long years, the first union contracts were signed, guaranteeing farmworkers basic protections like toilets and drinking water in the fields, overtime pay, and the right to join a union. 

Huerta was influential in securing the passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which requires that farmworkers be allowed to organize unions that their employers are bound to recognize.

Also among this year's awardees is Gordon Hirabayashi, who as a student in Seattle during World War II defied the government's exclusion orders against Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi died earlier this year.

The Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made especially mertiorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. 

The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.


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Co-founder of the United Farm Workers union is one of 13 Americans to be awarded the nation's highest civilian honor in 2012

U.S. Supreme Court To Consider Government Background Checks

March 9, 2010

On March 8, the high court agreed to hear the case of 28 scientists and engineers working for the NASA-funded Jet Propulsion Labratory who objected to invasive government background checks. The employees, most of whom have worked for decades for the California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA, had passed background checks when they were first hired. However, a 2004 Bush administration order compelled them to undergo a second background check in order to meet increased security standards.

None of the workers were assigned to top-secret projects, but they nevertheless faced investigations, including probes into their medical and finanical records, emotional and psychological condition, and other personal matters.

When they refused to agree to the checks, they faced dismisal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the employees from being fired. 

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In 1947, President Harry Truman authorized investigations into the loyalty of every federal employee and applicant for federal employment. Individuals were spied on because they had years earlier expressed sympathy for militant labor leaders. Others were scrutinized because their relatives or neighbors were allegedly sympathetic to communism.

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower issued an executive order designating "sexual perversion" (i.e. homosexuality) a basis for denying federal employment, and for firing employees under the government security program that had initially targeted "subversives." In 1960, he issued an executive order establishing the Industrial Security Program to protect the government from security threats posed by private sector employees working on government contracts; this order became the basis for barring gay people from the private sector defense industry.

Justices to rule on case brought by scientists and engineers at Southern California's Jet Propulsion Labratory who believe that invasive government background checks violate their Constitutional rights.

Former Braceros Demand Payments Owed Them

February 4, 2011

A group of elderly men, their relatives, and supporters protested outside the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles on February 3 to demand payment of wages held from the men when they were guest workers in the U.S. government's bracero program between 1942-1964.

Under the Bracero Treaty negotiated between the United States and Mexico, 10% of workers' gross wages would be deducted and put into a "savings" fund that they could claim upon their return to Mexico.

Many of the braceros were not told why this money was deducted from their paychecks or how to claim the money in Mexico. 

Decades after the bracero program ended, a Mexican government commission revealed that most of the braceros had never been paid the 10% "savings" that had been taken from their wages years earlier.

In 2002, a group of former braceros filed a federal class action lawsuit seeking payment of the funds due to them.

In 2008, the Mexican government agreed to a one-time payment of $3,500 to each bracero who could prove participation in the program. But many of the former laborers still have not been paid.

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The bracero program was part of a long history of importing Mexican laborers into the United States. During World War I, the U.S. government helped fill a labor shortage by facilitating the importation of Mexican workers for back-breaking work on farms and ranches, many in California.

After the war, the Associated Farmers, a conservative trade organization of commercial growers, contintued to recruit Mexican laborers, assuming that since they were barred from joining the all-white AFL unions, they would be a tractable labor force.

But with the onset of the Great Depression, the federal government led a massive effort to scapegoat and deport Mexicans, with no distinction made for their legal status. The government forced more than 1 million people--an estimated 60 percent of them U.S. citizens--over the border.

The tide shifted, however, when America entered World War II and faced an acute labor shortage. In 1942, the U.S. government began negotiations with Mexico to bring workers from the impoverished Mexican countryside to work in U.S. agriculture and railroads.

The subsequent bracero program lasted until 1964. 

 

Elders ask Mexican government to pay them money they earned decades earlier when they were guest workers in the U.S.

[Chapter 03] An Injury to All: The Rights of Workers

Labor leaders Tom Mooney and Warren Billings spent years in prison for the bombing of a San Francisco parade in 1916, despite mounting evidence that they were framed by the district attorney for the crime.

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Governor Acts on Civil Liberties Bills

October 2, 2012

Facing a September 30 deadline to decide on proposed legislation, Governor Brown took action on several civil liberties-related bills impacting workers, immigrants, LGBT youth, clergy, and the criminal justice system.

Workers:  He vetoed a bill that would have provided labor protections like overtime pay and meal breaks for domestic workers.  He also vetoed proposals allowing farmworkers to sue employers who deprive them of water and shade.

Immigrants:  The governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from detaining individuals for suspected immigration violations unless accused of a violent or serious crime. He approved legislation allowing undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to obtain driver's licenses.

LGBT Youth: Governor Brown signed legislation prohibiting psychotherapists from discredited efforts designed to change a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Religion: He signed a bill clarifying that no clergy members would be forced to perform marriages that run contrary to their religous beliefs.

Criminal Justice:  The governor approved a bill allowing approximately 300 prisoners, issued life sentences as juveniles, the opportunity to appeal for shorter prison terms.

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In the final two days before a legislative deadline, Governor Brown signed and vetoed numerous bills impacting civil liberties

Appellate Court Upholds Ordinance Targeting Day Laborers

June 12, 2010

In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 9 overturned a lower court decision and upheld a Redondo Beach ordinance allowing police to arrest day laborers who approach cars to solicit work.

The majority of the three-judge panel held that the ordinance,modeled after a Phoenix law, is a reasonable restriction to accomodate traffic and safety.

The dissenting judge, and advocates for day laborers, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund which brought the lawsuit, believe the ordinance violates workers' free speech rights. 

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In the early 20th century, cities throughout California passed laws restricting the free speech of labor organizers. Although both the 1849 and 1879 California constitutions guaranteed the right of free speech, the 1909 California Supreme Court ruling in In re may Thomas upheld a Los Angeles anti-street speaking ordinance.

In response to labor organizing in Fresno, city leaders passed an ordinance in 1910 criminalizing public speeches, lectures, debates, or discussions in any public park, street, or alley within a 48-block area.

Similarly, in 1912 the San Diego city council passed an ordinance restricting speech within 46 square blocks in the center of town as a means of deterring union organizers.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allows the city of Redondo Beach to arrest day laborers who approach vehicles to ask for work.

First United Farmworkers Headquarters Designated National Historic Landmark

February 22, 2011

On February 21, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, union and political leaders, and members of Cesar Chavez's family for a ceremony dedicating Forty Acres, the UFW's original headquarters west of Delano, as a National Historic Landmark.

A 1965 grape strike started by Filipiino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, was joined within weeks by Mexican grape pickers affiliated with the National Farm Workers Association. Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez.

At the time, farmworkers were specifically excluded from labor laws. A 1969 Senate Labor Committee reported that 95% of farm labor camps had no inside toilets or running water, and 99% were infested with rats and other vermin.

Child labor in the fields was common. Babies born to migrant workers suffered a 25% higher mortality rate than the rest of the population; malnutrition among migrant worker children was ten times higher than the national rate. Farmworkers suffered 250 times the rate of tuberculosis as the general population. A major cause of death was pesticide poisoning.

In 1967, the UFW called for an international boycott of grapes picked by non-union labor. In 1970, growers began signing UFW contracts which banned child labor and established a fair basic wage, as well as safety and pesticide controls.

In the late 1960s, Elaine Elinson, co-author of Wherever There's a Fight (pictured above), organized the grape boycott in Europe. In the early 1970s, she worked for the UFW at Forty Acres.

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Wherever There's a Fight co-author Elaine Elinson pictured here by a plaque at Forty Acres, the site west of Delano which was the original headquarters of the UFW
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