New York Farmworker Protection Bill

gray_mMargaret Gray is a past board member of Rural and Migrant Ministry (RMM) and has been an advocate with similar organizations. This document is a point by point response to a paper by Ms. Gray entitled "Latino Farmworkers in New York: Power Constraints, Advocacy, and Backlash." Since the time of this paper (2005), Ms. Gray has published other articles and in 2013 released a book called Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic. She is currently an associate professor in the political science department at Adelphi University.


A Farmer's Response to the Work of Margaret Gray
July 3, 2005

Christopher Pawelski Pawelski Farms 736 Pulaski Highway Goshen, New York 10924 phone: (845) 258-4202 fax: (845) 258-4215 email: evep@warwick.net

My name is Christopher Pawelski, and I am a fourth generation onion farmer from Orange County, New York. Recently I came across a paper by Margaret Gray entitled "Latino Farmworkers in New York: Power Constraints,Advocacy, and Backlash." It was presented at The Second Cumbre of the Great Plains: Re-Visioning Latino America: New Perspectives on Migration Transnationalism and Integration April 22-24, 2005 in Omaha, Nebraska at the Hilton Omaha.
I am keenly interested in this topic and the work of Gray for a number of reasons. Primarily, much of what she discusses in her work involves me or many of the activities and issues I have been involved with over the last 9 years or so in regards to farmworker issues in New York State. It is my understanding that Gray is a Ph.D. (A.B.D.) student at the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center, in the Political Science Program.
I am also aware that Gray sits on the board of directors of Rural and Migrant Ministry (RMM) and is the director of the Bard Migrant Labor Project, a program with many close ties to RMM and similar organizations.
That being said, this paper, which I assume is a portion of her dissertation topic and relat- ed research, is rife with errors. For example, she states: "The Feds are responsible for levy- ing fines on growers for labor violations; the state entity, NYDOL, has no such authority" (p. 13). If Gray had listened more closely to the numerous New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) officials she interviewed or made even a cursory examination of the NYSDOL website she would have found the following (Endnote 1):
"VIOLATIONS OF LABOR LAW:Violations of any provision of the Labor Law, the Industrial Code, or any rule, regulation, or lawful order of the Department of Labor is a misdemeanor and is punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both.The Labor Law also provides for the imposition of civil penalties for each violation of labor law governing the employment of minors under 18 years of age by an employer. The penalties are fines of up to $1,000 for the first violation, $2,000, for the sec- ond, and $3,000 for the third and subsequent violations.The largest penalty for injury or death is triple the maximum penalty allowed under the law for such a vio- lation.An employer may not penalize or discharge an employee because he or she has complained to the Labor Department that the employer has violated any provi- sion of the Labor Law.The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes the Secretary of Labor to assess a civil money penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the labor provisions regarding minors or any of its regulations.This penalty is in addi- tion to those provisions for fines, imprisonment, or restraint by injunction." http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/laborstandards/workprot/ viollblw.shtm
Technical errors, like the preceding example (which is one of many I will point out), are serious, but Gray's work has much deeper systemic problems. Her primary theories and major arguments regarding "the hostile response of elites ... to the success of farmworker
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advocacy" are fundamentally unsound and unsubstantiated. Her work collapses because of it.
To emphasize, I take great interest in her work because my work and activities are at the epicenter of what she is choosing to examine for her dissertation. She specifically identi- fies me by name.Yet, she never attempted to interview me or verify what she claimed I have accomplished. Further, I know from first hand experience that much of what she claims regarding responses or "backlashes" to self-appointed advocate activities is categori- cally wrong. I know, from first hand experiences with the topics she discusses as well as from my background as graduate student (I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Iowa; I received my M.A. after passing my qualifying exam in 1990 and have taken an extended leave of absence) that her research and scholarship is weak, if not poor.
I haven't written anything remotely approaching scholarly academic work for 15 years, so please excuse my format. Most materials I will cite in the document proper. I will also pro- vide an endnote section as well as a number of attachments that will be included with the master copy of this document which will be mailed to your attention. If you require copies of anything that I cite but haven’t included with this document, please don't hesi- tate to contact me, and I will immediately send it to your attention.
I will respond to Gray's material, for the most part, in sequential order. My piece will essentially be a counter-response to her work, point by point.
Introduction
It must be first emphasized what Gray did not plainly state to many of the people she interviewed nor to her audience for this paper: She is not a dispassionate researcher but is a committed activist with an agenda. She sits on the board of RMM and obvi- ously supports and promotes their agenda and activities. Her activism and agenda would be more acceptable as a researcher if she was up front about it to the people she inter- viewed and her audience.
Her lack of disclosure of her personal involvement with RMM isn't a trivial point. It raises the following question: Why wasn't she upfront about her background and connections? More importantly, if she isn't upfront and honest about who she is, what her personal stakes are, and what her agenda evidently is, then one can certainly question the honesty and integrity, let alone the propriety, of her research methodology and whatever informa- tion she gleaned from the interviews she claimed to have conducted.
For example, she makes claims regarding why farmworkers aren't involved with these organizations (RMM, the New York State Labor Religion Coalition (NYSLRC), and the Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agrícolas (CITA)) that she doesn't substantiate apart from the interviews she personally conducted. On the other hand, there is university research that directly contradicts her claims, which I will cite. Because of her subterfuge in some of her interviews, coupled with her personal agenda, anything she claims regarding
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information she obtained via personal research/direct interviews is suspect and open to question.These claims are central to much of her theories, and if they aren't correct her conclusions and the bulk of her research is invalidated.These claims are the same claims frequently made by RMM et al.
Her deep bias raises other vital points. She is intimately involved and is an inside player with these organizations, but for some reason fails to address basic facts about these organizations, including:
1. How they were created 2.Who created them 3.Who primarily funds them 4.Who controls them
You can't adequately make the argument that these supposed power elites (growers, agribusiness, farm lobby organizations, etc...) are dominating the political and cultural landscape when you don't disclose who they are supposedly dominating over. Or maybe you don't, because you can't, because the truth doesn't fit your position and analogy.When very large and powerful, well-financed and politically connected religious institutions and labor unions are behind these organizations, it invalidates her claim that power elites on the grower end of the equation are inordinately controlling the political and cultural land- scape over these relatively powerless organizations (her characterization).
A "David vs Goliath" analogy is appropriate, the problem for Gray is that in reality "David" is the growers and their allies while "Goliath" are these behemoth religious and labor union organizations pulling the strings on these self-appointed advocate organizations that rank and file farmworkers, by Gray's own admission, aren't involved in.
At one point over the past few years, my wife and I spoke with a legislator who was being heavily pressured to support legislation lobbied for by the self-appointed farmworker advocates. S/he confided in us, quite candidly, that s/he knew RMM et al were "full of shit" (his/her words) but s/he had to respect them because of Hughes.That's NYS AFL-CIO President Dennis Hughes.The power elite here was Hughes, represented by his proxies RMM et al, not Chris Pawelski or New York Farm Bureau (NYFB).
What Gray needs to do, and doesn't, in her research is to thoroughly examine and detail the background of the organizations (RMM et al) behind the activities she supports, and then juxtapose their actions on their successes and failures to determine the reasons why they have or have not succeeded and what the future holds for them. Misrepresenting the self-appointed advocates skews her research and her conclusions.
That being said, in the academic setting it is expected and encouraged to have vigorous debates and discussions about a topic arguing the merits of various viewpoints.This is not what this is. Ph.D's are not usually awarded to persons that support theories for the flat- earth society and they are not awarded to theories supporting the idea that the Holocaust
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never happened.Why? Because in order for a theory to have merit it must be grounded in fact. In this paper I will clearly show how Gray has glossed over or outright ignored numerous facts and in doing so has strayed from establishing an academic theory to sim- ply mouthing the propaganda of a small group of self-appointed advocates.At its essence her paper becomes nothing more than a meager attempt to loosely apply some political/social theories to this group's propaganda so as to assign legitimacy to their agen- da and activity. More disturbing, from an academic standpoint, is that she is so immersed in their thinking that she is either unwilling or unable to add virtually any new theory or concept of her own. I can say this with certainty as I have read and possess virtually every piece of writing, web posting, public speech and newspaper clipping that has been pro- duced by and about these groups over the past 10-15 years, and I will liberally refer to them.
Main Body
Gray bases much of her suppositions upon her field interviews. She attempts to bolster the credibility of this very small sample by stating that her findings mirror those of larger studies. Is this true? How were these interviews conducted?
Gray states: "My research includes participant observation and extensive field interviews with 113 farmworkers and 45 advocates, employers, legislators, and others (2001-2003)" (Paper abstract). She further adds:
"My research on farmworkers in New York's Hudson Valley reflects the general characteristics of workers in five counties, and not all of the state's farmworkers. The data from my interviews with 113 farmworkers, however, does show parallel findings to recent studies mentioned above of New York farmworkers, in other parts of the state" (p. 6).
One has to ask, what does "participant observation" mean? She actually worked in the fields, barns and orchards alongside workers as she conducted these interviews? Or, more likely, does it mean she engaged in some sort of social activism with the self-appointed advocate organizations as she conducted these interviews?
If it's the latter it must be emphasized that the overwhelming majority of rank and file genuine farmworkers in NYS do not participate in the activities of these organizations. (Endnote 2) The few that do are either former farmworkers or farmworkers who are com- pensated by the advocate organizations for their participation. So if the workers she chose to interview were somehow chosen or connected with RMM et al, they are most likely a tainted sample, not reflecting the opinions and concerns of the overwhelming majority of farmworkers in NYS.
I spoke directly with four persons she interviewed and indirectly with a couple of others. All reported to me that Gray was deceptive towards them. She did not disclose her con- nection with RMM or some of her activities. She portrayed a different attitude and agenda
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to them during the interviews.After reading Gray's work, they are quite angry. Because of her deceptive tactics and methodology, a reasonable person can then cast doubt on the integrity of her first-hand research and the claims she makes based on those interviews. And it appears that it's this first-hand research that is her sole evidence of support for the bulk of her claims regarding worker motivations and perceptions.
Gray states: "New York State has a relatively small yet important agricultural industry. Its farms hire approximately 45,000 workers a year" (p.2).
Even if she interviewed 113 genuine farmworkers, and those farmworkers were not hand picked by RMM et al, and she was honest in how she conducted the interviews, even if all of that is true (and again, a reasonable person can raise legitimate questions regarding any or all of those points), can a sample of 113 people, evidently not taken from a cross sec- tion of farms across NYS but from one region (which she acknowledges "reflects the gen- eral characteristics of workers in five counties, and not all of the state's farmworkers"), truly represent the concerns of 45,000 individuals? Is the size and the methods she employed to determine her sample appropriate and valid for her to make the claims she makes regarding worker motivations and/or perceptions?
At the very least for her claims to have any validity, she has to disclose where the inter- views were conducted, how the interviewees were chosen, and under what circumstances the interviews were conducted. Did she use a survey questionnaire? If so, were any of the questions open-ended? Were her interviews conducted in Spanish or in English? If in Spanish did she use an interpreter? If so, who was the interpreter affiliated with? If she conducted the interview in Spanish is she fluent? Obviously her paper that I'm comment- ing on is not her entire dissertation, but one would hope her dissertation answers these sorts of questions.
Interestingly, I have a letter in my possession dated 7/9/93 from the Cornell Migrant Program (CMP) Director Herb Engman to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Orange County Agricultural Program Leader Lucy Joyce regarding CCE of Orange County doing a farmworker survey/census. Engman in part states:
"Once again, I advise extreme caution on the question of the census of farmwork- ers, especially migrant farmworkers.You must establish a clear definition of migrant farmworker (there are several, usually based on eligibility standards for the various federal programs).Then you must have a defensible strategy for collecting the data which, as Professor Chi points out, is unusually difficult. It is usually advisable to have an independent body conduct the research; those with a vested inter- est will be accused of 'cooking' the data. If the Orange County Association is to be connected to the survey, I would further advise that you link with a campus researcher who can help design the plan and defend the methodology.As you can tell, I am nervous about such a survey unless it can be done right. My involvement in research has been rather extensive even though I am not a researcher; I would not touch this effort unless I had total confidence in the research plan and the
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researcher." (Emphasis mine)
When one considers Gray's obvious vested interest in this issue and with these self- appointed advocate groups, coupled with her questionable interview tactics and unstated methodologies, Engman's advice to Joyce regarding conducting survey research seems eerily prescient.
Gray claims: "In the past twenty years, the demographic composition of New York's farm workforce has changed dramatically from being three-quarters southern Blacks in the mid 1980s to predominantly undocumented Latinos, mostly Mexicans, today" (p. 2) I've seen this claim before, mainly by CMP Director Engman.Yet, Gray never cites where she gets this demographic information from. Merely citing Engman isn't good enough, because I have never seen Engman cite a credible study to back this claim regarding the demograph- ic composition of farmworkers either.
Anecdotally, being born in 1966 and working on my family farm since the summer of 1971, what I know about the demographic makeup of the workforce doesn't match Gray's claims.There were very few southern blacks working on farms in Orange County in the early 1970's (Orange County produced at the time over half of the NYS onion crop and was a significant producer of celery and lettuce, amongst other vegetable crops, with onions, lettuce and celery requiring a large labor force).Again, as I remember, the bulk of farmworkers from the early 70's onward were from Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Philippines.Already by the mid 1980's a number of workers were from Mexico and vari- ous Central American countries, including Honduras and Guatemala, who were primarily replacing the workers from Puerto Rico and Jamaica. By the early 1990's the overwhelm- ing majority of farmworkers locally were from Mexico or Central America.And allow me to again emphasize this point, Orange County, specifically the black dirt region of the county, was and still is a significant employer of migrant farm labor.
I also recently spoke with two NYSDOL officials who told me that the farmworker popula- tion of Wayne County and the Kings Ferry camp matches Engman and Gray's demographic claims.This is the county and farm that CMP staff would have had the most familiarity with. It would appear that the CMP staff have taken what they are familiar with and extrapolated it out and applied their farmworker demographic experiences to the entire state. It's lazy research. Now, all the above on my part is purely anecdotal information, but notice, I'm prefacing it as such.What are Gray's sources for her farmworker demographic claims? Can she back it up with any legitimate and credible demographic studies?
Regarding "obstacles that hinder more effective forms of worker advocacy and how can they be minimized" she cites a number of social theorists. She states:
"Resource mobilization theorists argue that formal organizations, rather than spon- taneous or self-organized protest, are the key to stimulating, managing, and shaping worker discontent (Daniel 1981; Jenkins 1985). Subsequently, organizational resources - funding, professional organizers, media access - allow groups to sustain
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challenges (Jenkins 1985; McCarthy and Zald 1977).The other side of this debate argues that the need to maintain and safeguard these same resources impedes worker action, and furthermore, that professional advocates and organizations tend to be paternalistic and controlling (Piven and Cloward 1977). Some analysts see promise for organizations that adopt radical goals, but otherwise, they argue, organi- zations will simply maintain the status quo (Collins and Whalen 1989;Withorn 1984)" (p. 3).
Interesting, but she doesn't stake a position with one of the above-mentioned theories. I would argue that "professional advocates and organizations tend to be paternalistic and controlling" comes close to accurately describing such organizations as RMM and their attitudes towards the people they are "helping." In fact, "paternalistic" may not be a strong enough word.
The fact is that the overwhelming majority of rank and file, genuine farmworkers in NYS have not elected, selected, designated, chosen or requested RMM, CITA, or any other simi- lar organization to represent them or speak in their behalf.The overwhelming majority of rank and file, genuine farmworkers in NYS do not attend the planning or board meetings (if such meetings are genuinely ever really held) of these organizations or participate in their larger scale protest or lobbying events.And when farmworkers have attended their annual lobby days or similar activities in the past, they were compensated for their partici- pation.The compensation usually amounted to less than a typical farmworkers typical day's wages. (Endnote 3) The compensation was and is for image purposes for the public relations campaign that is a crucial part of the RMM et al lobbying and fund-raising activi- ties.The farmworkers "presence" or their "standing with" the advocates is essentially filling the role of paid extras. It is, quite obviously, critical to RMM et al's campaign to give the impression that these activities are some sort of bottom up or grassroots driven event, which they obviously are not.Also, it's not my experience or my understanding that a small amount of walking around money (it's not even what a typical farmworker earns in a typical day) can ameliorate the sort of fear Gray suggests severely and primarily inhibits farmworker involvement in the self-appointed advocate movement and activities. I guess $40 buys a lot of "courage."
RMM and the other organizations know that virtually no farmworkers participate in their organizations, and they have come up with various excuses for their lack of involvement.A primary reason given is "fear," (Endnote 4) something that Gray highlights (and later I'll develop more fully).These self-appointed advocates frequently paint a picture of naïve, childlike waifs, constantly in fear.The inference is that they need (even though they may not realize it yet) groups like RMM to "take care of them." This implication smacks of Rudyard Kipling’s "white mans’ burden." The individuals that I am personally familiar with cross our borders, navigate through a different culture, find and maintain employment, and support not only themselves but also family members back in their home countries.These individuals, who survive and even thrive, do not need RMM or anyone else to "take care of them." I find this contention to be patronizing, condescending, and borderline racist. Characterizing the attitude of these organizations as being "paternalistic" may be being
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kind.
By the time RMM Executive Director Witt was deposed by the NYS Lobby Commission his organization had been aggressively pursuing its three pronged agenda for close to a decade.And according to his sworn deposition the most farmworkers he could get involved in the planning sessions of his organization's activities was roughly two or three. (See endnote 2) Doesn't that fact bother Gray, or at least raise some red flags? Maybe, just maybe, the overwhelming majority of farmworkers in New York are not pushing RMM et al’s legislative lobbying agenda because they aren't in a constant state of "fear" and RMM and the others don’t represent real farmworkers’ issues, needs and concerns.This legiti- mate contention is something that Gray obviously never considers, addresses or entertains. The question she doesn't ask is: Who do these organizations really represent? These organ- izations speak in behalf of the organizations that primarily fund them, very large religious dioceses and institutions, including various Roman Catholic and Episcopal Diocese in NYS. This is an issue that should be of prime importance to Gray, and her close ties with RMM should enable her to obtain quality, first-hand information for analysis.Why doesn't she pursue it? This is an issue I will later expand on.
While never revealing her relationship to these organizations, Gray goes on to discuss their “vulnerability,” which she loosely equates with the powerlessness of actual farmwork- ers. For Gray these two groups become one and the same. Other than her interviews, is there any evidence to support this? Gray states:
"My research shows that, in the case of organizational advocates for New York farm- workers, rules and institutional cultures do make them vulnerable to attacks by those interested in limiting organizational activity.These attacks have diverted advo- cates' efforts from their intended work and detracted from their effectiveness"
(p. 3).
I must admit that I find this comment by Gray to be deeply disturbing.What exactly does she mean by "rules and institutional cultures make" the self-appointed advocate organiza- tions "vulnerable to attacks?" Is she minimizing what laws, rules and regulations these organizations have broken over the years? Does she even comprehend how many laws they have broken and in what way they have broken those laws? Allow me to be perfectly clear, we are not talking about minor infractions or "gray areas." We are talking about breaking black letter law, including state lobbying law, federal appropriation law and IRS code.These are serious offenses carrying serious penalties. Further, is Gray arguing that there is something intrinsic about self-appointed farmworker advocate organizations that makes their following the law more difficult? Or, is breaking the law a common occur- rence among non-profit advocate organizations in general?
What makes Gray's comment here (and later comments regarding this issue) more disturb- ing is the fact that she sits on the board of directors of RMM.As a board member she has a fiduciary responsibility to the contributors/donors and/or members to see to it that RMM not only knows but also complies with the various laws that pertain to them and their
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activities. I don't think she is allowed to excuse those laws if they happen to "limit organi- zational activity" or inhibit its "effectiveness" to accomplish its goals.
Workers’ Power Constraints Gray states:
"Practical barriers aside, there are significant institutionalized obstacles to farmworker organizing, with roots in agricultural exceptionalism and racism” (p. 4). Later Gray again takes up the issue of "agricultural exceptionalism." She adds:
"In the 2005 'State of Agriculture' speech, the New York Agriculture Commissioner dedicated time to defending growers against disparaging media claims and declared that downstate New Yorkers do not understand the particular challenges of agricul- ture.Agricultural exceptionalism of this sort is a common defense against advocates who argue for stricter agricultural legislation, including labor and environmental regulations" (p. 13).
What does agricultural exceptionalism mean? When a rural person complains that an urban legislator doesn't know what s/he is talking about in reference to agricultural issues that's "agricultural exceptionalism?" So, when rural legislators complain how "The War Emergency Tenant Protection Act" (rent control) stifles the free market, harms the very persons it's intended to help and should be repealed. And the urban legislators counter that the rural legislators haven't the foggiest clue as to what they are talking about and don’t understand the unique challenges of maintaining affordable rent in the city, is that "urban exceptionalism?" Persons like myself find it to be curious that some of the loudest legislative voices regarding farmworker issues are from legislators from the Bronx and Queens, who probably have never stepped on a farm in their lives. (Endnote 5)
With regard to farmworkers, what are the protections they receive under the law? Gray would have us believe there aren’t any. She states: "Most important, U.S. agricultural work- ers were excluded from the National Labor Relations Act (1935) and, as such, are not cov- ered by collective bargaining protections” (p. 4).This is the first of many mentions of the "exclusions," a common topic of the self-appointed advocate organizations. Gray later details the self-appointed advocate "exclusion" list:
"In New York State, as in most states, farmworkers (including citizens) are excluded from collective bargaining protections, the right to overtime, and the right to a day of rest, among other labor law exclusions" (p. 7).
Since the "exclusions" is a prominent topic and mantra of Gray (mentioned by her some four times in her work) and these organizations, they must be addressed.What Gray refers to euphemistically as the "exclusions" others would characterize them via the less rhetori- cally charged term, "exemptions." Gray's allies have taken the existence of these exemp- tions to extrapolate out the claim that farmworkers are "vulnerable" in NYS, virtually
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unwatched and unprotected by the public and regulatory eye.This is a primary rationaliza- tion for the passage of the self-appointed advocate sponsored legislation.
The claim or inference of little to no government oversight is patently false.While there are some exemptions to some of the various labor laws affecting farmworkers, there are roughly a dozen or more federal, state and local governmental agencies overseeing a plethora of laws that regulate the living and working conditions of farmworkers, including the U.S. Department of Labor, a number of different divisions of the New York State Department of Labor (including Rural Employment Services, Labor Standards and a Monitor Advocate), the state and local county Health Departments, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, OSHA, the EPA, and the NYS Worker’s Compensation Board, amongst others.These laws include the Migrant Seasonal Protection Act (MSPA) which is specific federal legislation that only applies to farmworkers. (In 1963 the federal government passed labor legislation specifically for farmworkers,The Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act.This legislation was amended with the passage in 1983 of the The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.) The NYS Department of Labor produces a little green book (in English and in Spanish) entitled "Protection for Farm Workers." The book states, "Farmworkers:You should know that there are federal and state laws related to employment that provide important protection for you." The book then details laws covering housing, pay, transportation, working conditions and how to make complaints about employers to the NYSDOL.
Yes, there are some exemptions regarding some of the labor laws. But exemptions to a law aren't unusual. Numerous exemptions exist in numerous portions of our criminal and civil codes, on the local, state and federal level.There are specific and legitimate reasons for those exemptions in agricultural labor law. But to paint a picture of virtually no laws or protections is an incredibly misleading hyperbole. How many other industries can claim a dozen or so governmental regulatory oversight agencies for its employees?
Interestingly, Gray in her 12th endnote in reference to the drinking water legislation, states:
"It is worth noting that the New York Farm Bureau, Farm Bureaus countrywide, and most growers oppose any additional regulation that would add to the myriad laws that already cover their industry."
