[Marxism] In the Valley of Fear | by Michael Greenberg | The New York Review of Books

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 8 06:39:46 MST 2018

In late June, I visited a tomato field in Fresno County near the town of 
Mendota. The fields are owned by Gargiulo, one of the biggest tomato 
growers in the country. Dozens of beat-up cars were parked at the edge 
of the various sections that were ready for harvest. Clusters of Mixteco 
workers relied on the one fluent Spanish speaker among them to 
communicate with the crew foreman and the union representative from the 
UFW who had smuggled me onto the property. During peak season these 
fields employ four hundred pickers; about 250 were working that day, 
almost half of them women, some of them visibly pregnant.

Because of the heat, the workday lasted from 5 to 10 AM, when 
temperatures rose to 113 degrees. The sun beat down, but everyone was 
covered from head to foot in several layers of clothes: cracked baseball 
caps anchored in place by hoodies and homemade scarves, sweatshirts over 
sweatshirts, two pairs of pants, heavy socks and boots; only eyes and 
cheeks and fingers were exposed. This was to protect against pesticides. 
Cancer rates among pickers throughout the Valley are high. The soil is 
so hardened by chemicals that it comes up in the hand in dry, pale 
stone-like clumps. In the heat the chemicals rise potently from the 
earth; within an hour I tasted them burning in my mouth.


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