Signs of Life :: Human Rights

:: Farmworkers Fight for Wage Increase
:: Lawyers Challenge Bush Actions
:: Bolivia Adopts New Constitution
:: Uruguay Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Unions

:: Black, Latino, Asian Americans Polled Support Community


Coalition of Immokalee Workers supporters in Miami protest Burger King's refusal to pay farms one penny more per pound of tomatoes. Photo by John Barber.
:: Farmworkers Fight for Wage Increase



The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is continuing its campaign to pressure Burger King to increase wages- for workers. On November 30, 2007, hundreds of protesters from around the country marched nine miles in support of the CIW campaign, and in January, four U.S. senators visited Immokalee and signed a letter urging Burger King to consent to the increase.


In April 2007, CIW successfully struck a deal with McDonald’s, which agreed to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes. But Burger King thwarted the deal, threatening to discontinue its purchases from Florida produce suppliers rather than pay about $250,000 more per year. The Florida Tomato -Growers -Exchange has followed suit, claiming that the increase violates antitrust laws and threatening a fine of $100,000 for any grower that agrees to the pay increase.


At current rates, the farmworkers must each pick more than two tons of tomatoes every day in order to earn minimum wage. The mostly Latino workers have some of the lowest living standards in the nation—with 10 or more people often living in a run-down trailer.


The small price increase would double farmworker pay scales, which haven’t risen in decades.


—Hannah Sassaman is a program director with Prometheus Radio Project.
:: Lawyers Challenge Bush Actions



American lawyers are taking a stand against the “possible criminal actions” of the Bush administration. American Lawyers Defending the Constitution, a partnership headed by The American Freedom Campaign, has issued a statement calling on Congress to investigate the Bush administration’s use of torture practices, illegal spying, and indefinite incarceration, as well as the administration’s obstruction of congressional oversight of the executive branch. The statement has been signed by more than 1,000 lawyers and law students.


—Margit Christenson

:: Bolivia Adopts New Constitution

Bolivians will soon vote on a new constitution that fully recognizes the indigenous sovereignty of the 36 nations within Bolivia.
The innovative document also requires basic services to be delivered on a not-for-profit basis and bans GMOs, giving priority to small organic farmers and protecting natural resources.

Under its provisions, the state must support the concept of vivir bien, described by Bolivia’s Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca as “living well, which is not about living better—that is the language of development which has caused great imbalance.
Living well is about living in harmony with others and with nature.”

Conservative elites in the eastern half of the country have refused to recognize the new constitution and may boycott the popular referendum, which is required for the document to become law.

—Juliette Beck is an independent journalist living in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

:: Uruguay Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Unions



Uruguay is the first Latin American nation to legalize same-sex civil unions. After living together for five years, couples will be eligible for civil union status, which confers the rights of married partners to inheritance, pensions, and child custody. Latin America is also home to several state and municipal governments, including those of Buenos Aires and Mexico City, that already recognize same-sex unions.


Despite high rates of racial segregation and stereotyping, the majority of black, Latino, and Asian Americans believe they should work together in order to build stronger communities, according to a New America Media poll.

Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the U.S. would improve if more people of color were in positions of authority.

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