The allies of Gray never want to discuss those exemptions individually, within the contex- tual framework of agricultural historical and current production and marketing realities. No, the "exclusions" are "unjust" and anyone opposed to their agenda is deemed "unjust" or somehow morally unfit. I find this to be a very disturbing rhetorical tactic. First, the illogic and hypocrisy of this position. If all "exclusions" are "bad" then what about the tax "exclusions" that these organizations (as well as the heavyweight religious institutions that are primarily funding them) benefit from? Aren't they "bad?" Simple deductive reasoning:
All exclusions are bad
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Tax exemptions for charities/religious institutions are "exclusions" Therefore "tax exclusions" are bad
Right?
Or do they get to decide which "exclusions" are okay? Who assigned these organizations with the authority and responsibility to be the final arbiter of which exemptions to our civil and/or criminal codes are "just?" It seems to me that it's that kind of smug, self-right- eous and arrogant attitude of people thinking that they know what's "just" and anything that's opposed to them isn't, which similarly dominated the minds of the individuals that flew those planes into those buildings on 9/11.Their outright hypocrisy regarding these issues for their own industry's employees makes their public dictates to agriculture even more appalling. (Endnote 6)
Gray then states what I believe is the fundamental key to the self-appointed advocates claims for legitimacy in speaking in behalf of farmworkers. She states:
"These constraints on workers' power to collectively act help explain why New York, and the Northeast as a whole, has witnessed very little farmworker protest, strikes, or organizing.Workers' quiescence is not an indication of satisfaction with their jobs; it is a result of workers' fear of speaking out and their willingness to accept poor working conditions because of their lack of political power" (p. 5).
As previously mentioned this nebulous "fear" coupled with the supposed horrid living and working conditions of farmworkers as well as an almost total lack of legal protections and government care for farmworkers are the primary rationalizations given to explain the obvious lack of farmworker participation in, and support of, these organizations that claim to speak on behalf of farmworkers. Fear has been used frequently over the years by the self-appointed advocate groups, especially RMM. (Endnote 7) This claim is crucial to Gray's research and the bulk of her assumptions. Since she is forced to admit that the over- whelming majority of rank and file, genuine farmworkers in NYS are not active or even passive members of the various self appointed farmworker advocate organizations, she is forced to theorize about why they do not participate. So to explain their lack of involve- ment, she claims that they are not satisfied with their jobs but instead quiesce because of fear. (Endnote 8)
To emphasize, this theory is crucial to the bulk of her subsequent claims and assumptions. If this theory isn't true, if NYS farmworkers are generally satisfied with their working con- ditions, if NYS farmworkers are not quaking in fear and not engaging in the sort of actions Gray would like them to simply because Gray's (and the self-appointed advocates) con- cerns don't match theirs, then, her research tumbles down like a house of cards.
Let me point out that she doesn't cite a single, credible source to back what amounts to being nothing more than an unsubstantiated supposition. She neither substantiates the claim that workers are in a constant state of fear nor, more importantly, does she substanti-
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ate her contention that "quiescence is not an indication of satisfaction with their jobs." Where is her evidence to back this assertion?
Further, Cornell University has recently produced two studies, studies which Gray makes reference of, that directly contradict her contention.The first study is entitled "Immigrants and the Community: Integrating the Needs of Immigrant Workers and Rural Communities," by Max J. Pfeffer and Pilar A Parra (released November 2004). http://rnyi.cornell.edu/poverty_and_social_inequality/000174.php
What was the survey methodology? The authors state:
"We chose five New York agricultural communities in different economic and social contexts that have relied heavily on hired farm labor. Each community has a minori- ty population of some significance and a history of immigrant farmworkers settling there.The communities have African American and/or Puerto Rican in addition to Mexican populations. Our qualitative data are drawn from interviews with key informants and focus groups with foreign-born farmworkers and former farmwork- ers.We also conducted focus groups with white nonimmigrant residents in the communities. Key informants included political, business, and religious leaders; police and school officials; farmers; and nongovernmental social service providers. The quantitative data include survey responses from three target groups: current foreign-born farmworkers former foreign-born farmworkers, and nonfarm commu- nity residents. Furthermore, to compare our findings with similar ones from a statewide perspective, we drew on the Cornell University Empire State Poll 2004, Immigration Omnibus Survey."
They add in the "Appendix: Data Collection" the following:
"The qualitative data we draw on come from 41 interviews with key informants and 18 focus groups each with between 4 and 15 male and female participants (149 total).We conducted seven focus groups with Mexicans (three with groups of migrant workers and four with persons who had settled in our study sites), two groups of Puerto Ricans, two groups of African Americans, and one group of Haitians and Jamaicans.The African American and Puerto Rican participants were former farmworkers who had settled in our study sites, and the Haitians and Jamaicans were current farmworkers who lived in community farmworker housing. Information about the Puerto Ricans and African Americans is not presented in this report (with the exception of Figure 8) because we have focused only on foreign born current and former farmworkers.We also conducted seven focus groups with long-term nonimmigrant residents in the communities.The focus group participants were identified and recruited by collaborators from the Cornell Migrant collabora- tors from the Cornell Migrant Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Catholic Migrant Ministry,Wayne County, the Independent Farmworkers Center (CITA), and the Farmworker Community Center (the Alamo). Our key informants were also identified by these sources and included political, business and religious leaders, police and school officials, farmers, and nongovernmental social service providers.
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The quantitative data include survey data for three target groups: current farmwork- ers (N=582), former farmworkers (N=656), and nonfarm community residents (N=1,250). Furthermore, some items in our survey of the nonfarm population of the communities were included in a statewide representative sample of New Yorkers (Cornell University Empire State Poll 2004, Immigration Omnibus Survey, N=820, Survey Research Institute, Cornell University).The examination of the quali- tative data provided the general guidelines for the development of our survey instruments.We designed three questionnaires for each target population.To assess the accuracy of the survey instrument, we pretested the three questionnaires on 150 individuals."
And:
"We identified current and former farmworkers with the assistance of collaborators at Rural Opportunities, Incorporated (ROI). ROI works with farmworkers and other underserved populations in rural and/or agricultural areas in four northeastern states and Puerto Rico, and is active in each of our study communities. Most impor- tant for our study, ROI administers the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Farmworker Job Program.Thus ROI is in regular contact with farmworkers at work- places and residences (both on-farm and off-farm residences). Bilingual ROI person- nel completed interviews with farmworkers in conjunction with regular program recruitment and administrative contacts. Given ROI’s large client base in New York, this method of selection was a productive means of identifying and recruiting farm- workers for interviews.This selection method excludes farms and residences not accessed by ROI. Practical sample selection alternatives would have resulted in sim- ilar or perhaps more pronounced selection biases. Given the difficulties in identify- ing and locating the farmworker population, we feel confident that our selection method yields a fairly accurate representation of the farmworker population in the five communities."
The preface to the study thanks CITA and another advocate organization, Rural Opportunities Incorporated, for its "supportive" assistance. It hardly can be claimed that this study is somehow biased against the self-appointed farmworker advocate organiza- tions.
What were some of this studies findings? They include:
"Foreign-born farmworkers reported that the major challenges to working in the United States are learning the language and gaining access to health services, edu- cation, and training. Other important challenges are finding places to socialize and learning the U.S. culture."
"The majority of foreign-born farmworkers feel that the communities in which they live are welcoming. However, a significant minority has expressed mixed feelings about the communities’ receptiveness of immigrants."
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"We asked foreign-born farmworkers: 'In your opinion, what are the major chal- lenges and needs you have working in the United States?' The respondents were allowed to state whatever came to mind.The pattern of responses indicated a strong interest in obtaining employment, housing, and health services and develop- ing the skills and knowledge to access them. Ninety percent of farmworkers we interviewed wanted to learn English. More than 50 percent desired education and/or job training, and more than 30 percent expressed an interest in learning about U.S. culture.These findings indicate that the most common concerns are associated with employment, housing and health care, and the skills needed to obtain them.While a large proportion of respondents did not mention access to transportation or lack of immigration documents, lack of transportation could mean the loss of one’s job, and problems with immigration documents present the risk of deportation, both serious concerns to those affected (Figure 11)."
"Figure 11" is a graph which lists what respondents reported were "major needs identified by foreign-born farmworkers." They are:
1. Learn English (roughly 90%) 2.Access to health care (roughly 60%) 3. Education/training (roughly 60%) 4. Housing (roughly 55%) 5. Places to socialize (roughly 50%) 6. Learn U.S. culture (roughly 40%) 7. Immigration documents (roughly 5%) 8.Transportation (roughly 5%) 9.Workplace conditions (roughly 2%)
If workplace conditions or employment related issues (which RMM et al primarily focus on) were truly of prime importance to farmworkers, doesn't it stand to reason that "work- place conditions" would have been mentioned by a significantly greater number of respondents?
The second study is entitled "Survey of Hispanic Dairy Workers in New York State" by Thomas R. Maloney and David C. Grusenmeyer (released February 2005).The Executive Summary, in part states: "The survey included 111 Hispanic employees on 60 New York dairy farms.These farms are situated in 17 counties and distributed fairly evenly across the State." In the Challenges/Obstacles subsection it states:
"Both workers and employers identified challenges in the cross-cultural employ- ment situation. Employees indicated that their greatest challenges in order of priori- ty were crossing the border, language and lack of freedom to do what you want. Employers, on the other hand, indicated that the top three obstacles were language, culture and immigration issues.When asked what they liked most about their jobs, the top six answers workers provided in order of priority were: milking, 'every-
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thing,' animals, work environment, the job is not boring and/or the job is calm/tran- quil. When asked what they liked most about their employer, 74% indicated that their employer was a good man who takes care of his workers and 28% indicated that their employer is calm and doesn't yell. However, 10% said there was nothing they liked about their employer or made a negative comment." (Endnote 9)
Later, in the "Job Satisfaction" section it states:
"Workers were asked to state the one thing that they like most about their job. They were not provided a list of possible response options and the following unprompted responses emerged. One out of three (29%) workers mentioned milk- ing specifically, while nearly one out of five (17%) talked about their work with ani- mals in general, almost one out of ten (9%) referenced 'tranquility' or 'calm' (often in association with milking) and 7% appreciated being able to work alone. Approximately one out of ten liked the easy work or the fact that they were treat- ed well (12%) and/or the fact that they are always busy and never bored (10%). One out of five (20%) said they liked 'everything' about their job. (See Figure 22)"
This section then states:
"When asked what they like most about their employer or supervisor specifically, also on an unprompted basis, most (74%) of the workers surveyed talked about their boss being a 'good man' and treating them well in general. More than one out of four (28%) explicitly pointed out that their employer's demeanor (i.e., calm, doesn't yell) was what they liked most.After that, 5% mentioned that their employ- er was fair and 2% said that trust (in both directions) was the quality they liked most about their employer. Importantly, one out of ten (10%) workers made a point of saying that there was nothing positive about their employer or provided a partic- ular negative comment. (See Figure 23)"
This section adds:
"Workers were also given the direct opportunity to point out the negative when they were asked to describe the most difficult things about their job. Overall, nearly four out of ten (39%) workers said that they found nothing difficult about their job. However, one out of four (26%) talked about their responsibilities and expressed some concern about living up to them (e.g., taking care of sick animals, fixing machinery, etc.). One out of five (20%) complained about the cold weather, one out of ten (11%) struggled with communication issues, and 2% were bored or lonely. (See Figure 24)"
The final part of this section states:
"The final question in the survey asked workers if there was something in their sit- uation that they would like to change or improve. More than one-half (52%) of the
15

workers surveyed stated that there is nothing that they would like to change or improve about their situation. However, the remaining one-half of workers did comments.At the top of this list was wanting to change their immigration status so they could have more freedom to move around the country (13%), followed by more money or benefits (10%), transportation so they can get off the farm (8%), changing farms (8%) and/or learning to speak English (6%). (See Figure 25)"
It should be noted that "treatment" was a response of 2% of the farmworkers surveyed and "better housing" was a response of 1% of the farmworkers surveyed.The reduction of the ongoing "fear" felt by farmworkers, according to Gray and the organizations she identifies with, did not make the list. Neither did any of the usual items mentioned in the self- appointed advocate organizations' legislative lobbying laundry list. In contrast 52% sur- veyed stated there is nothing about their jobs they would change if they could and 74% talked about their employer, on an unprompted basis, as being a "good man" that treats them well.These responses hardly match the picture painted by Gray and the organiza- tions she identifies with.
And that takes me to the next sentence from Gray, where she states:
"Farmworkers in New York, today and historically, face poor housing, illness and inadequate healthcare, low-wages, exclusion from labor laws, the absence of full- time employment, and social and economic isolation" (p. 5). (Endnote 10)
Quite a bleak picture. But is it accurate? An article for World Hunger Year website entitled "Serving Farmworkers" (dated 2003) covers some of the programs available to farmwork- ers in NYS, and it paints quite a different picture. It in part, states:
"Farmworkers in the US are offered a range of services - supported by federal, state and local government, as well as by non-profits, community organizations, churches and individuals.The most extensive services are offered in health and education.
With increased attention to their education, higher numbers of farmworker chil- dren are headed to college, although, if they are undocumented they are not eligi- ble for any state or federal funding and this often serves as a barrier to higher edu- cation. Moreover, state legislatures are creating policies to exclude the undocument- ed from in-state tuition rates. New York State has actually done the opposite, thus offering the lower tuition for such students, however, the implementation of this policy at the college level is slow and sometimes contradicts the law.
Other services that cater to migrant farmworkers include: pesticide training, day care, legal services, immigration counseling, English classes, substance abuse pro- grams, WIC, Medicaid, job training, job placement, housing, domestic violence coun- seling, women's groups, high school equivalency programs, soccer leagues, recre- ation, arts programs and emergency services." http://www.worldhungeryear.org/why_speaks/ws_load.asp?file=50&style=ws_table
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There are actually fourteen state and federally funded migrant daycare centers throughout New York State as well as 4 state and federally funded migrant health care centers, includ- ing one in the Hudson Valley, where Gray supposedly based her research.Also, there are eleven Migrant Education Outreach Programs (M.E.O.P.s) throughout NYS (including one in the Hudson Valley, the Mid-Hudson Migrant Education Outreach Program) as well eight identified related support services for M.E.O.P.s. (http://employees.oneonta.edu/thomasrl/state_dir.html)
What would Gray's response be to the author of this World Hunger Year article? It's hard to say, since the author is identified as being former World Hunger Year employee Maggie Gray. She also states in this WHY article:
"In the Fall of 2002 I ran a project through the Bard College Migrant Labor Project to inform farmworkers of available services, answer questions about services and to interview them about their experience with farmworker services. I worked with Bard student interns and we distributed information to about 200 workers and interviewed 114 workers.
When we asked workers what they needed help with, the most needed service was learning English followed by help getting legal papers. Other services included securing drivers' licenses, finding full time work and job training. State legislatures across the country are passing laws making it more difficult to secure drivers' licenses, particularly post 9/11.The irony of this is that drivers' licenses serve to keep track of workers and open the door to registering and insuring cars.As a result, more and more workers are driving unregistered, uninsured cars without drivers' licenses."
So, fear isn't a primary motivating factor which discourages farmworkers from participat- ing in the meetings, agenda and activities of such groups as RMM? And what she found that workers needed most in this survey she conducted wasn't what RMM operatives fre- quently repeat? Will the real Maggie Gray please stand up?
Further, one can find on the U.S. Department of Education Office of Migrant Education (OME) website (OME is the federal agency that oversees the various federally funded migrant education programs throughout the U.S.) the following information:
"Migrant Services Directory: Organizations and Resources (2003) - The Directory of Services (2003) provides summaries and contact information for major Federal pro- grams and national organizations that serve migrant farmworkers and their families. It can be used as a tool for increasing coordination among programs and organiza- tions that serve the same client population." http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/ome/migrantdirectory.pdf
The list of public and private agencies and services offered primarily (and at times exclu-
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sively) to farmworkers and their families is quite impressive. Let me also add what the Cornell Migrant Program study from September 1991, entitled "Research on Migrant Farmworkers in New York State," by Peter S.K. Chi, Shelley White-Means and Janet McClain found. It stated, in part:
"A recent study (Chi, 1985) indicated that all migratory farmworkers (including some immigrants) in the sample had worked an average of 13.2 years as farmwork- ers, and long-term native-born migrants had also worked an average of 7.24 years for the same employer.The persistent working patterns suggest that migratory farmworkers are loyal workers in agriculture and should be considered an integral part of the receiving community rather than being treated as drifters."
The study further reports that the overall average (both recent and long-term farmwork- ers) was 4.68 years of farmworkers working for the same employer.A Cornell University press release about this study adds, "the average migrant returned to the same farm in New York state an average of four years, with some returning reliably for more than 20 years." http://www.news.cornell.edu/general/PRESS92/PR12189202.html
The obvious question begged is, if working conditions are so bad, and farmworkers are so mistreated and in such fear, why would they return to New York State (versus California, or Arizona, or Michigan, etc....), to the same employer, year after year after year? Can Gray address this and back her claims with credible evidence?
Factors contributing to the powerlessness of farmworkers
Since she has no studies or credible evidence to support her claims, Gray theorizes four factors that contribute to the powerlessness of farmworkers. Gray states: "First, the risk of deportation intensifies workers' fear of speaking out" (p. 6). Gray is obviously implying that if a farmworker crosses a farmer the farmer will move (or threaten to move) to have that worker deported. How many examples of farmers calling immigration authorities to have their employees deported after a confrontation can Gray cite? Can she cite any such examples? Even one? I highly doubt it.
There is currently an acute labor shortage in NYS, and the last thing an employer is going to do is deport any portion of their workforce. Not only will it leave them with no one to work on their farm, but the farmer will also get an unsavory reputation among the work- ers. Gray may not believe it, but farmworkers do communicate amongst themselves.
Further, farmers for many years have been very active in NYS in attempting to get federal legislation changed so as to allow farmworkers to obtain legal status. Long before this issue was ever even mentioned by the self-appointed advocate groups NYFB and individ- ual farmers like myself have traveled to Washington DC to lobby on Capitol Hill regarding this issue (Endnote 11). Gray should know this, for I'm sure NYFB staff conveyed this fact to her.Also, NYFB has produced a series of talking points as well as articles in its publica- tions highlighting the issue of the majority of farmworkers being undocumented and the
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need for the laws to be changed. If a farmworker's undocumented status was advanta- geous to a farmer, and the farmer coveted that situation, why would farmers be working over the years to fix the situation and help farmworkers gain legal status? (Endnote 12) To imply that farmers are somehow holding a farmworker's legal status over their heads as a means to make them in some way subservient is an unsubstantiated and scurrilous claim.
Let me add that two of the NYSDOL employees that Gray interviewed bristled at this infer- ence by Gray in her paper. Neither is aware of a single example where a farmer reported some or all of their workforce to the INS or Department of Homeland Security as a puni- tive response to a job dispute with an employee. Like much of what Gray and her cohorts state, there is a scandalous allegation which lacks credible substantiation. (Endnote 13)
It stands without reason to state that this "fear of deportation" which evidently mollifies farmworkers will only exist if it is common knowledge among farmworkers that they can and will be deported if they come into conflict with their employers. If there are no such examples of farmers turning their employees in to immigration authorities, if it's not a reg- ular, common or even occasional occurrence, if farmworkers don't really believe their employers will turn them in, then, how can this fear develop? Can Gray explain that to me?
Gray then follows her statement about deportation with:
"Second, farmworkers' aspirations to return and permanently reside in their home countries (whether or not it comes to fruition) influences workers' short and long- term goals and contributes to their reluctance to speak out" (p. 6).
Does the available research bear this claim out, that (evidently) a majority of farmworkers "aspire to return and permanently reside in their home countries?" Not according to the Pew Hispanic Center recently released (dated March 2, 2005) report entitled "Survey of Mexican Migrants:Attitudes about Immigration and Major Demographic Characteristics." It states in part:
"•When asked how long they expected to remain in the United States, a majority of respondents picked either 'as long as I can' (42%) or 'for the rest of my life' (17%). Meanwhile, 27 percent said they expected to stay for five years or less. • By a 4-to-1 margin (71% vs. 18%), survey respondents said they would participate in a program that would allow them to work in the United States and cross the bor- der legally on the condition that they eventually return to Mexico. Respondents who said they had no form of U.S.-issued photo ID were even more positive (79% vs. 16%).
• Among respondents who said they intended to stay in the United States for 'as long as I can' or for 'the rest of my life,' a clear majority—68 percent—said they would participate in a temporary immigration program that would require them to return to Mexico.Acceptance of the idea of a temporary program was even high- er—80 percent—among those who stated an intention to return to Mexico within
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five years. • By a margin of 72% to 17%, respondents said they would participate in a program that offered the prospect of permanent legalization for migrants who lived here for five years, continued working and had no problems with legal authorities. Respondents who said they had no U.S.-issued ID were even more positive (79% to 15%). • The largest shares of positive responses to questions about both programs came from young, relatively recently arrived migrants, who comprised nearly half of the total sample. • By wide margins, respondents in the overall sample (79% vs. 13%) and among those who said they had no U.S.-issued ID (82% vs. 12%) said that their friends and family in Mexico would be willing to participate in a temporary worker program that would eventually require them to return to Mexico."
The responses in this Pew Hispanic Center study certainly sounds like the majority of those surveyed would prefer to stay in the U.S. permanently but would participate in a temporary program if required.This certainly contradicts Gray's claim and her second explanation of "worker powerlessness."
Third, Grey adds:
"They are willing to endure poor working and living conditions and are disinclined to engage in actions that put their jobs at risk, including trying to improve their working conditions. Moreover, workers, particularly on small farms, often perceive that their boss might protect them from risks, such as immigration authorities, and a complicated paternalistic relationship might develop further discouraging the worker from making a complaint" (p. 6).
A "complicated paternalistic relationship" where the worker "perceive that their boss might protect them from risks, such as immigration authorities?" Wait a minute, a mere sentence or two ago Gray had the farmworker cowering under the threat of deportation on a moment's notice over the slightest confrontation. Now we have a "complicated pater- nalistic relationship?" Which is it?
Of course Gray never conceives of the possibility, which the aforementioned Cornell dairy labor study brought out, that farmworkers might genuinely like their employer and feel, genuinely, that their employer is, as 74% stated in that survey, a "good man." Nor does she consider the possibility that not only might farmworkers perceive their employers in this way but, the perception might be reality and the farmer might really be a "good man." In Gray's world (which is in the self-appointed advocate orbit) a farmworker actually liking their work and their employer is inconceivable, akin to some sort of undiagnosed psycho- logical dysfunction requiring therapy, versus the obvious answer that the worker actually likes their job and employer.
I would like to point out, clearly, that all of these complicated scenarios and rationaliza-
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tions exist to explain why farmworkers in NYS, for the most part, are not involved with these self-appointed advocate organizations.They are not involved in their activities or their agenda. Instead of the obvious being true, that these organizations represent the issues and concerns of the organizations that created and fund them, Gray argues that, no, they really do represent farmworkers, and what they lobby for is really what the major- ity of farmworkers in NYS want – even if farmworkers don't know it, let alone show it. Two key questions are raised:
1.Which position sounds more plausible? 2.Which position does the evidence support?
Gray concludes this point with her fourth reason: "Finally, transnational workers rationalize their situations by comparing themselves to those in their home countries rather than to other U.S. workers" (p. 7). Interesting. I would imagine that farmworkers are comparing their situations to farmworkers in their home countries, which would be an appropriate "apples to apples" comparison.
What the self-appointed advocates do, consistently, is compare farmworkers in the U.S. to workers in other industries (factory, retail, etc...) which is an "apples to oranges" compari- son.They want to take the labor laws and make comparisons outside the contextual framework of reality.They don't take into account the differences in the work, including how affected by external and in many cases uncontrollable circumstances (like climate and seasons), or the different qualifications required for the jobs (being a police officer requires an entirely different skill set versus picking apples). Or how governmental policy, which is a reflection of societal priorities, affects the rules and laws for employment (for example: a safe and abundant and cheap food supply is considered important to national security). Or what the current marketing realities are.
None of these factors are taken into account.The argument is simply "all other workers have this" (of course "all" isn't a true statement either). So, I argue that if and when a farm- worker compares his or her situation to a counterpart working as a farmworker in their home country, and their priorities and positions on certain issues are based on that, well, that's more appropriate than a self-appointed advocate comparing a farmworker outside of reality to a worker in another industry. (Endnote 14)
Self-appointed Advocates and their Organizations
Having reiterated the rationalizations of the self-appointed advocates, she also reiterates their conclusion that “as a result of these multiple barriers, New York farmworkers rely on advocates to address their needs” (p. 7). But if the argument for the necessity of these organization is false, it is all the more important to look at how these organizations func- tion and how they are funded. Not surprisingly, Gray automatically assumes the legitimacy of these organizations and goes straight to a discussion of their activities. However, her inability to clearly explain “how and why growers have attempted to undermine advoca- cy” is directly related to her errant assessment of farmworkers and her blind acceptance of
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the need for self-appointed advocate organizations.A closer look at these self-appointed advocate organizations is needed.
In discussing the the self-appointed advocate organizations, Gray states: "New York State has seen coordinated advocacy efforts for farmworkers by non-profits and a coalition of activists since the early 1990s" (p. 7).This heightened lobbying activity and other "advoca- cy efforts" coincides with Rev. Richard Witt assuming the Executive Director's position at RMM in 1991. I would argue that he is the catalyst for the bulk of these "advocacy" activi- ties, and if he had not become the Executive Director of RMM the overwhelming majority of these "advocacy" activities would not have happened. (Endnote 15)
Gray then states:
"Several organizations play key roles in promoting farmworkers' agendas.The Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agricoles [sic] (CITA) organizes farmwork- ers, draws attention to workers' concerns, and negotiates on workers' behalf with growers. CITA can legitimately be described as an organization of farmworkers, with farmworkers on its board of directors" (p. 8)
CITA can be "legitimately described as an organization of farmworkers" only if we can redefine the word "legitimately." A more apt description would be that CITA is a front or proxy organization. It's purely a creation of RMM. As RMM states on its website:
"CITA, Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agricolas/The Independent Farmworkers Center, a farmworker advocacy organization directed by farmworkers, is created in Florida, NY with the help of RMM." http://www.ruralmigrantministry.org/about/about_3.asp
They shouldn't be so modest. RMM paid employee Joe Regotti, according to RMM materi- als, set up CITA, including obtaining their lucrative tax designation with the IRS and their initial filings with the NYS Department of State and the Charities Bureau of the office the New York State Attorney General. In fact, according to Witt during his Encuentro 2000 presentation, RMM received a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development which funded the creation of CITA.The 1995-96 Annual Report for RMM, in an article about the staff states (Note: the Independent Farmworkers Center is an earlier name for CITA):
"Joe Regotti, Field Minister (part-time) - Joe's half of the RMM Field Minister posi- tion is dedicated to a half-time position at the Independent Farmworkers Center (IFC), plus certain responsibilities with RMM (Joe attends all RMM staff and board meetings and help out with other special activities.) The IFC, in turn, funds his posi- tion, reimbursing RMM for the total cost of his employment, except for a small por- tion, which RMM funds directly."
All funding two steps aside, Regotti worked for RMM. In an article entitled "Farmworker
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Support" written by Regotti for the same RMM publication, he states:
"For the Independent Farmworkers Center (IFC) this past year has been one of institutionalization.Through Joe Regotti, the Ministry is in the final stages of assist- ing the staff and members of the IFC attain independence. Most of Joe's work has been to assist the organization in this process, helping to build a stable staff and board, finishing the federal 501(c)3 process, and, yes, raising funds.The fund-raising is a challenging task.Time really flies when you're responsible for coming up with $10,000 every time the calendar turns to a new month.With the success of the process, first of independence, and then of institutionalization, most of Joe's time working for the IFC is now occupied in grant writing and building relationships with funders. Joe continues to participate in the weekly staff meetings and semi- monthly board meetings, where the analysis and strategic planning for the organiza- tion take place. Joe has also stayed somewhat involved in the outreach of the IFC towards the broader community, helping to facilitate encounters between the farm- worker community and other faith communities -- building bridges, as we've come to call it. Rural and Migrant Ministry has played a very important role in helping the IFC to build bridges with the broader community.This work has been an essential element in our shared goal of addressing the structures of racism and exclusion that are built in to our society. In these first months of 1996 the leadership of the Independent Farmworkers Center has begun to explore ways to take what would amount to be the final step of self-sufficiency vis a vis Rural and Migrant Ministry: to establish a sustainable financial development strategy that doesn't depend on RMM or Joe. Since the organization doesn't have the funds to hire a development director they are looking into a creative option that involves contracting with a trusted and experienced labor and grassroots movement fundraiser to do the major fund-raising.At this point the possibility seems promising.The staff and board of the IFC will be meeting with the fundraiser in the coming weeks. If they are successful in this endeavor RMM will have succeeded in helping farmworkers to completely establish their own organization."
Gray’s claim regarding CITA's board of directors is also extremely problematic. On Part V of the 990 tax return, the filing organization, according to Internal Revenue code, is required to provide the following information:
"As to Part V—List of Officers, Directors,Trustees, and Key Employees List each per- son who was an officer, director, trustee, or key employee (defined below) of the organization or disregarded entity described in Regulations sections 301.7701-1 through 301.7701-3 at any time during the year even if they did not receive any compensation from the organization. Enter a zero in columns (B), (C), (D), or (E) if no hours were entered in column (B) and no compensation, contributions, expens- es and other allowances were paid during the reporting year, or deferred for pay- ment to a future accounting period."
Here is what CITA reported each tax year 1998 through 2002 as their List of Officers,
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Directors,Trustees, and Key Employees:
Year: 1998:
1999:
2000:
2001:
2002:
Name
Adrian Ramirez Alejandro Mendoza Roberto Cid
Adrian Ramirez Alejandro Mendoza Aspacio Alcantara
Adrian Ramirez Sandra Maldonado Charles P. Barrett Aspacio Alcantara
Adrian Ramirez Sandra Maldonado Charles P. Barrett Aspacio Alcantara Jennifer Adler
Aspacio Alcantara Jennifer Adler
Title
President Vice President Secty/Treas
President Vice President Director
President Secretary Treasurer Director
President Secretary Treasurer Director Secretary
Director Secretary
Compensation
$22,000 0 0
$23,989 0 $27,169
$25,000 $19,167 $18,404 $29,167
$28,341 (pay + benefits) $9,413 $17,500 $34,950 (pay + benefits) $10,758 (pay + benefits)
$30,000 $30,250
That is code, to the IRS for tax years 1998 through 2002. It isn't until their 2003 tax return (filed after 11/15/2004) did they provide the IRS with a list of board members. On that return Alcantara is listed as Executive Director and was paid $37,125;Adler was listed as Administrative Assistant and paid $15,500; a Salvador Solis was listed as Director and paid $27,583; and, a John Solberg was listed as Administrator and paid $31,775.The return fur- ther names 17 other board members, all unpaid, the majority identified as a Director.There is also a President, a Vice-President, a Secretary and a Treasurer.
I contend that CITA had no functioning board of directors prior to 2002.And I think seri- ous questions can be raised regarding the legitimacy and the viability of the board now reported to the IRS. Simply put, as a puppet or proxy organization or tool of RMM, CITA didn't need a functioning board of directors to operate and accomplish its purpose of being a public relations tool for RMM and its propaganda regarding the grassroots nature of this "movement." The reason they probably formed (or just named) a board in 2002 is because I had been hammering them in the press and all over the internet regarding the fact CITA had no functioning board and was merely a tool of RMM.Any claims of CITA independence or autonomy from RMM became untenable without naming a codified board of directors.
the extent of the board of directors for CITA reported by CITA, as required by tax
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If I'm wrong, and CITA did have a functioning board of directors prior to 2002, or since 1998, or even prior to 1998, why didn't they disclose it to the IRS? It seems odd they wouldn't disclose such a fact, especially since disclosure was required by the IRS code.
The notion that CITA is somehow a grassroots creation, that genuine farmworkers who became activists percolated from the bottom up to form that organization, is patently false and absurd. CITA was directly created by RMM, with RMM resources and RMM staff fuel- ing and controlling its creation. It is purely a top down created proxy organization.And it mirrors the organization that most directly created it, RMM. For RMM itself is not a bottom up formed grassroots organization either. It was a creation of a number of large religious diocese and institutions in NYS, primarily the Episcopal Diocese of New York.The current as well as two previous Executive Directors have been Episcopal priests (the 4th was a Presbyterian minister). (Endnote 16) Further, their primary initial funders were these same large religious institutions, especially the Episcopal Diocese of New York. (Endnote 17) However, they have branched out and, for the past few years, have been gobbling from the grant revenue trough, both from religious or sectarian grantmakers like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development or the Trinity Church Grants Program as well as non- sectarian foundations, including the Dyson Foundation.
I will argue that simply because RMM has expanded where they get their funding from doesn't mean they don't know "who their daddy is." And they are similar to the New York State Labor Religion Coalition. It too is a proxy organization, being the dual creation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and the NYS United Teachers union (NYSUT).They have shared their office location with the NYSUT since, I believe, its creation, even moving with the NYSUT when they moved from Albany to Latham a few years ago.Their co-chairs are the head of the NYSUT and the Bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
Instead of trying to perpetuate this tired old myth that CITA was created by farmworkers and is some sort of grassroots farmworker organization wouldn't it be more interesting and certainly more honest for Gray to research and report on the reasons and actions by RMM behind CITA's creation? And who created RMM and the NYSLRC? Why were they created? Who funds them primarily? Who dictates their respective agenda? As a board member for RMM, Gray is an inside player and would have access to information others aren't privy to.Why expend so much energy on trying to explain growers and grower organizations (which she has no real connection to and even less of an understanding of) versus examining the institutions she not only has more contact with but is also actively involved with? Why just repeat the simplistic, unsubstantiated myths and propaganda that anyone with even a miniscule amount of information can blow holes the size of a Sherman tank through with minimal effort?
One would assume that this would be an area of research interest to Gray.A research terri- tory she could stake out and claim as her own. How these large religious institutions and labor unions have created these proxies and used them to further their social agenda. By creating these buffers (Endnote 18) these institutions are able to lobby and meddle in
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other areas outside of their primary venue or expertise, with little threat of repercussions or backlash. If RMM or CITA or the NYSLRC break NYS lobby laws or federal tax or appro- priation laws, they pay the price not the organizations that primarily fund them and pull their strings behind the scenes.
In fact, the primarily government funded migrant serving agencies, like the various migrant health centers or migrant education programs are the first "buffer." It's those organizations that initially get nailed with whatever fine or other punishment for violating the various laws or rules regarding their activities for their association with RMM et al.And If politi- cians eventually chafe after being on the receiving end of strong arm lobbying tactics, if the press gets wise to their shenanigans and not only stops breathlessly repeating their propaganda but instead starts proactively exposing them, if the public sours on their med- dling and expresses it, the buck stops with the proxies.The various religious institutions, like the Episcopal Diocese of New York, or labor unions, like the NYSUT (Endnote 19), by keeping their hands clean, usually don't suffer any negative consequences. (Endnote 20)
Gray then states:
"The Justice for Farmworkers Coalition (JFW) is a statewide effort to improve con- ditions for farmworkers. It includes staff from the three organizations and from farmworker service organizations as well as other individuals.Taking direction from farmworkers themselves, as articulated through CITA, JFW has a three-pronged strategy for achieving its goals: 1) an organizing campaign to build a base of farm- workers and identify farmworker needs, 2) a legal strategy to address worker griev- ances and set precedents through legal cases, and 3) a legislative campaign to gain equal rights for farmworkers under New York State law" (p. 8).
There is no "Justice for Farmworkers Coalition" (JFW).This is a fictional creation of RMM designed to disguise the fact that these activities are purely being done by RMM or those directly connected with them (like CITA).Yes, a large number of institutions (mainly reli- gious) have signed on their organization's name to such an entity, and they may contribute a modest sum to it, but any money they do donate goes straight to RMM's bank account and is used by RMM, not the JFW. It is nothing more than a list of names on paper.And though some organizations may donate a modest sum these named organizations donate virtually no significant resources, whether it be financial or staff time.The JFW has no address (as far as I have seen it shares RMM's mailing address), no officers, no corporate structure nor does it meet on a regular or even irregular basis. It doesn't publish anything. It is not incorporated or registered with any official governmental agency. It does not exist outside of the RMM propaganda machine, unless Gray can produce some sort of credible evidence to the contrary.
And allow me to emphasize once again, when Gray claims that "several organizations play key roles in promoting farmworkers' agendas" (p. 8) and the organizations she lists include CITA, RMM and the fictitious "The Justice for Farmworkers Coalition," that claim is cate- gorically false. Once again, these organizations are not made up of farmworkers.The over-
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whelming majority of genuine farmworkers in NYS have not elected, selected, designated or requested these organizations or their leaders to represent them or speak in their behalf. Literally a handful of genuine farmworkers attend their meetings or lobbying events and the few that do attend are paid to be there.And their policy positions are not developed from the bottom up in a grassroots fashion.These organizations promote the agendas of the organizations that created them, primarily fund them and pull their strings. It is not the agenda of farmworkers. Simply saying it is and repeating it ad nauseum, does- n't make it so.
Gray states:
"The most successful of these three strategies has been the legislative campaign, aimed at passing an omnibus bill to put farmworkers in the state on the same foot- ing as most other workers by removing their exclusions from labor laws.The omnibus bill has passed in the state assembly since 1997, but has not yet gone to the floor of the state senate, which is much more susceptible to rural influence, due to political pressure from growers and the Farm Bureau" (p. 8).
As opposed to the ill-informed and naive New York City based Assembly legislators that have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by RMM propaganda? And that are more sus- ceptible to the hardball lobbying tactics and political pressure that their labor union and religious institution "allies" are able to bring to bear on those urban Assembly members? How is that different? Or, does Gray really believe that this sort of political hardball and lobbying is only being done by growers and those allied with them?
Gray rightly points out that the primary activity of these organizations is their “legislative campaign.” She states:
"However, three pro-farmworker laws have passed, giving momentum to the legisla- tive campaign.These include a 1996 law requiring cool, clean drinking water in the fields for workers, a 1998 law requiring sanitation and hand washing facilities for fieldworkers, and a 1999 minimum wage law putting the state's minimum wage for farmworkers at the same level as that for other workers" (p. 8).
I must point out that I find this to be fascinating. For years though RMM et al talked fre- quently about their legislative lobbying activities, including these "accomplishments," in their own produced literature as well as in the press, they did not disclose this to the NYS Lobby Commission (Endnote 21) or the IRS (Endnote 22). It wasn't until they were investi- gated and fined by the Lobby Commission that they finally registered and admitted on their annual tax returns to the IRS that they did do some lobbying. I guess being registered lobbyists with the State of New York forced them to at least make this partial admission. But why did they not fully disclose to these oversight agencies the fully extent of their lobbying activities? Why do they, to this day, not honestly disclose to the IRS what their primary purposes are as well as what their primary program services and activities are as well as how much legislative lobbying they really do? The reason is obvious. Because what
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they are doing is breaking the law, and they know it.And Gray knows it.And yet it doesn't seem to bother Gray.
RMM's leadership, mainly Witt, knew full well what lobbying is and that what he was doing constituted lobbying. He spoke of it frequently in the press and in his journals. He also knew that his lobbying activities brought him out of compliance with the laws gov- erning his tax status. He was told this years ago by Stash Grajewski, Director of the Farmworkers Community Center in Orange County (known as the "Alamo"). It's also revealed in his sworn deposition before the NYS lobby commission (Endnote 23).
Gray, as an RMM board member, has a fiduciary responsibility to the donors of that organi- zation to see to it that the organization complies with all relevant laws. Not just with the ones that are convenient or don't directly conflict with their "mission from God." She knows what the laws are governing non-profits engaging in an inordinate amount of leg- islative lobbying, and she has chosen to ignore those laws.As RMM Executive Director Witt has lied to the IRS each year about his program services when he has filled out RMM's tax returns or in the past when he has lied about their lobbying activities, RMM board of director member Gray's evident tacit approval of Witt's perjury (the crime you commit when you lie on your tax return) calls into serious question her personal ethics and integrity. (Endnote 24)
In discussing the passage of these pieces of legislation she further states:
"However symbolic, the passage of this law was welcomed as a huge victory by farmworkers and advocates. It had taken five years for this law to pass because the New York Farm Bureau robustly lobbied against it (Gordon, 1999). During that peri- od, the advocates were able to turn the Farm Bureau's opposition to the drinking water law into a successful media story, portraying agricultural employers as too greedy to provide drinking water to farmworkers, which could be provided with ease and little expense.A well-known U.S. folk singer wrote a song about the bill. Symbolically, the five years leading to that first legislative 'victory' would provide impetus for farmworkers, advocates, and allies to continue their efforts, establish strong media connections, educate the public on farmworker conditions, and arouse public sympathy for the farmworkers' cause. Later in the campaign, the New York Daily News ran a 14-part editorial series titled 'New York's Harvest of Shame' about conditions for farmworkers.This series has been credited with helping to influence the minimum wage law for farmworkers and the paper won a George Polk Award.These were factors that could lead to greater success" (p. 9).
There is so much to discuss here. First, I spoke with the NYFB staff member Gray inter- viewed for her research and this staffer confirmed to me that NYFB took no position on the drinking water legislation and "certainly did not and had not opposed the bill." What is Gray's evidence that NYFB either actively, or even passively, as an organization opposed the drinking water legislation? (Endnote 25)
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Second, I had never heard of the "well-known U.S. folk singer" and I must admit the impor- tance of this quasi-known (in my opinion) folk singer writing what probably amounts to a cheesy song about this legislation is lost on me.The New York Daily News, on the other hand, is a different matter.
The New York Daily News series was rife with misinformation, distortions and out and out falsehoods. Not surprising since RMM et al were the newspaper's primary sources. I antici- pated that a key motivation behind all of the attention the Daily News was giving this issue was their hopes to win a second consecutive Pulitzer Prize for its editorial board. (Endnote 26) Witt actually confirmed that the Daily News was gunning for a Pulitzer Prize. (Endnote 27)
In anticipation of this I wrote up a detailed response, point by point, regarding the series, including photographs and other documentary evidence which directly refuted the over- whelming majority of material written by the Daily News and contained in the series (a copy of my response is included with this document). I then took that material and sent it to the Pulitzer Prize judging board as well as every major news award board.
Every judging board that received my material prior to their award announcement did not give an award to the Daily News for their series.This included the Pulitzer Prize. I also sent my materials to the few award committees that gave the Daily News an award before I could preemptively contact them. One such award, as Gray references, was the George Polk award. Once I learned of the Daily News winning a Polk award, I immediately sent the Polk award committee the material I wrote about the series. I then followed up what I mailed to the Polk award committee with a phone call to Sidney Offit, the George Polk Award Curator. He told me that the George Polk award is not typically rescinded, but if they had received my materials beforehand, the Daily News would not have received the award. He was mortified.
My response to the Daily News series was also the basis for my submitted testimony before the NYS Senate joint Agriculture and Labor committee hearing held on January 26, 2000 in regards to farmworker issues. (Endnote 28) And I'm not sure what the Daily News getting a Polk award is supposed to prove anyway. Hoodwinking an award committee and conning an award out of them doesn't necessarily validate the material that is the basis for that award or the actors behind it.Anyone remember Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan?
Gray states:
"The legislative campaign was a strategy that advocates and allies could easily engage in, unlike a farmworker organizing effort. It involved letter writing, visiting legislators, contacting the media, and other strategies that are more available to advocates than to farmworkers themselves. Farmworkers dictated the overall direc- tion of the legislative campaign and were involved on many levels, yet the legisla- tive strategy was largely handled by the advocates. In response, the media spotlight- ed the advocates as much as the farmworkers" (p. 10).
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Yes, motivating a bunch of well meaning but woefully uninformed church goers to do their various grassroots lobbying activities (while simultaneously shilling for donations) was, I'm no doubt sure, relatively easy to do. But, what farmworkers “dictated the overall direction of the legislative campaign and were involved on many levels?” The two or three Witt admitted under oath that participated in his organization's planning meetings for their annual lobby day in Albany? Yes, I'm sure the self-appointed advocates "handled the legislative strategy" and with good reason the media focused their spotlight on them.They did that because it was the self-appointed advocates behind these activities and doing the bulk of this sort of work.Why on earth would any media outlet focus on the token one or two farmworkers, most likely paid for their participation, filling the obvious role of a prop? If a media outlet did that it quite obviously would call into question the very legitimacy of the story and/or coverage.
Gray adds:
"It is not unusual that workers were not more involved in the implementation of the legislative campaign.Across the country,workers and their organizations encourage allies and advocates to use their resources to further workers' aims. Many justice movements, like the JFW campaign, have multiple strategies, of which influencing policy is one. JFW's legislative success stimulated backlash against the advocates, by growers, and, in turn, against the farmworker movement as a whole" (p. 10).
Of course it's unusual. It's why RMM et al make every effort to create the illusion that farmworkers, genuine farmworkers, from the grassroots level actively support and direct these efforts. It was RMM et al's demonizing rhetoric and agenda that if ever fully imple- mented would bring about serious harm, to farmers and farmworkers and the agricultural industry as whole in NYS that has stimulated backlash against the advocates.What does Gray expect? And I would add that (as I stated in a posted reply on the Cornell Daily Sun website) that there is no genuine farmworker "movement." That's a contrived myth.What farmers like myself are responding to are the efforts by large and powerful institutions who are using proxies to implement what they think is "just" or "right," their social policy. If this was a genuine farmworker "movement," it's highly unlikely a farmer like myself and a handful of others would be able to cause the sorts of problems to the point (as it appears when one reads Gray's material) of almost derailing this "movement."
Grower Power
Gray next moves on to a discussion about grower power by primarily looking at NYFB and NYSDOL. In this section she also includes some interesting, if not obvious, observa- tions about “issue networks” in New York agriculture. I am not familiar with this theory, but Gray’s only application of it,“revolving door employment”comes across as mundane.A similar type of revolving door network scenario that Gray describes exists in most indus- tries.“Actors” in an industry get jobs in that industry because they have knowledge of that
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industry.
What I find more interesting is the paternalistic need Gray and her cohorts have to insert themselves into an industry they know little about.Their willful, ignorant insertion is not meant to be complementary but is purposefully divisive and based upon falsehood.When study after study shows that the concerns of farmworkers are not the concerns of advo- cates, Gray offers nothing else in this paper to show why this “issue network” might be detrimental to farmworkers. On the contrary and by Gray’s own admission, grower organi- zations support many of the things actual farmworkers say are important to them.
When Gray discusses NYFB and how NYFB policy is developed, she actually has a very good, very accurate description of how NYFB policy is created. It is a quintessential bot- tom-up, grassroots, rank and file, member driven policy development.And it's open. She states:
"The most important of the policy actors in this area is the New York Farm Bureau, a business association (not part of the government).The Farm Bureau is the pri- mary voice of agriculture in the state because it represents the state's growers and generates opinions on issues regarding agriculture, that are likely to be echoed by all of the other agricultural policy actors. On labor issues, the Farm Bureau supports policies such as the availability of migratory and seasonal workers, free childcare for farmworkers' children, and farmworker healthcare clinics. Some of the policies it explicitly opposes are overtime, a mandatory day of rest, and the establishment of collective bargaining protections for agricultural workers.The Farm Bureau creates the main priorities for agricultural interests and does so from a ''grassroots' policy development process'' which starts with county-level Farm Bureaus and culminates at an annual statewide meeting. Individual growers are integral to the process at every step. It disseminates information on these priorities and lobbies for them" (p. 12).
This all stands in stark contrast to how the self-appointed advocate organizations, like RMM,develop their policy.Theirs is top down.A core group of unappointed and unelected "advocates" create policy for a group of individuals that are not part of their various organ- izations, let alone policy development process.And it's done behind closed doors.And, for the most part, it's the self-appointed advocates which do the overwhelming majority of lobbying, while a paltry handful of farmworkers may, on rare occasion, engage in lobbying activities, of which they are usually compensated for their minor contributions. Farmers, on the other hand, actively engage in lobbying efforts along with paid NYFB staff.
Her claims regarding the NYSDOL are misleading, and there is nothing here that is a com- pelling example of favoritism towards growers. Gray states: "Another Department of Labor rural representative, Dave Lusana, was on the board of Agricultural Affiliates, a grower asso- ciation focused on labor issues" (p. 10-11).
NYSDOL employee Dave Lauzon (Yes, it's Lauzon, not Lusana. It's that keen attention to
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detail that inspires confidence in Gray's researching, interviewing and reporting skills.) does attend Agricultural Affiliates board meetings.What Gray leaves out though is of inter- est. It was reported to me by multiple sources that Lauzon and NYSDOL outreach worker Eduardo Rodriguez attempted to, on several occasions, attend the Cornell Migrant Program's "Working Together Group." This group was a collection of the various legiti- mate, government funded agencies and programs that provide services to farmworkers, as well as many of the self-appointed advocate organizations. But, they were not allowed to attend.The Cornell representative charged attendance fees that were outrageously high and specifically designed to discourage NYSDOL employees from attending.As was report- ed to me, NYSDOL employees attempted to work with such groups as the "Working Together Group" but were rebuffed at each and every turn.With that in mind, Gray can't legitimately cast negative aspersions regarding Lauzon attending Agricultural Affiliates board meetings. (Endnote 29)
Gray claims:
"Other reasons why they might favor growers is that some NYDOL representatives have a background in agriculture and have established community ties to growers. Moreover, the rural representatives, for the most part, are white and do not speak Spanish, this makes it not only easier for them to identify with the growers, but it also distances them from the workers and makes it easy for the workers to identify the representatives with the growers.The NYDOL also has some former farmwork- ers and non-Anglos on staff, yet they do not represent traditional sources of power the same way as whites and agricultural interests" (p. 13-14).
Actually, three of the NYSDOL rural representatives, who are white males, speak fluent Spanish. One served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay, another studied at a University in Mexico.Though some NYSDOL representatives do have agricultural backgrounds (Which would be expected since they are working in the agricultural employment arena.What background would Gray expect, a traditional Broadway musical theater background instead of agriculture?) some do not. One representative's educational background is in education/business while another has a human services background and has worked pre- viously for migrant education and migrant health programs.
Further, her criticism of NYSDOL employees being "white and do not speak Spanish" strikes me as being very funny, when you consider the Executive Directors or "leaders" of RMM, ROI, the NYSLRC and the Greater NYSLRC are all white males. Only the puppet organization CITA has a Hispanic female as its Executive Director.This is just another example of Gray's inherent bias blinding her and compromising her research.
Gray states:
"One example of NYDOL sympathies for growers, which I heard from several sources, was that NYDOL representatives have encouraged growers to contact their legislators in order to appeal fines from the Feds. I heard of no cases where the
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NYDOL representatives recommended that farmworkers seek outside help. In fact, NYDOL representatives told me repeatedly that farmworkers did not need advo- cates. Several also told me that the advocates persuaded workers to lodge fake com- plaints about their labor conditions" (p. 14).
Regarding Gray's claim that NYSDOL employees recommend growers to contact legisla- tors, I would argue that she is slightly confused. NYSDOL representatives may have advised growers to appeal federal fines, which is the right of growers under the law. I'm not sure what contacting a legislator would accomplish in regards to a grower being assessed a fine by a USDOL representative. Regarding NYSDOL employees recommending to farmworkers that they seek "outside help," I don't know what scenario or situation would require that. Farmworkers aren't being assessed fines or penalties for violations of relevant state or federal labor law. Under what circumstances or situations would they need to contact a legislator?
Further, the aforementioned NYSDOL publication entitled "Protection for Farm Workers" provides the phone numbers, addresses and other relevant contact information for a plethora of agencies, including numerous NYSDOL offices, the NYS Workers' Compensation office, NYS Department of Health and numerous numbers for the USDOL. And, to emphasize, this booklet, printed in English and Spanish, is distributed widely to farmworkers. In fact, NYSDOL has a staff of six outreach workers that have the primary task of distributing "Protection for Farm Workers" to farmworkers. Five of the six outreach workers speak fluent Spanish, something Gray doesn't mention.These outreach workers/NYSDOL employees also distribute information on the various support services available to farmworkers in NYS, including: migrant education programs, migrant health programs, Rural Opportunities Inc., and the Department of Social Services. Outreach is their primary job task.
Gray continues: "Two of the four NYDOL representatives I interviewed spoke disparaging- ly of the advocates" (p. 14). I'm surprised all four didn't.
Gray later states: "Anecdotally, it was also significant that in the two NYDOL rural employ- ment offices I visited, Farm Bureau bumper stickers were displayed" (p. 15).
I'm not sure what the "significance" of this is. I have a sign outside of our farm's office that states: "University of Iowa: Restricted Parking: FANS ONLY." The "significance" of that sign is that I'm a fan of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. It does not mean that I strictly enforce what the sign states. Coincidentally, I was also told that those NYFB bumper stick- ers are FREE and that's why the NYSDOL had them. Perhaps if Gray had asked rather than assumed, she would have learned the same thing.
The Backlash
The difference between her heading in her final section,“ The Backlash: How Growers Use Their Power Against Advocates,” and her subsequent sentence,“ My study reveals a huge
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disparity between the power of the workers and the power of the growers” is telling about the mindset of Gray.As I have already stated and Gray has failed to prove, advocates are not the same as farmworkers.Their concerns and goals are clearly distinct. Gray wants her audience to believe that the recent setbacks the advocates have suffered are a direct indication of the powerlessness of farmworkers. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no correlation. She fails in this regard because she neither evaluates the power behind the self-appointed advocate organizations nor does she accurately assess the moti- vations of grower organizations, or a grower.
She states:
"My study reveals a huge disparity between the power of the workers and the power of the growers. Moreover, when growers' power is threatened, they react aggressively by trying to suppress their opposition. Growers and other agricultural actors have used multiple strategies to undermine farmworker advocates.These include shaping public opinion, influencing policy, challenging funding, and pro- moting audits of advocacy organizations' activities" (p.15).
Why didn't she examine the "power" of the very large, well funded and socially entrenched religious institutions and labor unions that are bankrolling these self-appointed advocate organizations? As Witt himself stated during his presentation at Encuentro 2000, as he discussed the effect of the media in general and the New York Daily News in particu- lar in regards to his lobbying activities::
"But in turn they did twenty editorials over the past year around farmworker jus- tice issues. And I have been utterly amazed at the power of media. I had no idea that media was so powerful. But I have heard Senators say, you got to get the Daily News off our back. Uhm, So, media, the church, the unions, and all of a sudden I woke up this year and you know, these are all the ingredients of a civil rights move- ment.And I don't want to miss this.You know, I want to live this up.And so we keep uh, battling that on the legislative front."
This scenario is anything but powerful farmer and farmer related organizations dominating weak farmworker and self-appointed farmworker advocate organizations.This is instead a situation about very powerful institutions (as Witt says, media, churches, unions) attempt- ing to impose their will on the agricultural system via proxy organizations over politically weaker farmers and their organizations.And they've attempted to do it while violating numerous laws and regulations in the process.And yet they still don't succeed. I propose this is more of a testament to their unfounded primary rationalization, bankrupt positions and corrupt methodologies versus the power of farmers and their allies.
Second, it's not "growers' power being threatened" that has prompted me to act. It's the possibility that the legislation lobbied for by these disingenuous organizations might pass that has motivated me to action.The possibility of these laws and rules being enacted, which would be devastating to my industry and my ability to continue to what I do to
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make a living, it is this threat that has prompted a reaction on my part.As a matter of fact I have to ask, what "power" is she talking about?
Gray states:
"In New York, small producers are eking out a living as they compete with corpo- rate agriculture to supply their produce to huge supermarket chains, which control prices and keep a larger percentage of the profits, thus reducing those of growers. New York growers are also competing globally with their products. For example, the apple concentrate market has been all but lost to China, an ascendant player in apple production" (p.28).
I have to admit Gray on certain levels baffles me. Her comments that "huge supermarket chains, which control prices and keep a larger percentage of the profits, thus reducing those of growers," is absolutely correct. Gray seems to grasp something the self-appointed advocates utterly fail to understand, (Endnote 30) the fact that farmers are price takers, not price makers, and the ever consolidating outlets (whether it be processors or the gro- cery store chain stores) firmly control the prices farmers typically receive for their prod- ucts.And what farmers typically receive is roughly 20% of each food dollar spent at the retail level.This is a fundamental marketing reality usually lost on the self-appointed advo- cates.
But then, despite her cogent observation, Gray states:
"At the same time, growers are fighting a local campaign for farmworker rights' campaign, they perceive as having the potential to put them out of business due to increased labor costs. Might we say they are waging a pyrrhic battle?"
Obviously neither Gray nor RMM et al are agricultural economists. She (and her allies) clearly has a very rudimentary understanding of historical as well as current agricultural production and marketing realities.That being the case, neither she nor her allies has not performed an economic impact analysis on the effects of the removal of the various labor law exemptions in connection to agricultural employment.They have no clue as to what the actual costs or effects (including unanticipated and unintended consequences) of the enactment of the legislation they are working so hard to pass. In fact, neither do the legis- lators that propose this legislation in behalf of these organizations.
I, admittedly, am not a trained agricultural economist, but there are some things that I am well aware of that Gray is not, including:
1. My average cost of production per acre, broken down into specific categories (labor, pesticides, rent, seed, etc...). 2.A typical yield I should receive based on historical averages. 3.A typical price I can expect based on historical averages.
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Knowing these production and marketing facts enables me to at least begin to estimate the potential effects of their legislation if ever enacted. I also know, as Gray mentioned previously, that my price is dictated by the chains, I face stiff global competition (Canada and Mexico for my product) and I am, in her words, "barely eking out a living." My mar- gins currently are razor thin, so any increases in my cost of production will have a signifi- cant impact on my ability to stay in business. Of course I'm not even considering the vari- ous unintended consequences. (Endnote 31)
Now, I can't change the price I receive. My yields can only improve so much before I hit a production ceiling. I can't change the cost of fuel, or seed, or pesticides, or fertilizer, or repairs, or my taxes, or virtually any of my various production costs, with one exception, labor. It's one of the few issues I can actually affect a change. My "perception" of the effects of this legislation is grounded in my extensive production and marketing experi- ences. It's a "battle" that I not only can fight, but I must fight.
Gray adds:
"At the 2003 annual Farm Bureau meeting, Chris Pawelski, an Orange County onion grower, made a presentation about how to deal with 'aggressive advocates.' He argued that labor and anti-pesticide groups were trying 'to end agriculture in the United States as we know it.' He laid out a step-by-step plan for going after advo- cates" (p. 15).
Actually, as the September/October 2003 edition of Onion World pointed out, in the article entitled "NOA Summer Convention: Fall Crop Markets Expected to rebound (written by Brent Clement), my presentation was made at the National Onion Association's (NOA) annual summer regional convention, July 19, 2003 in Fishkill, New York. Gray does not mention her source for her incorrect information. However, this is the only magazine that has mentioned this presentation of mine. I did not give that presentation at the 2003 annu- al Farm Bureau meeting nor have I given it at any function other than the NOA event. I'm not surprised though she got this wrong. Like her allies, Gray has a slightly disturbing Farm Bureau fixation.
Gray continues:
"Pawelski is the most outspoken and inexhaustible critic of farmworker advocates in New York. He and his wife each spend seven to ten hours a week on activities to protect their interests including going after advocates.They also participated, for example, in a lawsuit against the USDA over crop insurance (Holmberg, 2000). In regard to the advocates, he takes credit for removing volunteers, fines levied on organizations, and reducing the credibility of some of the organizations with the press. Many other growers, the Farm Bureau, and at least one of the NYDOL reps I spoke with support his anti-advocacy efforts" (p. 15). (Endnote 32)
Many people do support my activities. But can she name anyone else that does what I do,
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even a fraction of what I do? She should be able to, if the conspiracy she suggests really does exist.
Gray states:
"A photo of Pawelski with his wife and workers is featured in a Farm Bureau brochure on labor issues and, in the press he has been variously identified as an onion grower, a spokesperson for the Farm Bureau, and a spokesperson for Orange county vegetable growers.As is evident, he speaks for more than just himself, and clearly is part of a coordinated effort to suppress farmworker advocacy" (p. 15-16).
Yes, I've at times been identified with these groups, and I'm frequently called for quotes from various members of the press in connection to various agriculture issues.There are a number of reasons for that.The main reasons being:
1. I have (or make) the time to be available to speak to the media. 2. I have a media related college education and have a fair amount of experience in regards to the media, especially how it works. 3. Unlike many of my neighbors and fellow farmers, I don't mind, in fact I enjoy speaking with the media. 4. Unlike many of my neighbors and fellow farmers, I recognize the importance of speaking to the media and cultivating press contacts.
But the four points above does not mean I'm "part of a coordinated effort to suppress farmworker advocacy." Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody approves or clears what I state to the press or write. No organization pays me for my activities and work. No one directs me what to do or say. Gray is "clearly" wrong. If she had called and asked me I would have told her as much.
One zealous grower Grey continues:
"There are many concrete examples of the attacks on farmworker advocates and I will share three of them here.The first two are connected to Pawelski; the third seems to be part of a more concerted effort by the Farm Bureau and other grow- ers" (p. 16).
Actually, all three are connected to me, and they are all connected to me for the same rea- sons. Gray misses this because she does not elaborate at all regarding "promoting audits of advocacy organizations' activities." Audits will only occur if egregious violations of law are occurring. Government bureaucracies do not act, let alone act as quickly as many have in regard to the specific issues/violations I have raised about these organizations, unless the complaints made are substantive and credible.Anyone who intimates that these bureaucra- cies would act because of a capricious whim or because some grower/grower organiza-
page38image23136 page38image23296
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tion flexes their nebulous but dominating "power" muscles either is lying or simply does- n't understand these bureaucracies and/or how these complex systems work. She glosses over too quickly and minimizes the significance of the fact that the self-appointed advo- cate organizations have been found breaking the law.
These organizations’ ability to legitimately qualify for funding is, in part, determined by their compliance with relevant tax code rules (for 501(c)3 organizations) and for the rules associated with receiving a federal appropriation.As a taxpayer I would be foolish not to lodge complaints with the relevant oversight agencies when I become aware of fraud or other forms of abuse being performed by these organizations. She casts my reaction and activities in a negative light, but what does Gray expect me to do? Stand by with my hands folded, or applaud, as these self-appointed advocate organizations egregiously cheat their way to accomplish their goals which would be critically detrimental to my industry and my ability to make a living and provide for my family?
She states:
"1. One of the farmworker advocacy organization lost government funding for two AmeriCorps staff positions after Pawelski wrote letters to the funding agency dis- crediting the organization for consistently misrepresenting the truth in an effort to demonize growers, and arguing that they should not receive government money. Specifically he argued that the organization's 'naked political activism and agenda' included lobbying and union organizing, two activities he thought outside the scope of government funding" (p.16).
Not only did I think it was "outside the scope of government funding," but so did the local placement agency as well as the relevant governmental oversight agencies. Let's first talk about what the law states. Standard federal appropriation rules state:
"No part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall be used, other than for normal and recognized executive-legislative relationships, for publicity or propagan- da purposes, for the preparation, distribution, or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television, or video presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress or any State legislature, except in presenta- tion to the Congress or any State legislature itself."
Regarding restrictions on lobbying, 29 CFR 93.100 - Conditions on use of funds, states:
"(a) No appropriated funds may be expended by the recipient of a Federal con- tract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement to pay any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with any of the following covered Federal actions: the awarding of any Federal contract, the making of any Federal grant, the making of any Federal loan, the entering into of any cooperative agreement, and the exten-
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sion, continuation, renewal, amendment, or modification of any Federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement. (b) Each person who requests or receives from an agency a Federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement shall file with that agency a certification, set forth in appendix A, that the person has not made, and will not make, any payment pro- hibited by paragraph (a) of this section.
(c) Each person who requests or receives from an agency a Federal contract, grant, loan, or a cooperative agreement shall file with that agency a disclosure form, set forth in appendix B, if such person has made or has agreed to make any payment using nonappropriated funds (to include profits from any covered Federal action), which would be prohibited under paragraph (a) of this section if paid for with appropriated funds."
Further:
"Section 319 of Public Law 101-121, codified at 31 U.S.C. Sec. 1352 prohibits the use of Federal funds in lobbying members and employees of Congress, as well as employees of Federal agencies, with respect to the award or amendment of any Federal grant, cooperative agreement, contract, or loan.While non-Federal funds may be used for such activities, their use must be disclosed to the awarding Federal agency. Disclosure of lobbying activities by long-term employees (employed or expected to be employed for more than 130 days) is, however, not required. In addition, the law exempts from definition of lobbying certain professional and tech- nical services by applicants and awardees."
These aren't my rules. It's federal law.This is something that seems to be lost on Gray. Breaking these rules could be constituted fraud, which is a felony.Violating these sorts of rules could lead to, if prosecuted and convicted, hefty fines and imprisonment. I do not understand how Gray can so easily minimize or dismiss this. Especially so, since she sits in a seat of responsibility and culpability as an RMM board member. Legally and ethically she should not only be aware of the laws governing her organization, but she should be con- cerned when her organization breaks those laws.
In regards specifically to RMM receiving AmeriCorps volunteers, yes, when I first learned that I was stunned.As I read the law and I knew what RMM was primarily about and what they really did, I could not understand how they could legitimately receive AmeriCorps volunteers.And yes, I did file complaints with the local placement agency as well as the appropriate state and federal oversight agencies.
On February 1, 2002 I received a copy of a letter (dated December 4, 2001) written by Executive Director Richard Heyl of the Youth Resource Development Corporation (YRDC is a New York State community-based not-for-profit organization that placed the volunteers with RMM) to Nikki Smith, the Executive Director for the New York State Commission on National and Community Service. I also received a copy of a letter (dated November 27, 2001) written by Mr. Heyl to RMM Executive Director Witt.As Gray intimates, I had raised
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the issue of the appropriateness of AmeriCorps volunteers working with RMM. Regarding the "advocacy" nature of RMM’s agenda and how that advocacy impacts RMM's programs, Heyl in his letter to Smith candidly stated,
"The advocacy work performed by RMM is so integral to the agency that it would not be feasible for them to entirely separate it from the work performed by our AmeriCorps members; presently, RMM does not have the capacity or commitment to ensure that would happen even if it were possible."
In Heyl’s letter to Witt he stated,
"Fundamentally, it comes down to the need to ensure that there is not even an appearance of federal funds being used for prohibited purposes. Because RMM is first and foremost an advocacy agency heavily involved in lobbying activities, we felt that it would not be possible to effectively and safely segregate prohibited and non-prohibited activities."
What should be noted is that Heyl did not like me, but Heyl is a person of integrity and does his job properly. He did not know what RMM primarily does before placing those volunteers, but once alerted he acted swiftly and appropriately.
Gray states:
"2.The same grower reported three of the farmworker advocacy organizations to the New York Lobby Commission, which investigated their activities.The commis- sion fined two of them for violating lobby laws and required all three to register their staff lobbyists and comply with quarterly reporting rules on lobbying activi- ties" (p. 16).
Again, Gray seems to be minimizing their breaking NYS lobby laws. Is not registering and complying with these laws okay, simply because, as they see it, their cause is "just?" Or, is she intimating that all or a majority of non-profit advocacy organizations break state lobby laws? She also doesn't posit why they weren't obeying NYS lobby laws.The answer, as the Witt deposition clearly shows, was because they knew if they registered with the NYS Lobby Commission and accurately reported their lobbying activities then the legitimacy and legality of their 501(c)3 tax status comes into question.And without that lucrative tax designation, which is allowing them to indirectly gobble at the public trough to pay for the implementation of their social and political agenda, they will simply cease to exist.And that will happen, because, unlike a genuine, bottom up and grassroots created and driven "movement" they are a purely top down creation that is only sustained by those tax exempt donations.Take that away and you "pull the plug" on these organizations, a dirty little secret Gray evidently doesn't want to discuss.And again, I have to ask, why didn't RMM and the NYSLRC formally notify their members they were investigated and fined by the NYS Lobby Commission? What sort of ethical stance or bent does that indicate? And ask yourselves this question: How can the complaints of one farmer lead to the things she
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mentions—AmeriCorps volunteers being removed and the NYS Lobby Commission inves- tigating and assessing fines? These things could not have happened if these organizations weren't guilty of serious legal violations, whether they be of NYS lobby law, IRS code or strict rules governing federal or state appropriations.
Gray then moves on to the issue of the CMP. She states:
"The third example was the removal of the executive director of the Cornell Migrant Program- a university program to help farmworkers through research, edu- cation, and outreach- through an internal review of the program.The university administration also decided to move the program from its home at the College of Human Ecology to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. CMP staff perceived there would be a conflict of interest at the College of Agriculture between serving farmworkers and serving growers, and all twelve of them decided to leave the program. Furthermore, outside funders withdrew their support in excess of $600,000. Ultimately, the program was dismantled.The review team and Cornell administration contended that the CMP needed to be restructured and expanded, as well as more balanced to 'involve, support and recognize the impor- tant roles of farm employers (Geng, 2004).' The administration justified the move to the College of Agriculture by citing the college's focus on agricultural issues and research.Those who opposed the decision argued that agricultural interests pres- sured Cornell to change the program and that those same forces would prevent the new CMP from continuing to help farmworkers" (p.16).
This is one of three times that Gray repeats the RMM propaganda line that the CMP was "dismantled." Cornell University didn't dismantle anything.Again, what was primarily announced was that there would be a change in where the CMP is housed and that there would be a new director.There were no formal announcements regarding the ending of any of the educational related or diversity programs.What was implied (not formally or in print) was that the lobbying activities would cease. In response, as Gray reports, the staff quit en masse. If any "dismantling" occurred the perpetrators were the CMP staff.
Regarding the pulling of the $600,000 annual grant (Endnote 33), I attended a meeting in Cortland, New York that was also attended by Cornell Cooperative Extension Associate Director Glen Applebee in November 2004 (a meeting totally unrelated to labor issues) and asked him why the NYS Director of Migrant Education Nancy Croce pulled the $600,000 grant to the CMP. He replied he didn't know why and Croce did not convey any reasons for this abrupt change to him. He thought it was quite strange she had made this decision since Cornell University, at the time, had not announced that any programs or facets of CMP program would end, only that the program would be moved to CALS. (Endnote 34)
This will be the first time I will ask this question, but did Gray interview anyone else apart from former CMP staff, in regards to the CMP issue? Did she interview Cornell administra- tion, and, more importantly, did she interview the former Dean of Human Ecology or any
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of her staff, regarding the CMP situation? Or did she primarily, if not solely, rely on former CMP staff as to what happened to the CMP?
Gray states,
"If growers did unduly influence Cornell administration's decisions, it reflects not only the power disparity between workers and growers, but also an underside to interest group politics whereby growers attempted to advance their interests at the cost of the interests of their employees and in a setting beyond the scope of nor- mal politics. It is worth looking at this third scenario in depth" (p. 17)
This is at the fundamental center of much of her research. Many of her theories and posi- tions hinge on this contention being true, that growers "unduly" influenced Cornell admin- istration's decision in connection with the CMP. For if growers did not unduly influence Cornell's decision, if this situation was not about a glaring power disparity between farm- ers and workers, then where does that leave her work? The foundation for much of her research is this premise, and if this premise isn't true her work collapses.
Well, I'm here to tell you that her premise isn't true. Her entire supposition regarding the grower power elite being responsible for the CMP action is flat out wrong.And I should know, because I was squarely behind it.To be sure, NYFB and other agricultural organiza- tions had input into the review process, but their role in instigating it was minimal.
Setting aside again, for the moment, the apparent disturbing implication that the "ethical and legal issues" (I would say clear violations of law) connected to the aforementioned AmeriCorps and Lobby Commission situations are somehow excusable because the self- appointed advocate cause as they see it is "just," Gray is again flat out wrong regarding her claim that the CMP situation was not about an "ethical nor legal issue." In fact, it was ethi- cal and, more important, legal issues which were the essential motivator for action regard- ing the CMP situation.And again, it wasn't the Farm Bureau or "growers" in the role that she perceives them, who motivated this review. It was a single grower, myself, which initi- ated the process which led to the review.And it wasn't my being a "grower" which moti- vated Dean Brannon (and eventually the rest of Cornell administration) to act. It was the CMP's own unethical and illegal actions that put Cornell University in an untenable posi- tion where it had to act. Cornell did not bow or cave to the pressure of growers (acting in their role, in her view, as being part of a "powerful contingent"). Cornell acted to preserve or maintain it's own reputation and integrity as well as not allow it to suffer the legal con- sequences for serious violations of law.What Cornell did was act to bring itself in compli- ance with the law.Allow me to elaborate.
In the spring of 2001 I initiated contact with Patsy Brannon, Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University.The purpose of my contact was to discuss with the Dean the inappropriate behavior and activities of the Cornell Migrant Program (CMP).The CMP had been partnering with Rural and Migrant Ministry for a number of years. In fact, CMP staff had been heavily involved with RMM lob-
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bying activities for over 10 years.As I stated in many letters to Dean Brannon (and substan- tiated with numerous articles, videos and various other documentary evidence which I sent to Dean Brannon over an extended period of time), actions by the CMP staff over the years related to actively and aggressively participating (and even help in organizing) RMM’s legislative lobbying activities may have brought the CMP (and by extension Cornell University) out of compliance with New York State lobby laws and federal tax laws regard- ing organizations that file as a 501(c)3. My complaints were similar to the issues I raised with the AmeriCorps program. Eventually Cornell University, as a response mainly to com- plaints, formed an internal review team. Over an extended period the CMP review took place and the reviewers found that growers, regulators, CCE staff, and other various stake- holders all across New York State confirmed and affirmed the claims I had made.The review team's honest examination of the program uncovered some troubling activities per- petrated by CMP staff over the years.
A year after I had initially contacted Brannon in 2001, a critical point in this process took place on May 9th 2002 when I wrote Dean Brannon regarding a RMM orchestrated rally and lobbying event held on May 2, 2002 in Fairport, New York.The event included a protest "march" of self-appointed advocates down the streets of Fairport and concluded with a public rally/legislative lobbying visit at the offices of NYS Senator James Alesi. My letter, in part, stated:
"The purpose of the visit with Sen.Alesi was to pressure him to support the pas- sage of specific pieces of legislation related to farmworkers.Aspacio Alcantara, Executive Director and chief lobbyist for the Centro Independiente Trabajadores Agricolas (CITA) (a sub-organization created and controlled by Rural & Migrant Ministry) spoke during the lobbying visit with Sen.Alesi. Concerning Alcantara’s presentation, an article, entitled “Farm workers prod Alesi on rights,” appears in the May 3, 2002 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (http://www.democ- ratandchronicle.com/biznews/forprint/0503story5_business.shtml) states that “but Aspacio Alcantara, a former farm worker who now works for the Independent Farmworker Center, said a few local farms already pay overtime and it doesn't seem to hurt them.The most important section of the bill, he said, is about forming a union.‘If we have that,’Alcantara said,‘we can get the rest.’”(copy of article includ- ed).
Are you aware, Dean Brannon, that Cornell Migrant program employees Kay Embrey and Betty Garcia Mathewson not only attended but also actively participat- ed in this event? According to friend of mine who viewed the event both Garcia Mathewson and Embrey marched with the other protesters as they publicly demonstrated through town. Further, Betty Garcia Mathewson acted as translator for Alcantara when he spoke at Sen.Alesi’s office, standing between Alcantara and Sen.Alesi. She was identified by name and identified with the Cornell Migrant Program. I will shortly have a videotape in my possession which I can send you a copy of which chronicles this event.
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To be frank, Dean Brannon, this is outrageous. How and why, after the series of questions raised by myself and others about this rogue program and in the midst of an ongoing review process, can Cornell Migrant Program staff so actively partici- pate in what is clearly an aggressive and very public legislative lobbying event? Further, are the staff of the Cornell Migrant Program, as well the Cornell Migrant Program itself, properly and legally registered and in compliance with all of the var- ious rules and regulations, on both the state and federal level, regarding lobbying activities?"
On May 12th 2002, I sent a second letter to Dean Brannon regarding this issue. It, in part, stated:
"As I noted in my May 9, 2002 letter I sent to you, on May 2, 2002 Rural & Migrant Ministry organized and coordinated an aggressive legislative lobbying event in Fairport, New York.The event included a public march and culminated in a lobby- ing visit with State Senator James Alesi in his district office.
The following article, entitled ‘Farm workers, church workers rally for rights,’ appears in the May 9, 2002 edition of the Catholic Courier of Rochester, New York. (copy of article included).The article repeatedly details the ongoing aggressive and public legislative lobbying activities and agenda of Rural & Migrant Ministry and its created and controlled proxy organization CITA.
• ‘The marchers ... took their case to New York State Sen. James Alesi, a Republican who serves on the Senate’s labor committee and chairs its Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business. After meeting at nearby Fairport United Methodist Church, the marchers walked to and then rallied in the parking lot outside his second-floor office in Packett’s Landing ....’
• ‘They carried signs emblazoned with such slogans as ‘Even God Had A Day Of Rest’ and asked Alesi to support omnibus legislation removing legal exclusions that deny farm workers the rights granted to other workers in the state.Those rights, farm worker advocates said, include a right to a day of rest each week; the right to overtime pay; and the right to organize and bargain collectively.’
• ‘The activists distributed a resolution asking Alesi to support the omnibus legislation, which has been passed by the Assembly two years in a row, but is stalled in the Senate.’
• ‘Although farm workers would prefer the passage of omnibus legislation, any type of legislation to help their cause is welcome, according to Aspacio Alcantara, a Dominican immigrant farm worker and the lead organizer of CITA -- Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agrícolas (Independent
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Farmworker Center) -- a statewide farm workers’ union.’
• ‘At the Kennelly Park rally,Alcantara said the union has about 1,500 mem- bers and that he has to risk his own safety to organize them.’
• ‘He (Alcantara) added that it can be difficult to organize farm workers. ‘The No. 1 obstacle is the fear of losing their job,’ he said in Spanish as his words were translated by Minerva Moya, of Rural and Migrant Ministry Inc., an interfaith group based in Poughkeepsie.’
As I mentioned in previous letter to you, Cornell Migrant program employees Kay Embrey and Betty Garcia Mathewson not only attended but also actively participat- ed in this event. As I also mentioned, Betty Garcia Mathewson acted as translator for Alcantara when he spoke at Sen.Alesi’s office, standing between Alcantara and Sen. Alesi.As you scan the article included with this fax you will find a photograph of Betty Garcia Mathewson participating in this legislative lobbying visit.The caption for the photograph reads:
‘Below,Aspacio Alcantara (center), lead organizer of the farm-workers’ union CITA, speaks to the crowd, as Alesi (left), interpreter Betty Garcia Matthewson and CITA organizer Salvador Solis look on.’
As I previously mentioned I will soon send you a copy of a videotape of this event for you to review. In the meantime I would like to know how and or why Cornell Migrant Program staff could so actively participate in such a clearly controversial and aggressive public demonstration/legislative-lobbying event. It’s been over a year since I first contacted your office about my concerns regarding this sort of ques- tionable conduct by Cornell Migrant Program staff.Yet this conduct appears to be continuing unabated.As I alluded to in my May 9, 2002 letter to you, there are very specific guidelines and rules on the state and federal level regarding lobbying activ- ities by organizations. I think it is quite safe to assume neither the staff of nor the Cornell Migrant Program itself are properly registered or filing properly. I think it is also quite safe to assume that both the staff as well as the Cornell Migrant Program itself are legally not in compliance in connection with the myriad of state and fed- eral rules and regulations regarding lobbying activities.This lack of compliance is a serious matter, one that the various oversight agencies would take a dim view of I’m sure. If notified I would assume that they will operate under a different timetable than Cornell has operated under concerning review of this rogue pro- gram.
Finally, I must ask, are the legislative lobbying positions espoused in this article by the self-appointed farmworker advocate organizations positions which are shared by the Cornell Migrant Program? If so, how and why is the Cornell Migrant Program able to take such public positions? If not, I ask again, how and why can Cornell Migrant Program staff so actively participate in what is clearly an aggressive and
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very public legislative lobbying event and agenda? Are the other colleges at Cornell, including the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, in agreement concerning these positions? Can I expect staff of CALS to begin participating in demonstrations and legislative lobbying events as well? I am not being facetious in asking these ques- tions. I need to know whether or not participation in such a public legislative lob- bying event and agreement with these legislative positions and agenda are codified and officially approved and endorsed by the various Colleges at Cornell. If so I’m sure you will understand that I, as well as many other farmers all across New York State, need to address that reality and respond accordingly."
The day I sent the first letter to Dean Brannon I spoke with her on the phone. She had no idea that CMP staff had so actively participated in these activities in Fairport. In fact, it caught her completely off-guard. Obviously, CMP staff did this without Brannon's knowl- edge or approval. During the conversation Brannon in no way defended, excused, rational- ized or attempted to explain away this conduct. She clearly acknowledged it was wrong. I stated to Brannon explicitly, that my patience was running out. From my perspective, Cornell had had a year to act and had done virtually nothing. She knew that the CMP was already on the radar of the NYS Lobby Commission and knew that the CMP was out of compliance with NYS lobby laws and relevant IRS code. I stated to Brannon, explicitly, either she and Cornell would start addressing this situation or I would report these viola- tions to the IRS and the Lobby Commission. I said, though, that if Cornell was working on a review to honestly examine and address this I would wait on "pulling the trigger" to turn the CMP and by extension Cornell University in for the violations. She thanked me for my continued patience and restraint.
After my second letter was sent, Brannon sent a letter to me dated May 13, 2002. Her letter acknowledged receipt of my May 9th letter, "with thanks." She asked to see a copy of the videotape (which I eventually sent to her attention). She also added the following:
"As you know from our earlier discussion and correspondence, we expect the activ- ities by our staff in the Migrant program to be involved with education and out- reach, not advocacy."
Interestingly, two recent articles from Cornell University publications, the Cornell Daily Sun and the Cornell Review, directly contradict Gray's theories regarding what were the primary reasons and motivations behind the Cornell Migrant Program review (the Daily Sun article is the same article she cites in her paper). Jim Schmidt of Farmworker Legal Services of New York, in the Cornell Daily Sun article "Coalition Holds 'Funeral' For C.U. Migrant Program" (dated 3/15/05 by Julie Geng) in regards to my role in the CMP review is quoted as saying:
"'Chris Pawelski does not like the fact that there is an organized farmworker move- ment in New York State,' Schmidt added. 'He was able to pressure the University. He drew a line in the sand and said to the University, 'Which side are you on? Are you on the side of oppressed people speaking out against their oppressor, or are
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you on the side of agri-business?' Cornell moved over to agri-business.'"
Stephen Pelle of the Cornell Review also covered the same event and his article, entitled "Death for Migrant Farmers? Anatomy of a farce:A scandal that isn’t" (dated 3/29/2005) states:
"Jim Schmidt from Farmworker Legal Services, however, exploded with anger. He directed most of his tirade at farmer Chris Pawelski who, for reasons Schmidt left unexplained, despises the 'organized farmworker movement in New York State.' Schmidt seemed to think that Pawelski was the main reason for the program’s move, though he did not discuss why a single onion farmer might wield such influ- ence.The strangest part of the story is that these protesters are complaining pre- emptively; they mourn a program that is not dead and they lament the fates of farmworkers who have not yet been affected by CMP’s restructuring.Why do the activists claim that the movement of the Cornell Migrant Program from one college to another will result in worse conditions for migrant workers?"
Pelle adds:
"For the most part, the goals the CMP supposedly worked for were laudable, but the program’s policies started to sound questionable when the funeral sermons mentioned CMP’s lobbying for bilingual elementary schools. Exactly how much Cornell and government money was this university-run and state-sponsored organi- zation spending on lobbying, and why? These were the questions raised by Chris Pawelski, a New York farmer who objected to the CMP’s activities and was thus a consistent target for the protesters. Perhaps, Pawelski says, inappropriate lobbying was one of the reasons that the program was moved to CALS in the first place. He also raises the possibility that the reason CMP was recently denied a $600,000 state grant was its previous misuse of government funds."
and:
"It is clear that CMP’s actions warranted some major reforms of the program, and that the move to CALS may actually increase the program’s effectiveness. So why are the protesters so insistent that simply transferring the program out of HumEc is, to quote Cornell malcontent Jordan Wells, a 'major scandal'? The answer, as Chris Pawelski and others rightly see it, is simple: CMP, under CALS administration, will no longer be able to misuse funds on activism and lobbying. No farmworkers are going to die because PAM majors join CMP instead of Human Biology, Health, and Society majors.The real tragedy for the old guard at CMP is that the program will have to answer to a college that will actually keep tabs on its activities."
Schmidt's characterization isn't entirely accurate.As previously mentioned, in written cor- respondence as well as in a phone conversation with Dean Brannon in May 2002, I made it clear that my patience regarding the actions of CMP staff in regards to their ongoing
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(and inappropriate) legislative lobbying activities was wearing thin. But I never stated or even implied my goal was to direct Cornell University to "oppress persons." Again, I made it clear to Brannon that the improper legislative lobbying performed by CMP staff were clear violations of NYS lobby law, federal appropriation law and IRS code, and these actions were going to cease. Either Cornell would do something about it, or I would.
Let me further emphasize that in all of my letters and communications with Cornell over the years regarding the CMP I never called for the program's elimination nor did I even recommend it to be transferred to CALS. Due to the program's lack of proper oversight I did frequently characterize it as a "rogue program." The CMP staff didn't answer to a Dean, or a Board, or anyone or anything else, except to itself. In my understanding the CMP was unique from all other Cornell programs in this lack of oversight. My position was that it was this serious lack of oversight, accountability and important checks that was the funda- mental cause of some of the deeper programmatic and systemic problems in the CMP.That being said, I also frequently suggested that some sort of oversight board, composed of a wide array of the various stakeholders affected by the CMP, should be created to provide that needed oversight.The CMP review concurred.The review, in part, states:
"The committee strongly recommends that the restructured program have an advi- sory council that consists of representatives from a range of organizations and groups that have a stake in the program.The committee believes that the accounta- bility requirements of a restructured program need to be stronger than those of the current CMP. It is noteworthy that the CMP has operated without an advisory coun- cil or any other body of outside advisors."
All of the above evidence directly contradicts Gray's main arguments regarding the rea- sons behind the CMP review. If, as she theorizes, the impetus behind the CMP changes were a nebulous and powerful grower elite, evidently exercising its political muscle, does- n't she have to offer more compelling evidence than she has? Not only to dispute my con- tention of why what occurred happened as it did but also to support her theories? At least evidence far more compelling than what she has provided to this point? How did this all powerful grower lobby influence the Dean of Human Ecology and this review team, which was comprised mostly with non-agriculture related persons? My contention ade- quately addresses this question, hers doesn't.
Gray states:
"There appears to be a general opinion among CMP staff that they were not reviewed on the basis of their strategic plan, which had been approved, but rather some outside criteria.A few additional factors are brought up in a Cornell Daily Sun editorial, which argues that, financially and logistically, the changes make little sense since they resulted in the loss of all outside funding and all staff (Editorial Board). The paper reports that the largest funder,The New York State Department of Education, was not interviewed for the internal review.The editorial goes on to ask why, after more than thirty years, is it suddenly a priority for the CMP to be work-
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ing closely with employers” (p. 26).
Actually, the question asked by the Cornell Daily Sun is a good one. Farmers have had seri- ous concerns regarding this program for 30 years. Gray never asks the question: why now? What has changed that motivated this action? Again, her deep inherent bias blinds her to the fact that the CMP staff's activities in conjunction with RMM exposed them and made them vulnerable to an audit or investigation that could result in hefty fines, the loss of 501(c)3 status or possibly, if convicted on fraud charges, incarceration. Her blindness then causes her to miss the larger argument that the self-appointed advocates are actually destroying themselves by their own illegal actions.
Gray argues: "In all of these respects, the disparity of political power between farmwork- ers and growers appears to be a key factor in the dismantling of the CMP" (p. 17).
First, the CMP was not "dismantled." Second, as I have detailed, Gray's theory as to the causes behind the CMP actions are wrong.The "disparity of political power between farm- workers and growers" was not a key factor in motivating these actions. Cornell University potentially facing numerous audits, investigations and probes because of the improper actions of the CMP staff was the "key factor."
To emphasize, the CMP has not been dismantled.The staff of the CMP quit, abandoning the program; Cornell University has not dismantled this program nor has it abandoned the program. Gray herself admits this in her paper:
“CMP staff perceived there would be a conflict of interest at the College of Agriculture between servicer farmworkers and serving growers, and all twelve of them decided to leave the program” (p. 16).
It is unclear why despite knowing this fact, she consistently repeats the lie that the pro- gram was dismantled. If the CMP has been dismantled, as she repeatedly states, then how does Gray explain Cornell’s current search for a new director and her application for the position? Her repetition of this lie veers her work into that of propaganda, i.e. opinion spread deliberately to further one’s cause. (I suspect that Gray shares the same arrogant viewpoint of the staff that the CMP cannot continue without them hence “dismantled.” However, the twisting of such a simple fact can hardly be called scholarship.)
Her desire to further the cause of the advocates is also seen in her misrepresentation of the conclusions of the review team. Gray states:
"The advocates and a contingent of Cornell students protested the university's decisions and mourned the loss, even to the extent of staging a funeral in one of Cornell's chapels. Growers, along with Farm Bureau representatives, defended and praised the university's decisions. Farm Bureau staff and Chris Pawelski were quot- ed in the Cornell newspapers as declaring that inappropriate lobbying by the CMP staff led to its downfall. Lobbying by CMP staff is something the former CMP direc-
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tor said was explicitly avoided; the review did not find that the CMP staff had lob- bied" (p. 19) (Endnote 35)
It's unclear if Gray is asserting this, regarding what the review found in connection to lob- bying, or merely reporting what former CMP Director Engman alleged, or both. Either way, it's false.The staff was engaging in inappropriate legislative lobbying activities and the review did not "not find that the CMP staff had lobbied." It would seem this is also Gray's contention, for her 24th endnote states:
"On the Farm Bureau and Pawelski's claims that the CMP was inappropriately lob- bying, the internal review did not highlight that as an issue, except as expressed through the opinions of growers."
Is that what the review actually said? In the "Critical Issues" section of the review the review team states:
"Through off- and on-campus interviews with stakeholders, several issues became apparent to the CMP Review Committee.The committee feels strongly that these issues will significantly affect the decisions we reach regarding the continuation and disposition of the CMP.The issues that arose most frequently related to: Advocacy vs. Education...."
It's quite interesting that though Gray claims lobbying was not "highlighted" by the review report it's the first item mentioned and discussed in the "Critical Issues" portion of the review. It further states:
"Several interviewees claimed that the CMP personnel engaged in what they con- sidered advocacy and that it was not a legitimate role for CCE.The CMP Review Committee discussed this issue and feels a need at the institutional level for thoughtful deliberation about the distinction between advocacy and education within CCE.While the committee easily agreed that education is a legitimate role for CCE, what does and does not constitute advocacy was not so readily apparent."
Interestingly, that last sentence goes from stating that "education" is an appropriate activity to then stating what is and what isn't "advocacy" isn't "so readily apparent." Obviously, the unstated is that advocacy isn't appropriate for CCE employees.The review later states:
"The CMP staff stated that it had ceased lobbying activities after being told they were inappropriate as members of CCE. But some interviewees claimed that CMP staff has continued to lobby and/or have publicly encouraged others to lobby on behalf of migrant farmworkers."
The "Analysis" section of the review, in part, states: "As noted earlier, several of the farmers and growers we interviewed believe that
page51image21792 page51image21952 page51image22112
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some members of the CMP staff have not only acted as advocates for migrant work- ers but have actually engaged in inappropriate lobbying efforts.Whether these activities represent advocacy is itself controversial."
Again, the unstated is that advocacy isn't appropriate for CCE employees.The review team is not dodging the issue of the inappropriateness of CMP staff lobbying nor is it simply identifying it as a stated complaint of some of the interviewees, reducing or trivializing its importance as an issue. Nor is it explicitly stating that the activities weren't lobbying.The review adds:
"The committee concluded, however, that there is a line that should not be crossed. Members of the committee do not agree on exactly where that line should be drawn.All the members of the committee agree that a staff or faculty member who initiates approaches to legislators on behalf of an outside organization representing him/herself as a Cornell employee has probably crossed that line."
This is a stronger statement than what Gray alleged the review stated regarding lobbying as an issue in connection to the CMP.The review also states:
"On the other hand, the committee recognizes that some of the complaints about CMP have a measure of validity.The committee was not an investigatory body, did not hold hearings, and could not possibly verify the truth or falsity of every com- plaint lodged against CMP."
Again, the unstated is crucial. If the complaints of lobbying by CMP staff are true then seri- ous wrong conduct has occurred.
Now, does the review explicitly state that CMP employees inappropriately engaged in leg- islative lobbying activities over the years? No, and that shouldn't surprise anyone. It is highly improbable that a document that was part of an internal (not external) review, which could become public and was most likely reviewed by Cornell University's legal department, would explicitly admit to serious lobby and tax law violations.Tell me, would CUNY admit as much?
While on one hand Gray minimizes any notion that the CMP lobbied, on the other she uses it as an explanation for the polarity between advocates and growers. Gray states:
"Extending labor protections to farmworkers is a prime example of the type of farmworker issue that puts workers and employers (and advocates and employer associations) in adversarial positions.This was underscored by a few of the voices opposing the move to the College of Agriculture" (p. 20).
Let’s follow this through.And how is "extending labor protections to farmworkers" accom- plished? It's accomplished via legislative lobbying.Yet, according to Gray and Gray's pri- mary sources the CMP didn't actively engage in legislative lobbying. I'm terribly confused.
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Which is it? Did the CMP engage in legislative lobbying activities or not? If they didn't, how did they apparently get put in this "adversarial position" with "employers and employer associations."
Gray concludes her discussion of the CMP review with the following:
"If we are to believe the opposition's arguments that the program was dismantled due to agricultural interests, then it seems the program was not immune to agricul- tural interests even outside of the College of Agriculture.This is a crucial point" (p.21).
Yes, it is a "crucial point." Conversely, if these changes were motivated not by "agricultural interests" that somehow exerted influence over another college, then, where does that leave the bulk of Gray's premises, research and conclusions?
In order for Gray to make a claim of a power disparity between advocates/farmworkers and growers, she has to attempt to explain the power that growers and grower organiza- tions have. She does this by detailing the history of NYFB and CCE and applying McDowell’s theory of influence in programming at Land-Grant institutions. Yet, by over- looking key points, she gets this wrong too.
Before addressing her application of McDowell’s theory, it is worth noting that Gray has a slightly skewed understanding of how NYFB policy is implemented.
Gray continues:
"On this evidence alone, it is clear the Farm Bureau is willing to support a program for farmworkers within Cornell Cooperative Extension as long as that program is not at odds with Farm Bureau policy.The labor issues section of the Farm Bureau policy handbook clearly outlines those policies it opposes, many of which the CMP supported, including collective bargaining protections and overtime (Farm Bureau, 51)" (p. 24-25).
And this is surprising to Gray? What does she expect? Further, the CMP not only "support- ed" those policies, they actively engaged in activities with RMM et al to try and get those policies passed, via legislative lobbying. Engaging in those legislative lobbying activities brought the CMP out of compliance with a number of relevant laws.When the CMP actively engaged in those activities it, understandably, lost the support of NYFB.
Gray states:
"One might say we have an explicit motive for the Farm Bureau to want to influ- ence the programming of the CMP. Unlike the first two examples of grower back- lash I cited, this deals neither with ethical nor legal issues. It deals with a powerful contingent - growers and the Farm Bureau - who feel they are not benefiting
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enough from a research, education, and outreach program focused on farmworkers and possessed the capability to shut it down" (p. 25).
Once again, wrong. My CMP complaint, which I argue was the primary motivation or impetus behind the review and Cornell's subsequent actions, was entirely about "ethical and legal issues" and it was Cornell's exposure, its being open to investigation and possi- ble sanction by relevant governmental authorities, which motivated the University to act. This had nothing to do with "a powerful contingent - growers and the Farm Bureau." I would argue this unfounded and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory is something that Gray and her allies need to believe in, despite the facts or the truth.
Further, she makes some wild leaps and bounds in regards to NYFB policy. Her 25th end- note adds to this, stating:
" This policy statement by the Farm Bureau was used by campus protesters to high- light the possible role of the Farm Bureau in influencing Cornell's decisions. It was reported in a Cornell Daily Sun article. In an online response to that article Chris Pawelski takes credit for drafting that policy, which was approved at the county level before it went to the state level and was approved.”
Gray (and her primary sources) simply does not understand how NYFB works. She seems to think that the existence of a NYFB policy is some sort of guarantee it will be enacted or come to fruition. She states:
"The Farm Bureau creates the main priorities for agricultural interests and does so from a 'grassroots' policy development process’ which starts with county-level Farm Bureaus and culminates at an annual statewide meeting. Individual growers are integral to the process at every step. It disseminates information on these prior- ities and lobbies for them" (p. 12).
She's correct here. Policy is a series of positions by NYFB members passed by the county and then by the state delegates. But, again, simply because policy exists doesn't necessarily mean:
1. NYFB staff will lobby on that issue; 2. If NYFB does lobby on that issue it will expend a significant amount of resources (staff time in particular); and/or 3. If any NYFB staff do lobby on the issue, no matter how much effort is made, that they will be successful.
For example, take the NYFB policy related to education and teacher tenure. Specifically:
"We oppose the current tenure system. a. If tenure remains, we support a three-year renewable tenure for teachers in public education. b.We support the removal of a teacher by the school board for justifiable causes."
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I'm not going to hold my breath that this NYFB policy will become reality anytime soon. The mere existence of an NYFB policy is far more of an example of "vox populi" than of it being a "fait accompli."
Though I don't have access to NYFB time cards or employee records, I would imagine (based on my conversations with staff regarding this issue) that a mere token amount of time and resources were spent by NYFB staff regarding the CMP. I'm positive that I per- sonally expended far more time, effort and resources regarding the CMP than the entire NYFB staff did. It's something that Gray should have asked NYFB staff when she inter- viewed them. If she were candid as to who she was and connected with I'm sure they would have answered her question honestly.
This is another critical point, for if my contention is true, that I as an individual expended far more time, energy and efforts regarding the CMP than the entire NYFB staff, what does that say regarding Gray's primary argument in connection with the all-powerful NYFB- agribusiness lobby? If the contrived NYFB-agribusiness lobby wasn't behind Cornell's actions in regards to the CMP issue, then what was? Gray never anticipates this, let alone addresses this possibility.
Gray gives a brief historical overview of the relationship between NYFB and CCE. However, she stops shot of explaining how CCE currently functions in New York.Without examining this it is impossible to accurately assess how CCE can and cannot be influ- enced. Gray points out that "Cornell is one of the 51 original land-grant colleges estab- lished by the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Act" (p. 21). She then states:
"The land-grant system, along with the state university system, is credited with developing service-oriented university activities, a feature unique to the U.S. univer- sity system (Graubard, 1997).The 1914 Smith-Lever Act broadened the scope of the Morrill Act. It set up a national system of county-level cooperative extension offices to serve the practical needs of farms, homes, and communities through adult educa- tion and other programs. Cooperative extension was designed to be run through the land grant colleges with between [sic] federal, state, and county government participation and funding. It is commonly accepted that the cooperative extension system formalized the previous research, education, and outreach mission of the Morrill Act and expanded on the success of the 1887 Hatch Act, which funded agri- cultural research" (p. 21-22).
She later states:
"According to George McDowell, an agricultural economist, 'The role of agricultural interests in the control of both the extension agenda and the research agenda in colleges of agriculture are one of the most significant problems and opportunities to be dealt with as the land-grant universities move into the 21st century (2001, 56- 57).' In his book describing the social contract of the nation-wide Cooperative
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Extension system, McDowell claims,
'In the face of some threat to agricultural extension programs the agricultur- al community seeks to protect their programs, even if it means forcing the university to abandon other long-established programs.When the threat to agricultural programs is perceived to be the result of efforts by university or extension administrators to realign program resources, agricultural interest groups often participate in promoting the removal of the offending Land- Grant administrator.These circumstances are so prevalent across the Land- Grant extension system that describing the system as being held hostage by agricultural interest groups is considered a fair characterization of the rela- tionship between Land-Grant extension and the agricultural client groups at the beginning of the twenty-first century (McDowell 2001).'
His book describes 'carcasses' of administrators from universities around the coun- try who were removed as a result of working at perceived odds with agricultural interests" (p. 23-24).
Admittedly, I have not read McDowell's work (on the face I would vigorously dispute some of his contentions that Gray reports) so I don't know if this omission is McDowell's as well as Gray's, or Gray's alone, but one salient fact is not stated:
Cornell is the only quasi-private institution among the land grant universities.
All of the others, from Penn State, to Rutgers, to Michigan State, to Kansas State to Iowa State, and the rest, are public universities. Cornell is a unique situation, unlike all of the rest. Being a quasi-private institution insulates Cornell from much of the pressures and influences Gray infers the Land-Grants are susceptible to (Endnote 36).To accurately address this situation Gray must deal with the fact that Cornell is a quasi-private institu- tion, and she doesn't.
Anyone that has dealt with Cornell on a first hand basis and has any experiences with other state Land-Grants knows that they are world's apart in how they react to problems, issues, challenges or pressures.The Cornell bureaucracy, in its monolithic nature as well as in the speed in which it acts (and reacts) to issues and situations, rivals any governmental bureaucracy.Anyone that argues that Cornell is not unique in this respect among the Land- Grants simply has no experience with either and doesn't know what they are talking about. I am someone that has dealt with Cornell on a variety of issues and has dealt with a number of other Land-Grants regarding a variety of issues as well as discussed Land-Grant experiences with fellow farmers across the country.When I have discussed Cornell with some of Cornell's counterparts or with other farmers, they are shocked as to what Cornell at times does and what staff are allowed to do, seemingly with no ramifications. (Endnote 37)
Further, McDowell seems to be implying that a primary motivator behind the "agricultural
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community seeking to protect their programs" is in regards to resource allocation, espe- cially as funding becomes more and more scarce. As McDowell states, "when the threat to agricultural programs is perceived to be the result of efforts by university or extension administrators to realign program resources," the agricultural community acts to protect their own programs.The problem with this analogy, as Gray well knows, no funding or resources were directly affected or threatened in regards to the CMP. In fact, as the Cornell Daily Sun article "Students Protest on Behalf of Migrant Farm Workers by Julie Geng (3/905) states:
"According to Engman, the University has pledged to put more money into the pro- gram. During Engman's directorship, the program received $88,500 a year from the University, and will now receive $100,000 plus salary increases each year. "
Gray then expands on McDowell's work. She states:
"In what respects might McDowell's claims apply to the CMP? First, according to the Farm Bureau Policy Handbook, 'Any new and existing investment in the state's extension and research capacity must be held accountable to the agriculture indus- try, both regionally and by commodity (Farm Bureau, 17).' That policy seems to make clear the Farm Bureau's position on their role with regard to Cornell Cooperative Extension.The policy handbook also specifically mentions the CMP, cit- ing not only the allegation of its lobbying activities (one of the topics that fed the controversy of the program), but also the content of its programming.The Farm Bureau handbook reads, 'Should representatives of this program continue to work on agendas in direct conflict with Farm Bureau policy, we recommend funding for this program be dissolved. Program representatives should restrict their activities to only those issues and programs which compliment [sic] the viability of the agricul- tural industry (Farm Bureau, 16-17)'" (p. 24).
As mentioned previously, the mere existence of Farm Bureau policy neither guarantees that NYFB staff will work on it, let alone the policy will be enacted. How I wish this was- n't so.
Gray states:
"Like other public sector organizations, the extension system requires political sup- port to maintain funding and strength. McDowell explains that the quid pro quo is that those who offer that support get to influence programming" (p.26).
I hope this doesn't come as a surprise to Gray. She adds:
"He also argues that the degree of political clout offered to support and influence extension programming is dependent on the political and economic clout of its
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users (McDowell, 2001, 51). McDowell gives examples of non-farming extension users, such as local elected officials, whose support and influence are far out- weighed by growers. If local elected officials, who tend to be well-established com- munity members have little clout compared with growers, non-citizen farmwork- ers, such as those described above, would have almost none" (p. 26-27).
Again, I haven't read it but does McDowell's work discuss the legal structure and how the Cooperative Extension system is set up in NYS? The Cornell Cooperative Extension system falls under the NYS Consolidated Laws dealing with county governments. Under County Law 224 the various county Cooperative Extensions are considered "a subordinate govern- ment agency" with the counties providing the majority of funding for their local Cooperative Extension office. Cornell University is appointed "as agent for the state" han- dling the general supervision of the local Extension offices. But, since the local elected County Executive as well as the local elected County Legislators provide roughly 60% of a local Extension office's funding, those local elected officials have far more clout both with the local Extension office and with Cornell – far more clout that "outweighs" the clout of any individual or even group of farmers.
Further, is Gray's observation "if local elected officials, who tend to be well-established community members have little clout compared with growers, non-citizen farmworkers, such as those described above, would have almost none" merely an observation of fact or some sort of value statement? If it's the latter, does she believe non-citizens should have equal political clout as any citizen, whether it be a farmer, or a plumber, or a shoe sales- man, or whatever? If so, why should the non-citizen have has much "clout" as the citizen?
Gray’s final theoretical application is based on Charles Tilly’s work. Here too a lack of proper research and understanding weakens Gray’s application. Gray states:
"This power disparity can be elucidated through reference to Charles Tilly's con- cept of durable inequality. In his book by that title,Tilly argues that while elites do not set out to create powerless subpopulations, this outcome is the byproduct of myriad processes including employers' attempts to maximize profits, secure a sta- ble workforce, and exclude others' access to their prized resources.Tilly explains that those with power, 'solve other organizational problems by establishing categor- ically unequal access to valued outcomes...they seek to secure rewards from sequestered resources (Tilly, 1998, 11)'" (p. 27).
Interesting. I wonder if Tilly's concept can be equally applied to the various self-appointed farmworker advocate organizations, which are dominated, both in leadership as well as in participant membership, by "elites" (in most cases "white elites")? If the most desired goal of collective bargaining rights was ever enacted, and CITA became a codified labor union, presumably controlled by the "elite" RMM, which is in turn dominated by the "elite" Episcopal Diocese of N.Y. (amongst other behemoth religious institutions), would the cre- ation of a "powerless subpopulation" of farmworkers which would be required to pour financial resources into the coffers of these "elite" institutions and provide continued
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"ground support" for these organizations and their agenda, for little or no real tangible gains for the farmworker, be viewed as a quintessential outcome of Tilly's concept? I would argue that this scenario would perfectly fit Tilly's paradigm of these "elite" institu- tions "establishing categorically unequal access to valued outcomes" and in fact obtaining "rewards from sequestered resources" via union dues/agency fees (Endnote 38) and sup- port in the form of members and a large membership roll which would enhance the polit- ical muscle of these institutions.
Gray adds:
"This theory applies to growers' management of the structured marginalization of farmworkers through hiring patterns aimed at securing the most docile and pro- ductive workforce. I agree with Tilly that employers do not deliberately create the structured powerlessness of their workers. However, but by controlling hiring opportunities, which is emulated by others, and adapted to by workers themselves, employers can manage and take advantage of structural factors (such as workers undocumented status) that exacerbate power inequalities" (p. 27).
Again, there are a number of problems with this theory. First, there is an acute farm labor shortage in NYS and growers typically hire who is available, not pick and choose who may or may not be the most "docile" worker (however that may be determined). I'm sure any NYSDOL or USDOL employee would have confirmed the facts regarding this acute labor shortage. (Endnote 39) Second, Gray once again runs with the assumption that farmers actively look to "take advantage" of a farmworker's undocumented status, and that is sim- ply an unsubstantiated smear with no basis in fact. If this were a regular occurrence Gray should be able to provide multiple, credible examples of this sort of exploitation and Gray would have to explain why individual farmers as well as farmer organizations like NYFB are working so hard to change the current situation. Finally, due to this acute farm labor shortage the "power inequalities" that Gray infers aren't as stark as she supposes.
Gray’s mindset is so entrenched in the propaganda of the advocates that she blindly repeats their nonsense without every analyzing their suppositions.
Gray states:
"In regard to whether Farm Bureau used their influence on Cornell, the policy handbook also states, 'We strongly recommend both an external and internal review to be conducted by Cornell University in regard to the activities of the Cornell Migrant Program (Farm Bureau, 17).' Short of ransacking the Dean of the College of Agriculture's office, it will be very difficult to prove beyond a doubt that the Farm Bureau and growers had undue influence on the university's decision" (p. 25).
If Gray wants to commit a "third rate burglary" that will yield useful information she needs to "ransack" former Dean of Human Ecology Patsy Brannon's office, not the office of CALS
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Dean Susan Henry.Again,she is totally off base with this unsubstantiated assumption.The driving force behind the review at Cornell was the Dean of Human Ecology, Dean Brannon, where the CMP was housed, not CALS Dean Henry. Did Gray bother to interview Dean Brannon to ask her why the review took place and what sort of pressures were brought to bear on her? Why the assumption that Henry was behind this? (Endnote 40)
What's interesting in Gray's rhetoric is the assumption that the decisions made regarding the CMP were solely made by CALS Dean Susan Henry.This is nothing more than a repeti- tion of RMM et al unsubstantiated conspiracy propaganda. She herself offers no credible evidence to back this assertion.And in the process of doing that she ignores the evidence that it was Human Ecology Dean Patsy Brannon who was far more of a motivating force behind the impetus for the review.
First, the CMP was housed in the College of Human Ecology and the Dean of CALS (whomever that was) had no authority over the program. Dean Henry had no authority to solely dictate that a review would occur.As mentioned, when NYFB or grower concerns were expressed over the years to previous Deans of Human Ecology about the CMP and some of the inappropriate activities they engaged in, the concerns fell on deaf ears and no actions resulted.
Second, she ignores what the internal review report actually stated, in the Executive Summary:
"We report on a review of the Cornell Migrant Program (CMP) requested by the Deans of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology and the Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension."
The Dean of the College of Human Ecology received top billing in the review title page. The Introduction states that in May 2002 the two Deans as well as the former head of CCE "appointed the committee to undertake a review of the Cornell Migrant Program (CMP)."
Third, one must consider the makeup of the review team. It consisted of:
• The chair being the Director of Conflict Resolution at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (not exactly a "grower friendly" school) • A CCE Executive Director for two CCE counties • A biology professor from CALS
• A CCE county Human Ecology Program Leader • A Director and Assistant Vice President of the Cornell Office of Government Affairs • A Human Ecology professor in the department of Policy Analysis and Management • A CCE Extension Associate from CALS in the department of Applied Economics and Management • A CCE Extension Associate from CALS in the division of Nutritional Sciences
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The two staff assigned to assist the review team were from the College of Human Ecology.
This was by no means a grower or grower friendly stacked panel. How exactly does Gray explain that growers or this powerful grower lobby exerted appropriate pressure and influence on this review team? And she doesn't need to "ransack" anyone's office to obtain this information.All she needed to do was interview me, Dean Brannon and/or her staff, as well as read my online postings on the Cornell Daily Sun website.
Yet another instance of Gray’s entrenchment in the advocate’s position blinding her research is the notion that Cornell administrators were somehow not aware of the contro- versy surrounding the farmworker labor issue.
Gray states:
"There is additional circumstantial evidence to support the claim that agribusiness influenced on [sic] Cornell's decision to remove the director of the CMP and move the program to the College of Agriculture. First, it is likely that Cornell administra- tors did not perceive the growers' influence as unduly significant or excessive, because they are largely unaware of the extent of the polarity and controversy on both sides of farmworker labor issues" (p.25)
Regarding what Cornell administrators were aware of (and not Gray's claims regarding grower influence) she is flat out wrong again. Not the CMP Review team, nor the various Deans, nor the CCE Director, nor Cornell University administrators or staff live in a bubble. In fact, with the amount of materials generated in the press over the past 7 years one would have had to have been in a coma to not be somewhat aware of the "polarity and controversy on both sides of farmworker labor issues." Further, if Gray had bothered to interview Brannon she would have learned that since the spring of 2001 I had sent to her a number of letters that were accompanied with a plethora of documentary evidence regarding the CMP and the farmworker labor issue on the whole.This material included dozens of newspaper articles, editorials and op-ed pieces (some written by me, some writ- ten by Witt et al), as well as numerous materials generated by RMM et al. Further, I copied my letters to the Director of CCE as well as the Dean of CALS (and a number of elected officials in NYS). I was told that all the materials I sent were eventually shared with the CMP review team.And if she read the CMP review more closely she would have undoubt- edly come across the section on page 6 entitled "Migrant Farmworker Controversy." It, in part, states:
"During the 1990's migrant farmworker issues became increasingly politicized at the state level.Tension grew primarily in the agricultural community with the cre- ation of the Governor's Task Force on Agricultural Employment, Education, and Labor.This brought press attention to the farmworker community."
Does that sound like "Cornell administrators" were "largely unaware of the extent of the polarity and controversy on both sides of farmworker labor issues?"
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To repeat again, NYFB or "growers" (the sum or parts which constitute a power elite as perceived by Gray) were not behind the impetus for the CMP review or the subsequent actions that led to the CMP being moved to CALS and other organizational adjustments. Why is she making this assumption? What credible evidence does she have to substantiate this assumption? In fact, what is even the "circumstantial evidence" she is alluding to, apart from claims made by Witt et al?
She later states:
"Moreover, agricultural interests might have clearly, simply, and persuasively argued their case, whereas the materials offered by the CMP, including the self-study and the anniversary brochure were not marketed with the same clarity and efficiency. Marketing of their programs and successes was not the strong suit of the CMP, but neither would it have been their purpose.The materials they wrote were for specif- ic audiences, and certainly their funders were convinced of the value of the pro- gram.The 'squeaky wheel gets the grease' theory may also apply here" (p. 26).
This admission is simply stunning, but the explanation leaves much to be desired. How was I able to "state my case" more persuasively than CMP staff? Once again, I argue this speaks volumes in regards to the bankrupt and corrupt position of the CMP and the self- appointed advocate organizations, like RMM.They are not bottom up organizations; they spread blatant distortions, and they do not speak in behalf of even a fraction of the indi- viduals they pretend to represent. Couple this with their propensity to violate numerous laws and you are left with illegitimate advocates caught in an untenable position.
And I would argue that it's much closer to the "Terminator theory" (he keeps coming, and coming and coming ...) versus being a "squeaky wheel" getting a grease fix.
Gray states:
"One of the underlying reasons for the growers' backlash against the advocates lies, ironically, in the declining political power of agriculture in the U.S. and in New York.This deterioration in their status has sharpened growers' efforts to protect their interests even when it means using that power to wage relatively insignificant and punitive battles against university programs like the CMP. Such responses are symptomatic of their desperation" (p. 28).
That's funny; I don't feel "desperate." I also find Gray's characterization of the CMP issue to be the waging of a "relatively insignificant and punitive battle" to be quite humorous. Obviously, based on RMM and the other self-appointed farmworker advocate organiza- tions' rabid and ongoing response to the CMP changes, that they don't view it as being "insignificant." And I don't either.What I have determined is that the CMP was a vital cog of RMM et al's strategy.The CMP served as sort of an administrative hub, the framework or network that linked RMM with the various legitimate government funded farmworker
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serving agencies and programs (like the various M.E.O.P.s or migrant healthcare centers). This network accomplished two primary goals, it legitimized (or attempted to legitimize) RMM with the farmworker community and the public at large and, more importantly, it was a mechanism that enabled RMM et al to pull the legitimate government funded farm- worker serving agencies and programs into their orbit and to engage in their aggressive legislative lobbying activities. Loss of the CMP, or, more accurately, their loss of being able to manipulate the CMP and its staff for their purposes, has been a critical blow to RMM et al. Hence the protest, the theatrics (the "mock" funeral Gray referenced) and the behind the scenes lobbying and attempted arm twisting to stop the impending changes.There also is Gray's attempt to attain the Director position of the CMP, something that I highly doubt will occur. Instead, I would characterize the conduct and rhetoric of RMM et al after Cornell announced the CMP changes as fitting the "desperation" mold.
So while Gray wonders,“What is the best role for advocates in economic and social justice efforts for undocumented Latinos and other highly marginalized groups" (p. 29)? I would respond with this answer, do not appoint yourself to speak in the behalf or otherwise rep- resent people that haven't asked or elected or designated you to do so.Taking it upon yourself to do this smacks of condescension, hubris and arrogance that is offensive.
A prime example of her offensive attitude can be found in statements like this:
"The shift to undocumented Latino agricultural laborers in New York corresponds not only to a historic pattern of the agricultural industry exploiting immigrant and non-citizen workers, but also to a more recent phenomenon of Latino workers pop- ulating every low-wage industry, in every state of the U.S" (p. 29)
Is it any wonder this is such a polarizing issue? The notion that I am "exploiting" my employees is deeply offensive.The people that work for our farm come to us for employ- ment, and in the case of two of our workers they have come to us for 5 and 6 years con- secutively respectively.We provide free housing (which has received a number of upgrades thanks to the previously mentioned farmworker housing improvement program pioneered in Orange County).The free housing includes free utilities (electric, gas) as well as free DirecTV "Para Todos" service (watched on televisions we provide).We provide them with a ride each week to the grocery store and each week I mow their lawn.We pay a decent wage (especially when you factor in the free housing as well as the fact that we have suffered devastating losses over the past few seasons) that enables them to provide for themselves and for their families back home.We treat them with respect and kindness. We never, ever, yell at our employees or otherwise berate them or treat them badly. How exactly am I "exploiting" them? Such an unfounded, unsubstantiated and sweeping smear is deeply offensive.
Gray concludes:
"New models of advocacy are improving on more paternalistic approaches of the past, and are establishing initial gains for workers to build on as they begin to coor-
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dinate their own power base.This essay has explored detailed examples of backlash against advocates, which is likely to lessen or at least defer their ability to help workers. But, perhaps more important, the backlash confirms the success of these efforts, and, as such, is expected to further motivate those involved in farmworker justice in New York" (p. 31).
Paternalistic, or patronizing? And though Gray has "explored" the backlash, the bulk of her theories and assumptions about it are wrong.And which is it, "deferred" or "motivated?" I argue that what happens in the future will hinge on whether or not they continue to break various black letter laws which stand in the way of their, as they see it, "just" cause.
Conclusion
"But a certain Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, 'Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men... for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God'" (The Acts of the Apostles" Chapter 5: verses 35, 38-39; New American Standard).
Gray's entire research is predicated on her assumption that farmworkers are in fear and are unsatisfied with their working conditions, thereby requiring the self-appointed advo- cates. But, if that premise is false, if workers are satisfied with their workplace conditions and are not in constant fear, her entire premise and conclusions are blown out of the water.
I hereby unequivocally state that I don't formally speak in behalf of a grower elite.There is no vast grower conspiracy. My efforts are not part of some larger "coordinated effort." Though many growers and grower organizations may agree with, support and appreciate what I do, few comprehend all that entails it (at least locally). In my area the overwhelm- ing majority of farmers have no higher than a high school education.The few that have obtained college degrees went to ag schools and/or programs, like Cornell or SUNY Cobleskill. Few have obtained liberal arts degrees unrelated to agriculture. Even less have obtained advanced degrees like myself.
They don't understand the various laws, or the government oversight bureaucracies, or how to navigate through them.The most they know what to do is contact their local legis- lator and complain.The typical farmer reaction to the tactics and activities of groups like RMM et al over the years has been to bury their heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away. Or, they employ a version of "rope a dope.”
This was the boxing strategy used by Muhammed Ali in his 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" fight against George Foreman. "Rope a dope" is the boxing strategy where a fighter pre- tends to be trapped against the ropes while his opponent wears himself out throwing
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punches. "Rope a dope" won't work on organizations like RMM, that are extremely well- financed and backed by even larger and better financed and socially well entrenched insti- tutions. Besides, it isn't my style. I'm more of a counter-puncher like fighter Sugar Ray Leonard who hits with Roberto Duran's "hands of stone." RMM counts on growers bury- ing their heads in the sand or employing "rope a dope," while they use hardball lobbying and rhetorical tactics in the media, each time looking to land haymakers.They are essen- tially bullies.They prey on those that can't or don't fight back.And for decades farmers, and even farmer organizations, didn't. But, times are changing. Bullies can't handle it when someone fights back.They immediately whine and cry foul—like Gray does throughout her work.
Since their reasons for their existence are all based solidly on lies, propaganda and ration- alizations, it is only expected they would whither when someone counter-attacks.There is no genuine foundation supporting them.They are a house made of straw or sticks and a little wind brings it crashing down.
It is, quite frankly, amazing to me that any of these people or organizations are taken seri- ously, by anyone, whether in the academy, the press or in the government.These people are nothing more than inept scam artists. Sadly though, is that the effects of their actions and influence is not benign. It is RMM et al that has first employed the use of demonizing rhetoric in regards to farmers and a slash and burn rhetorical approach in dealing with the farmer part of the equation in regards to this issue.
And, unfortunately, RMM et al’s influence has corrupted a number of legitimate and in most cases primarily government funded migrant related programs, migrant health centers and migrant education programs, including the CMP. It's these organizations' association with RMM that has led them to engage in clear violations of federal and state laws which has seriously jeopardized their very existence and the continuance of their programming. Instead of focusing her attention on my turning these various organizations and programs in for serious, black letter law violations, Gray would be better served by more honestly examining the results of RMM's corrupting influence. One would think her being a board of director member of RMM and her long time association with that organization and inside knowledge reaped from years of first hand experience would make RMM a more fit- ting, if not easier research subject.
My next subjects of focus will be these very large and hypocritical religious institutions pulling the levers behind the scenes. If they want to be so involved in the public policy process then they should be required to play by the same rules as everyone else. Especially so, since their mantra/rationale regarding ending the various labor law exemp- tions connected to farmworkers is "justice requires everything to be equal." That being the case, if they want to lobby so much and work so hard to modify non sectarian public poli- cy then the first thing they should lose is their 501(c)3 tax exempt status, which they are flagrantly abusing. I don't agree with their policy positions or their activities, and I think its an outrage that my tax dollars are heavily, indirectly subsidizing their activities to pro- mote their non sectarian public policy and social agenda.When powerful groups try to
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influence an industry they have no direction connection to, and growers like myself respond aggressively, what does Gray expect?
Academic papers and research must be held to a higher standard. Simply mouthing the unsubstantiated opinions of others and ignoring peer research is the area reserved for public relations persons and spin doctors. Further, her inherent bias creates a crippling blindness in her research. She starts with a conclusion and constructs weak and flimsy evi- dence to support it, ignoring the evidence in plain sight which directly contradicts her claims. She looks only where she wants to look and sees only what she wants to see. And, quite disturbingly, she casts no critical eye on the actions of RMM et al, much of which has been highly unethical and very illegal. Her being a board of director member while much of these violations have occurred only make all of these even more disconcerting.
The fundamental truth is this: if these self-appointed farmworker advocate organizations truly were "bottom up" or grassroots created and/or driven organizations, which genuinely represented the issues and concerns of tens of thousands of individuals (let alone were somehow appointed by God and doing his "work") then there is little I as a single individ- ual, or even a handful of farmers and grower organizations, could do to stop them. But if these groups are "top down" organizations primarily sustained by their creators' significant financial resources and sheer will, if they are not grassroots driven but are the "plan or action of men," men that don't represent who they claim, then as Gamaliel said, they even- tually will be "overthrown." Gray's "research" only confirms this for me.As she states:
"The aggressive attacks against farmworker advocacy are only few years in the mak- ing, because of this it is too soon to tell if the organizations will be able to weather a coordinated effort to quash their advocacy."
Indeed.
I will gladly answer any questions you may have, provide any materials I reference which isn't included with this packet or provide any additional information you require.
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Endnotes
  • New York Farm Bureau recently posted the following announcement on their web- site (http://www.nyfb.org/):
    "Important News from New York Farm Bureau
    The State Department of Labor, Division of Labor Standards, has announced their farm compliance program for the year will be focused towards the veg- etable industry. This program will be similar to the one conducted last year, focused towards the dairy industry. Inspectors will be focusing on compli- ance with the Minimum Wage Order (remember it is now $6.00 an hour and must be posted as such),Workers' Compensation coverage, and the Farm Work Agreement. State inspectors may, or may not, be accompanied by a federal Department of Labor regional inspector as well. As a general reminder, federal inspectors tend to check for compliance with the Migrant and Seasonal Protection Act and the OSHA housing standards.
    Please know that the state and federal Departments of Labor are directing their efforts towards compliance education, but can and will avail themselves of the ability to issue fines should a grower have a serious violation. The dairy inspections went quite well last year, with the majority of problems arising over farm work agreements, or lack thereof, and a lack of understanding that farm workers are considered manu- al workers and must be paid on a weekly, and not bi-weekly, basis.
    If you are a dairy farmer and received a visit last year and had a compliance issue, you can and should expect that you will see a recheck of your farm operation to ensure that you are now in full compliance.
    If you are not in full compliance yet, you can expect to see penalties assessed.
    Please distribute this information widely to your farmer neighbors, regard- less of their commodity. It's vitally important that you take the time to understand and be in full compliance with all state and federal labor laws. Nobody should read this message and think that they cannot, at any time, be subjected to a labor inspection simply because they are an apple grower and not a vegetable grower! Additional information is available here that has much of the information you will need to double check your farm oper- ation." (Emphasis mine)
    Someone needs to tell the NYSDOL that they don't have the authority to levy fines.
  • On 10/4/01 RMM Executive Director Richard Witt was deposed by New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying Executive Director David Grandeau and New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying counsel Ralph Miccio, in the
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course of their investigation of RMM's lobby law violations. During that deposition the following exchange occurred:
Q. (Miccio) Is there an agenda for this rally day? A. (Witt) Yes Q.Who sets the agenda? A. It's a gathering of people that come together. Q. Is there a formal agenda?
A.A formal agenda for the actual day?- Q. Yes. A . Ye s . Q.Who sets the agenda?
A. It's a group of people that come together to put it together. Q. Not your ministry? A.We are one of the folks at the table. Q. (Grandeau) Who else is there?
A. Farm workers. Q. How many farm workers? A. One or two. Q.Who selects the farm workers? A.They select themselves. Q. How do they do that, though? A.They volunteer to be on the planning committee that puts the day togeth- er. Q.When you say "they volunteer", is there an organization of farm workers that they come from? A.There is a farm worker organization, but those on the committee are not necessarily in the organization. Q.Any farm worker who wants to be on your planning committee can be on it? A . Ye s . Q.You don't limit the number? A . Ye s . Q.Are there more than two? A. For a couple of years it might have been two or three -- three or four. Q. Does that sound strange to you? A. In what way? Q. In the advocacy advocating for these people, any one of them, as you tes- tified, can serve on the committee, and the most you got is three? A. It's very hard.You have to understand that farm workers are working until, you know, early in the morning until sunset and don't get a day of rest. It's very hard for them.
3. In his deposition before the Lobby Commission Witt (eventually) admitted that farmworkers that did participate in the annual "Farmworker Advocacy Day" were
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paid $40, at the end of the day's events, for their participation.The following is a humorous portion of the deposition that dealt with this issue.The entire section of the deposition dealing with this issue is attached with this document.Also included is a copy of the entire deposition, which must be read in its entirety to gain a bet- ter insight into the character and integrity of Witt.
Q. (Miccio) So, for the rally day in May of 2001, did you or anybody at the ministry offer to pay farm workers to attend? A. No. Q. Did anyone offer them $40 if they were to come to the rally?
A.That was to cover their expenses. Q.Would you explain that, please? A.Their expenses of getting to the rally.There are expenses of losing a day's worth of wages. Q.Who was going to pay for the farm workers? A.There were different donations made through different organizations. Q.Was any paid to you, to the ministry? A. Some of them were, but not all of them. Q. (Grandeau) How much in total was paid through the ministry? A. I don't know. I would have to -- Q.You had 200 people there. How many of the people received the forty dollar fee to attend, if not all of them? A. Not all of them. I don't the exact number
The topic is changed but the $40 payment is brought up again later in the deposi- tion.
Q. (Grandeau) When would they receive their forty dollars? A. I'm sorry? Q.When would they receive their forty dollars? A. Who?
Q.Anybody that received forty dollars -- and you testified earlier that there were people that received forty dollars, right? A.The farm workers were eligible -- and, I'm sorry; that passed by me. I'm not sure if it was $40 or what the amount was.
Q.Whatever the amount was, when would these farm workers have received the money? A. I don't know. Q.Who did they receive the money from?
A. Somebody -- I think the past year somebody from the staff of the Rural and Migrant Ministry was coordinating a part of that. Q.Your organization? A. Part of that, but other folks received money from other organizations that were there.
Q. Let's limit ourselves to your organization and the money that you distrib-
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uted.You are the Executive Director? A.That's correct. Q. So, I am sure you were aware of how it was distributed. A. I don't know when it was. Q. I didn't say when. How was it distributed; by check? A. I don't know. Q.Was it distributed by cash? A. Probably more likely by cash. Q. Did someone keep a record of who received the money? A . Ye s . Q.That record is contained within the Rural and Migrant Ministry? A . Ye s . Mr Grandeau: I would request that you provide us with a copy of that record. Q.You don't recall when the money was distributed? A. I don't know. Q.Would they have received the money when they were in Albany? A. I don't know. Q.Who would know that? A. Our administrative coordinator. Q. How do you not know that? You were handing out cash to people that came to advocacy day. I would think that as the Executive Director you would want to know who was getting the money. A. I'm sorry. I don't know. Q.You didn't care? A. I had many other things that I was responsible for. Q.This is one of those things that was better out of sight; better not to know about it? A. No. I just had other things that I was responsible for.
  • For example, on 9/6/04 the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ran an article entitled "State's farmworkers on the fringe: Controversial movement to unionize takes on urgency." The article quoted RMM operative Bill Abom as stating, regarding farm- workers, that "many do not speak up because of fear." Further, one only needs to pick up a copy of any RMM produced material, thumb through it to find scattered references to this "fear" felt by farmworkers.
  • When the NYS legislature ended the separate minimum wage order for agricultural workers late in 1999 (signed into law by Governor Pataki in 2000) an unintended consequence occurred. It seems the NYS legislature wasn't aware that agricultural workers weren't the only workers with a separate state minimum wage order.At the time separate minimum wage orders existed for a number of industries and employees in New York, including the hospitality industry, household/domestic workers, taxicab drivers, non-profit making institutions, amongst others. (By the way, as even the New York Daily News acknowledged in it's series written at the
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time about the farmworker issue, the separate minimum wage for farmworkers wasn't a prevailing wage.The Daily News acknowledged twice, in pieces written on 8/1/99 and 11/17/99, "the average wage for field hands (in NYS) is $7.20 an hour.") When the increase was passed increases also were passed for the far more (than farmworkers) waiters and waitresses that work in NYS.That increase though never was seen by those workers.As Andrew Hsiao pointed out in his article "Stiffed! State Legislature Slices Waiters’ Minimum-Wage Raise " which appeared in the April 12 - 18, 2000 edition of the Village Voice:
"The Democratic-led New York State assembly passed a bill cutting back a minimum-wage increase for tipped workers in restaurants and bars.The bill was quickly approved by the Republican-dominated State Senate and signed by Governor George Pataki on March 31, leaving labor activists steaming."
He adds:
"Enter the state's powerful $14.2 billion restaurant industry, which launched an intense lobbying campaign that culminated in the last-minute assembly bill.The legislation, shepherded through the assembly by speaker Sheldon Silver and labor committee chair Catherine Nolan, capped the tipped work- ers' minimum at $3.30. Mario Cilento, a spokesperson for the state AFL-CIO, says, 'It's unfathomable that they would go to all this trouble to deny these low-wage earners 20 cents an hour.' Worse, adds the Immigrant Rights Clinic's Chakshu Patel, the bill unhooked the tipped workers' minimum from the general minimum, meaning, she says, that 'if other workers get a raise in their minimum wage, restaurant workers won't. Instead, they'll have to fight a new and separate battle to increase their wages every time the general minimum is increased in the future.'" http://www.villagevoice.com/news/index.php?issue=0015&page=hsiao&id= 14002
Queens Assemblywoman Nolan has been one of the most vocal proponents of self- appointed farmworker advocate proposed legislation over the years. I will note though that she probably has far more waiters and waitresses living in her district in Queens than farmworkers and farmers. I don't know if my (and others from upstate) objections to her positions (in respect to the fact she has virtually no first- hand knowledge or experience or real understanding in regards to agriculture and agriculture issues but has no problem pontificating about it) constitutes "agricultur- al exceptionalism." I will argue though that Nolan's callous move to backpedal on her minimum wage increase legislation in order to maintain the lower minimum wage "exclusion" for waiters and waitresses, so as to appease the powerful restau- rant lobby, smacks of rank hypocrisy and cynical politics.
6. Regarding hypocrisy: In the summer of 2003, after Bishop Pena of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville,Texas fired a number of his employees in response
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to their attempts to join a labor union, I contacted the various diocese and other large religious institutions (of various faiths) that primarily fund RMM et al, asking them where they stood on the issue of their employees joining a labor union. Most ignored and refused to respond to my repeated attempts to solicit their views/posi- tions on this issue. Only the Episcopal Diocese of New York remotely attempted to answer my questions.Their spokesperson said: "The Episcopal Diocese of New York has a history of advocacy for the rights of all people and lives out this belief in advocating for the rights and dignity of all workers.The staff of the diocese is not unionized and to my knowledge it has never been an issue." My response: It seems to me that if you are going to aggressively lobby for certain laws or conditions for workers outside of your industry, then you should be leading by example for employees in your own industry." Their hypocrisy also involves overtime pay. Under NYS labor law non-profit organizations, at the time of their formation/incorpora- tion, can elect to apply for an exemption (or "exclusion," as Gray would say) to pay overtime. So, odds are, the large religious institutions as well as the individual churches that are prompting/backing RMM, NYSLRC and CITA and calling on farm- ers to pay overtime to farmworkers are probably exempt and not paying overtime to their own employees. (http://rochester.indymedia.org/newswire/display_any/2393)
  • The constant unsubstantiated "fear" justification was taken to its lowest extreme in a RMM fund raising card, dated Thanksgiving 2001, written by Witt.This fund-raising card, which morphed fear into "terror," is quite heavy on melodramatic, heavily exaggerated hyperbole. Dated roughly two months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 Witt shamelessly plays on and attempts to cash in on that event. His opening sentence in the card breathlessly states: "Terror has been a part of migrant workers lives in New York for a long time."
    He further adds: "more often than not, terror remains a constant companion, suck- ing your energy, denying hope, refusing dignity." He adds that "for twenty years RMM has faced the terror with vision of hope and justice....We stand up to the ter- ror and we have empowered others to stand up as well." He also claims that the "terror" felt by farmworkers is "state" government "sanctioned" because the state doesn't pass the laws that Witt lobbies for. He concludes, "please join us through your donation." Ah, the terror can be simply defeated with your tax deductible con- tribution.What's not explained is why anyone would risk their lives to cross the border, paying someone roughly $3,000 to do it, to come here to New York State and subject themselves to this state sanctioned and ongoing terror campaign. Shameless.
  • Fear isn't the only reason given.As my first endnote highlighted, RMM Executive Director Witt, in an attempt to explain why virtually no farmworkers participated in his organization's planning activities for its annual lobby day in Albany, stated that
    "It's very hard.You have to understand that farm workers are working until,
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you know, early in the morning until sunset and don't get a day of rest. It's very hard for them."
So, instead of being afraid to be involved they are just too busy. Interestingly, labor statistics don't quite bear out that claim.According to federal farmworker labor sta- tistics compiled by one of the statistical gathering agencies of the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), for the region NYS is in, Northeast I, (CT, ME, MA, NH, NY, RI,VT.) for the period of Jan 7-13 2001 (the time period when these meetings would have occurred) the aver- age hours worked by farmworkers was 39.6 per week. Hardly "sunrise to sunset" hours. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/reports/nassr/other/pfl- bb/2001/fmla0201.txt
  • My farm was a subject of much focus for the Cornell project/exhibit "Coming Up On the Season. " http://www.farmworkers.cornell.edu/index.htm Numerous times during the research phase of the project the research team members were on my farm, photographing and videotaping my workers as well as interviewing them (and myself).At one point, during their third or fourth farm visit, one of the researchers commented to me that the farmwork wasn't as hard as he/she expect- ed it to be. I pointed out to them that the work my employees do I and my family have done in the past and/or still do ourselves now, on occasion (like hand weed- ing). My impression of the work, for the most part, including what I primarily do, is usually boring. She/he concurred.
  • What Gray also doesn't mention is the Farmworker Housing Improvement Program run through the Orange County Office of Community Development. This program, created in 1992, has been very successful in improving conditions via a variety of projects. Over $1.7 million in federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and county funds have been allocated via this program to improve farmworker housing and related facilities in Orange County. Farmers have contributed roughly $680,000, not counting the $151,000 which was an excess amount paid by farmers which isn't included in the farmer's share.That's total expenditures of roughly $2.5 mil- lion, which have gone towards dozens of projects that have benefitted hundreds of farmworkers and their families.An advisory committee, consisting of a representa- tive from the Orange County Office of Community Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County, Orange County Farm Bureau, Rural Opportunities Inc., the NYSDOL and the Orange County Executive's office, over- sees the application process.
    This program has been copied in Ulster, Greene,Albany, Rennselear, and Columbia counties. NYSDOL rural staff have pushed this program and, as mentioned, serve on the community boards to administer the program in each of these counties.The liv- ing conditions for farmworkers have been improved by this program in real, materi- al and tangible ways —something the self-appointed advocates cannot legitimately claim in regards to their “accomplishments.”
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  • Included with this material is a copy of a follow-up letter I wrote to legislators after visits on Capitol Hill as well as some articles about this issue that have appeared in NYFB literature over the years. I have also been interviewed by Regional Network News and Univision over the years regarding my lobbying activities for passage of federal legislation to enable farmworkers to obtain legal status.The implied notion that farmers would use a worker's undocumented status to essentially extort them is without basis and is offensive to me personally.
  • NYFB policy states:
    "Our continuing efforts in the area of immigration policy should stress the following points: ... such adjustment of status should not require the employ- ee to leave the country during the period of application; and the legal status during the adjusting period should be similar to that of a permanent resi- dent alien without requiring the adjusting employee to utilize H2a in order to remain in the country legally.A one-time opportunity for farm workers currently working but not authorized to work in the U.S. to earn an adjust- ment of status in the U.S. if they fulfill appropriate prospective work require- ments in agriculture."
    Also:
    "We strongly support the reform of immigration policy, including H2A reform and adjusted status that is proposed in the bipartisan AgJobs bill. Commercial fishing and commercial fish dock workers should also be eligi- ble to participate under the proposed AgJobs legislation."
    And under "Immigration Reform Principles":
    "U.S. immigration policy must first recognize that Americans simply will not perform most agricultural jobs, which are often seasonal and migratory. Without workers from abroad, and even with the embrace of technological advancements,America’s fields would go un-harvested; its livestock, unat- tended.We must confront the problem of illegal immigration directly and comprehensively, and traditional law enforcement and immigration measures alone will not suffice.A workable temporary worker program must be part of the solution.While many agricultural workers will not seek U.S. citizen- ship, there has to be an incentive for some workers to come forward.We do not support a blanket amnesty, but we can no longer afford, in a post- September 11th world where resources are scarce, to continue focusing on those who pose no risk to our nation’s security.At the same time, we must more effectively enforce our immigration laws to deter the employment of unauthorized workers."
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Finally, "labor" is identified as one of NYFB's National Priority Issues.The NYFB website (http://www.nyfb.org/facts/Labor.htm) in part states:
"Each year it has become increasingly difficult for farmers in New York to secure an adequate workforce for both seasonal and year-round work.The majority of New York's fruit and vegetable farms, and increasingly dairy farms, depend on foreign seasonal labor. Studies have shown that a large proportion of the agricultural workforce is working with questionable docu- mentation. These employees are critical to the success of family farms in New York State. Many migrant workers return year after year to the same farm, and are an integral part of the farm business. These workers are able to support themselves and their families in their country of origin during the short time they are working in New York. However, increased border inspection and immigration enforcement as a result of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, will likely mean even less workers for Northeast farms."
And :
"Strongly support immediate passage of the AgJOBS legislation that reforms the H2a program and provides for an earned adjustment of status."
Do these policy provisions sound like they reflect the views of people that are looking to exploit a farmworker's undocumented status?
  • Over the years our family farm has employed workers who have sold drugs from the housing we provide, have gotten in knife fights with each other, and have “cele- brated” (they referred to it as "having a holiday") one night by randomly firing a 38 caliber handgun into the air.We did not fire any of those employees, let alone move to have them deported.We did, understandably, call the police.
  • I've never understood why the self-appointed advocates haven't taken these com- parisons and arguments to a different level.Why compare the farmworker (and the rules and laws regarding employment and everything associated with it) to just workers in the construction, retail or manufacturing sector? Why not compare them to an airline pilot, or the CEO for a transnational pharmaceutical company, or an agent for the FBI? Why simply make the argument that "farmworkers should get overtime pay like the factory worker" or similar example? Why not, "farmworkers should earn six figure salaries and have private restrooms like the CEO of Nestle Corporation" or "farmworkers should be able to assassinate foreign operatives like CIA agents?" Why does the flat, out of context comparison end with the factory or construction worker? On its face, their current dialectic is nearly just as illogical and nonsensical.
  • In a presentation during Encuentro 2000: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Breakout Sessions, Saturday, July 8, 2000), Executive Director Witt stated,
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regarding the New York Daily News specifically and the power of the media gener- ally, the following:
"But in turn they did twenty editorials over the past year around farmworker justice issues. And I have been utterly amazed at the power of media. I had no idea that media was so powerful. But I have heard Senators say, you got to get the Daily News off our back. Uhm, So, media, the church, the unions, and all of a sudden I woke up this year and you know, these are all the ingre- dients of a civil rights movement.And I don't want to miss this.You know,I want to live this up. And so we keep uh, battling that on the legislative front."
Aren't genuine social justice movements supposed to be something more than a series of contrived events generated by and for the evident enjoyment of one per- son?
16. During Encuentro 2000 Executive Director Witt stated the following regarding the formation of Rural and Migrant Ministry and CITA and both organizations' primary program focus and activities, something neither organization honestly discloses to the IRS:
“The motto for Rural and Migrant Ministry is hope, justice and empower- ment.... Rural and Migrant Ministry was created about twenty years ago when the Methodists, the Episcopalians, the American Baptist Reform Church of America, the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholic judicatories in the Hudson Valley of New York got together ....‘Why don’t we merge our efforts and create an ecumenical organization?’...And everybody agreed to it.Which is utterly amazing to me.And they kept at it, they entered into a covenant.And twenty years later that covenant is still going strong....And the agreement from the beginning was that it would be a covenant about empowerment and advocacy.Which again, is rather amazing to me.And therefore there were not going to be any arguments about how to say the creed, or how you were going to do this prayer or that prayer, that the focus was on empowerment and advocacy, being present with farmworkers.... So, through the years Rural and Migrant Ministry has been about listening and about nurturing for empowerment and advocacy.And in our earlier years we got involved, thanks to the help of CHD [Campaign for Human Development] funding, in helping farmworkers create their own organiza- tion.An advocacy and empowerment organization.And they’ve done that, it’s now independent. It’s on its way to becoming the nation’s fourth farm- worker union, in New York. It’s called CITA, the Independent Farmworker Center, located in Florida, New York....And now the ministry focuses on building a support coalition to stand with the farmworkers as they seek to bring about change."
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17. RMM reported the following on their annual Form 990 tax returns, Part I, Line I - Schedule of Contributors (this is information that a 501(c)3 is not required to dis- close or make available for public inspection according to the code. For some inex- plicable reason they chose to disclose it anyway):
Year Contributor Contribution
  • 1996  Episcopal Church (presumably NY Diocese) Presbyterian Church
    Reformed Church
    United Methodist Church
    Baptist Church
    Roman Catholic Diocese-Albany Various Congregations Individuals/Organizations Campaign for Human Development Individuals/Organ. Summer Camp Independent Farmworkers Coop Other
    Misc. Fund Raising
    Resource Development
    Youth Arts Program
    Total
  • 1997  Episcopal Church (presumably NY Diocese) Presbyterian Church
    Reformed Church
    United Methodist Church
    Baptist Church
    Various Congregations Individuals/Organizations
    Other
    Resource Development
    Youth Arts / Summer Camp Program Total
  • 1998  Episcopal Church - NY Diocese Presbyterian Church
    Reformed Church
    United Methodist Church
    Roman Catholic Church
    Baptist Church
    Kaiser Family Foundation
    Marble Collegiate Church
    Various Congregations & Individuals
$40,500 $9,586 $11,250 $5,609 $2,510 $1,000 $30,893 $14,800 $5,350 $17,154 $15,443 $1,893 $6,173 $40,888 $54,030 $257,079
$30,000 $9,700 $10,250 $4,207 $1,885 $34,119 $47,492 $11,650 $47,412 $10,960 $207,675
$94,646 $15,030 $10,250
$5,098 $5,500 $1,385 $5,000 $5,000
$126,687
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Total $268,596
In their 1999 return they didn't include for public inspection contributor informa- tion.Their 2000 return contains some information. It states:
"Denominational Contributions: Contributions were received from various denominations as follows:"
Dollar figures are listed for 2000 and 1999 but no names of contributors are provid- ed.The largest contributor among six listed in 1999 is $34,600 (out of $66,652) and among six listed in 2000 is $30,000 (out of $64,259). One can safely assume that the list of contributors followed the same order as the earlier returns, making the Episcopal Diocese of New York again one of, if not the largest, contributor to RMM among religious institutions.The 2000 return also contains this statement:
"Note Payable: During 1998, the Ministry negotiated an unsecured $50,000 note with the Diocese of New York of the Episcopal Church.The note requires interest to be paid semiannually at 6% and the principal to be repaid on or before April 1, 2001.There is no prepayment penalty.Total inter- est expense on the note was $3,000 for the years ended December 31, 2000 and 1999."
Certainly, based on this evidence regarding financial information, one can assume the Episcopal Diocese of New York exerts considerable influence over RMM in its overall goals, activities and agenda.
  • Regarding proxy agents and buffers, one can't help but think of The Godfather Part II. In particular, one is reminded of the scene when the "Corleone Family" soldier Willie Cicci (who first worked directly for Corleone Family Caporegime Peter Clemenza and then Caporegime Frankie Pentangeli) is giving testimony before the U.S. Senate hearing about the inner workings of organized crime families in the U.S. and the Corleone Family in particular.The scene:
    Chairman: Did you ever get such an order directly from Michael Corleone? Cicci: No—I never talked to him.
    Senator Geary: I'm particularly interested in knowing was there always a buffer involved -- . -- someone between you and your possible superiors, who gave the actual order?
    Cicci: Right, yea a buffer—the family had a lot of buffers.
    I would argue that the Episcopal Diocese of New York "Family" (amongst other "Families") has a lot of buffers too.
  • Almost, as if on cue, as I was in the middle of writing this response to Gray's work, the New York State United Teachers union, in its publication released the article
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(dated 6/15/05) entitled "Union seeks better treatment of farmworkers." It, in part states:
"As the legislative session in Albany progressed toward scheduled adjourn- ment in late June, New York State United Teachers leaders were monitoring the progress of a proposed Fair Labor Practices Act that would give farm workers fair and equal treatment in the workplace.The NYSUT-backed bill would provide collective bargaining rights, unemployment insurance, work- ers' compensation benefits, overtime (after working eight hours) and a day of rest each week.... Farm workers and their advocates staged a four-day walk in April and May across upstate from Albion to Albany to dramatize the need for legislative reform.At a stop in Sodus,Wayne County, NYSUT labor relations specialist Carrie Andrews spoke to the group (with simultaneous translation into Spanish), stressing NYSUT's solidarity, past and present, with fairness for farmworkers."
  • It should be noted that this buffer protection isn't absolute.As the Feds were able to close in on Michael Corleone so others are starting to publicly identify who “Oz” really is behind this curtain. In an article written by Lauren Newkirk Maynard found in Artvoice (dated 2/17/05) entitled "And the Cheese Stands Alone" (http://www.nfwm.org/pdf/newsarticles/SorrentoArt.pdf) Maynard quotes a fre- quent legislator target of RMM et al, NYS Sen Dale Volker, who stated:
    "This movement is being driven by a bunch of church people who want to feel good about themselves."
  • NYS Lobby Law is crystal clear regarding what constitutes lobbying activities and who has to register. It states in part:
    Section 1. Legislative Intent of the Lobbying Act.
    The operation and administration of a government responsible to the peo- ple requires that the fullest opportunity be afforded to the public to petition their government, to redress grievances, and to express freely their opinions concerning legislation and other governmental proceedings.To preserve and maintain the integrity of governmental decision-making, the Lobbying Act requires public disclosure of the identity, expenditures, and activities of per- sons and organizations retained, employed, or designated to influence any legislative or gubernatorial action on legislation, rule-making, regulation mak- ing, or rate-making proceedings before any state agency the passage or defeat of any local law, ordinance or regulation.
    § 2.To whom does the Lobbying Act apply?
    The Act applies to lobbyists and public corporations, and to clients or
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employers of lobbyists, who in any calendar year either reasonably antici- pate expending, incurring, or receiving, or actually expend, incur, or receive, more than $2,000 of combined reportable compensation and expenses for lobbying activities.
§ 3. Explanation of Terms.
A. "Lobbying" and "Lobbying Activities" mean attempts to influence: 1. the passage or defeat of legislation; or
2. the approval or disapproval of any legislation by the governor; or
3. the adoption or rejection of any rule or regulation having the force and effect of law by a state agency; or
4. the outcome of any rate-making proceeding by a state agency; or
5. the passage or defeat of any local law, ordinance, or any regulation by any municipality or subdivision thereof: or
6. adoption or rejection of any rule or regulation having the force and effect of local law, ordinance or regulation of any rate-making procedure by any municipality or subdivision thereof. http://www.nylobby.state.ny.us/guidelin.html
RMM et al had no legitimate excuses for their failure to comply with NYS Lobby Law.
22. IRS code regarding the rules for organizations that file as a 501(c)3, in connection to lobbying, or education versus propaganda, are also explicitly clear.The Internal Revenue Service publication entitled "LOBBYING ISSUES" by Judith E. Kindell and John Francis Reilly (found on the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/topic- p.pdf ) clearly outlines Internal Revenue Service code in connection with what constitutes lobbying and how much lobbying an organization that files as a 501(c)(3) can lawfully engage in before 501(c)(3) status is lost or revoked. Here is a portion of it:
"Attempts to influence legislation are not limited to direct communications to members of the legislature ('direct' lobbying). Indirect communications through the electorate or general public ('grass roots' lobbying) also consti- tute attempts to influence legislation. Of course, whether a communication constitutes an attempt to influence legislation is determined on the basis of the facts and circumstances surrounding the communication in question. Both direct and grass roots lobbying are nonexempt activities subject to the IRC 501(c)(3) limitation on substantial legislative action.16 Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-
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1(c)(3)(ii).17 Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(ii) also provides that, more generally, advocating the adoption or rejection of legislation constitutes an attempt to influence legislation for purposes of the IRC 501(c)(3) lobbying restriction. This provision was tested in the case of Christian Echoes National Ministry, Inc. v. United States, 470 F.2d 849 (10th Cir. 1972); cert. denied, 414 U.S. 864 (1973). Christian Echoes National Ministry published articles and produced radio and television broadcasts that urged recipients to become involved in politics and to write to their representatives in Congress to urge that they support prayer in public schools and oppose foreign aid.The organization argued that attempts to influence legislation would occur only if legislation were actually pending.The Tenth Circuit concluded that the regulation prop- erly interpreted the statute, and that the organization was engaged in attempting to influence legislation, even if legislation was not pending.
The IRS 501(c)(3) regulations provide that an organization is not operated exclusively for exempt purposes if it is an 'action' organization. Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3) uses the term 'action' organizations to describe both organizations that attempt to influence legislation and organizations that intervene in political campaigns. For purposes of the lobbying restriction, an organization is an ‘action’ organization on either of two distinct grounds.The first occurs if a substantial part of the organization’s activities involves attempting to influence legislation. Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(ii) states that an organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it does the following: (A) Contacts, or urges the public to contact, members of a leg- islative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legisla- tion, or (B) Advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.The second ground is found in Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(iv), which provides that an organization is an ‘action’ organization if it has the following two characteris- tics: (A) Its main or primary objective or objectives (as distinguished from its incidental or secondary objectives) may be attained only by legislation or a defeat of proposed legislation; and (B) It advocates, or campaigns for, the attainment of such main or primary objective or objectives as distinguished from engaging in nonpartisan analysis, study, or research and making the results thereof available to the public. In determining whether an organiza- tion has these two characteristics, all of the surrounding facts and circum- stances, including the articles and all activities of the organization, are to be considered.
Nevertheless, while neither the Service nor the courts have adopted a per- centage test for determining whether a substantial part of an organization’s activities consist of lobbying, some guidance can be derived from Seasongood and Haswell. Under Seasongood, a five percent safe harbor has been frequently applied as a general rule of thumb regarding what is sub- stantial. Similarly, lobbying activities that exceed the roughly 16 to 20 per- cent range of total activities found in Haswell are generally considered sub-
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stantial."
And regarding the issue of education versus propaganda the IRS makes the follow- ing distinctions in Publication 557, "Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization" http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p557.pdf :
"Advocacy of a position.
Advocacy of a particular position or viewpoint may be educational if there is a sufficiently full or fair exposition of pertinent facts to permit an individ- ual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion.The mere presentation of unsupported opinion is not educational.
Method not educational.
The method used by an organization to develop and present its views is a factor in determining if an organization qualifies as educational within the meaning of section 501(c)(3).The following factors may indicate that the method is not educational.
1) The presentation of viewpoints unsupported by facts is a significant por- tion of the organization's communications. 2) The facts that purport to support the viewpoints are distorted. 3) The organization's presentations make substantial use of inflammatory and disparaging terms and express conclusions more on the basis of strong emotional feelings than of objective evaluations.
4) The approach used in the organization's presentations is not aimed at developing an understanding on the part of the intended audience or read- ership because it does not consider their background or training in the sub- ject matter."
A casual perusal of the materials generated by RMM et al (especially RMM) demon- strates that much of it falls clearly into the "propaganda" category.A classic example appeared in a documentary that aired on Regional Network News back on September 26, 1996. It was entitled,“Migrant Farm Workers:The Rural Reality.”Witt is a primary source of information for the host of the program. He is featured prominently throughout the piece. One exchange in the piece typifies the sort of blatant propaganda Witt will employ.The scene takes place along side Pulaski Highway in the black dirt farming area of Orange County.The following is a tran- script/description of the scene:
The Narrator and Witt are standing alongside a highway on a mid summer day.
Witt:
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One of the great tragedies in the black dirt area in recent years was the death of a six year old boy. His family lived right here (points), there was a house right here (points). Hard to believe.
CUT
Witt: A few years later there was a group of other folks that were living here and the bathroom was over there (points).
CUT
Narrator: (crosses the road with Witt as he speaks) You actually had to cross the road every time you had to go to the bathroom, even if it was in the middle of the night?
Witt: Yeah, you had to walk across the road, the highway, I mean, this is a busy highway. It’s the main road you had to walk down in here.
CUT
Witt: The outhouse faced the highway, it didn’t have any electricity and it didn’t have a door.
CUT
Narrator: How long ago was that taken down, that specific house?
Witt: Oh, about 2 1/2 years ago, 3 years ago.
Narrator: So we aren’t talking 1970.
Witt: No, we are talking in recent years. One of the great frustrations also was our ministry had a memorial service for the 6 year old.A great outpouring of concern.We had a memorial service for him, up the road a ways, uh, and as we were having the memorial service we were buzzed by a crop dusting plane 3 times.
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After watching this piece one comes away with the following impression:
Sometime between 1993 and 1994 a 6 year old child of a farmworker crossed a busy highway in the dark of night to use an outhouse, with no door, that was across the road and faced the highway.The child was struck and killed. Some time after the child died Witt held a memorial service which was disrupted purposefully by a crop duster. It is unclear if the crop duster disrupted the service of his own volition or was put up to it by local farmers.
Here is what actually happened:
The accident occurred not in 1993 or 1994 but in 1989.The toilet for the housing was actually on the same side of the road, it did not face the highway, and had a door.Young Guierrmo Zuniga (known as “Junior”) was not going to the bathroom when the accident occurred, neither did it occur at night.“Junior” was riding on a single pedal bike with his brother late morning. Pulaski Highway is indeed a busy highway, and the two children riding the single bike made the fatal mistake of cut- ting across the highway to get to Skinners Lane.A young woman struck the bike and “Junior” was killed. A funeral was held a short time later at the T.S. Purta funeral home in Pine Island, which the farmer and the farmer’s family all attended. It is my understanding that neither Richard Witt nor anyone connected with Rural & Migrant Ministry bothered to attend that service. No one, no farmer, nor the crop duster knew anything about this alleged ad-hoc ceremony held somewhere on the highway, but to suggest or imply that the farmers put the crop duster up to, or the crop duster of his own volition, purposefully disrupted a memorial service for a child so tragically killed, is a heinous and despicable lie. For Witt to even suggest it does a terrible disservice to that collar he wears.
Finally, if Witt felt the piece was edited in such a way to misrepresent the facts, after the documentary proper ended there was an additional 30 minutes or so spent in the studio, with Witt, the narrator and another "source," who took calls and added additional information.Witt at that point certainly could have corrected any mistakes in the piece. He did not.
According to RMM's website (http://www.ruralmigrantministry.org/about/about_2.asp) Witt didn't take the job at RMM until 1991.The boy died in 1989, two years prior to Witt taking the job. And it appears Witt is still peddling this story.Also on his website (http://www.ruralmigrantministry.org/edu/education_3.asp) one finds this photo- graph, taken I would assume within the past two or three years. It's taken on the same spot that Witt told that whopper of a story to the RNN reporter. One can safe- ly assume he is still peddling that story.
23. During Witt's deposition the following exchange between Grandeau and Witt, con- cerning what participants in the annual Rural and Migrant Ministry sponsored
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“Farmworker Advocacy Day” do:
Q.Why do you want them to visit the legislature? A. So that they can express their concerns. Q.What do you hope to achieve by them expressing their concerns? A.To help them improve farm workers’ conditions. Q. How? A. Ultimately, by removing the exclusions. Q.That is contained in legislation? A . Ye s . Q.You are hoping that their presence in Albany and their visits to the legisla- tors results in the passage of legislation; aren’t you? A.That’s correct. Q.That is lobbying; isn’t it? A.That’s correct.
More revealing as to what RMM Executive Director Witt knew as to what consti- tutes lobbying is the following exchange between Miccio and a Roman Catholic priest named Kenneth Doyle, a clergyman who also happened to be an attorney (he is spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Howard Hubbard) and a friend of Witt's who attended Witt's deposition before the Lobby Commission. He was not acting in the capacity of counsel for Witt during the depo- sition.
Fra. Doyle: Can we go off the record? I just want to ask you a question about the process. Does this have to be so adversarial a process? Why don’t you call him in and say:You probably thought you had to be in direct contact with legislators for you to be lobbying.And what you were doing in the magazines and on advocacy day meets our definition of lobbying.Therefore, it would be good -- why does David have to act like the grand inquisitor? Why did it have to rise to that level?
Mr. Miccio:We asked for this information voluntarily.When we do that, many times people ask us exactly what we are looking for and ask us for a meet- ing to go over these things and provide them. When that doesn’t happen, we ask them to come in.We do things differently.The approach we have is that they are trying not to register.That may be a misconception on our part. Maybe that is totally wrong, but it’s a -- but at this point, and without some indication that it may be necessary to file, some people say:What’s going on? And they talk to us.You may come in and say: I don’t spend $2,000. It’s not a meeting.And that is not answering the question.That is simply a way of get- ting out of what is going to happen here. And the thing is, we don’t hide our rules.We don’t hide the opinions., the guidelines and the law are out there for you to as about. If it is a mistake, it’s a mistake and that’s fine. But it is at the point where -- and I think it’s past that point. I don’t know when you are
page85image24136 page85image24296 page85image24456 page85image24616 page85image24776 page85image24936 page85image25096 page85image25256
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coming into this, but it is past the point that we can talk and work things out. But when we are stonewalled and we think that things are being avoid- ed, we are not friendly anymore. It is unfortunate. Maybe we should still be friendly. But, good, bad or indifferent, that is our statement.
Fra. Doyle: If the determination is made that Richard should register is there a financial penalty?
Mr. Miccio:There could be a civil penalty, and a civil penalty hearing could be held. And if, in fact, that is the case, there could be a substantial penalty.
Fra. Doyle:They are a 501(c)(3) organization. One of his concerns is that he will lose that status. If a substantial amount of their budget is spent on lob- bying they would still qualify as a 501(c)(3) --
Mr. Miccio:The law doesn’t differentiate. If, in fact, you are lobbying under the Lobbying Act, you are required to register. If that affects your 501(c)(3) status, there are ways to do that or avoid that. But the fact is, if you are lob- bying in the State of New York, under the requirements of the law you have to file.And if that somewhat interferes or interrupts your 501(c)(3) status, find a way to do these things or you are going to lose the status. that is what the law says. So, the two things aren’t connected in the determination of what happens.
Obviously from the above cited material Witt has been well aware for some time what activities constitutes lobbying and that his voluminous (and I would charac- terize excessive) lobbying activities clearly brought into question the legitimacy and legality of his organization's 501(c)3 status. Hence, his avoidance of registering and otherwise complying with NYS lobby laws.
  • Speaking of ethics (or lack thereof), neither RMM or NYSLRC bothered to formally notify their membership (either via a letter or in one of the various journals and newsletters or fund-raising materials they produce) that they were investigated, sig- nificantly fined and required to register with the NYS Lobby Commission. Further, CITA did not formally notify their membership that they also were required to reg- ister and brought before the Commission for a civil penalty hearing.
  • In fact, the NYFB staffer added the following point:
    “Interestingly enough, as the OSHA standards cover most situations where farmworkers would be in the field, and do require the provision of drinking water, none of our members were concerned when the state of NY adopted what was essentially a duplicative, if somewhat more narrow in terms of the number of employees that could be in the field, version of the OSHA code.”
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What’s more disturbing is what Gray offers as proof that NYFB “robustly lobbied” against the drinking water legislation. She cites Jennifer Gordon’s “Campaign for the Unpaid Wages Prohibition Act: Latino Immigrants Change New York Wage Law” (published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1999). Gordon’s research dealt with the efforts behind the passage of the Unpaid Wages Prohibition Act in 1997. It did not primarily focus on the drinking water legislation or any of the other proposed legislation Gray writes about. In fact, the reference by Gordon to the drinking water legislation amounts to nothing more than a passing aside comment. She states:
“Bills benefiting workers face a particularly tough road.Agriculture is still the top industry in New York state, and the Farm Bureau, a private industry organization representing farmers, exerts powerful influence over the Senate. Unions are not a strong force in the legislature. In this context, osten- sibly simple legislation can become tangled in debate and rancor for years. For example, a bill guaranteeing clean drinking water to farmworkers in the fields had to be reintroduced five times over as many years before finally passing in 1996.” http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/imp_wp4gor- don.pdf
Gordon does not specifically state, as Gray asserts, that NYFB “robustly lobbied” against the bill. I suppose one may hop, skip and jump to that conclusion, but such a leap would not be based on fact nor even on what Gordon asserts. Gordon men- tions NYFB and then mentions how difficult it was to get the bill passed. Gordon did not make a direct connection nor did she plainly state that NYFB opposed it, “robustly” or mildly.
If NYFB had “robustly lobbied” against the bill as Gray claims then there would be “lobbyist footprints” and other evidence which she should easily be able to find and produce. Such “footprints” would include NYFB publicly released documents about the legislation as well as specific comments in the press made by NYFB staff. Those materials should be readily available if NYFB opposed the drinking water bill as Gray claims. Can she produce any documentary evidence to support her con- tention?
26. The editorial board of the New York Daily News won the 1999 editorial writing Pulitzer Prize for its series on Harlem's Apollo Theatre and the financial mismanage- ment that threatened the theatre's survival. Interestingly, that award is not without controversy either.An article found on WLIB 1190AM's website (http://www.wlib.com/pulitzer2.html) by William Tatum, the publisher of one of this country's most prestigious Black newspapers,The Amsterdam News, entitled "The Daily News Must Return the Pulitzer Prize" states, in part:
"Diminutive in stature and venomous in tongue and pen, Jonathan 'Capeman' Capehart has used the influence and financial resources of a
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hopelessly racist newspaper,The New York Daily News to further his attempts to destroy Harlem's leadership, in particular, Cong. Charles B. Rangel, ranking member of the House Committee on Ways and Means.... Now along comes the acid tongue little demon who pretends with others that they have won a Pulitzer Prize for The Daily News because they exposed Rangel's and Sutton's role in the raping and mismanagement of the Apollo Theatre.The Daily News, through it's publisher, Mortimer Zuckerman, Jonathan Capehart, a member of the editorial board and the writers and researchers on it Apollo series perpetuate a fraud on the people of the state of New York City, the Pulitzer Prize Committee and any other persons or institution that believed that The Daily News and its employees had any integrity left. For the truth of the matter is that then Attorney General of New York State, Dennis Vacco's investigation of the Apollo Theatre board, Rangel and Sutton was politically motivated and wrought with fraud and deception."
  • During his speech at Encuentro 2000 Witt stated:
    "And then the New York Daily News, which is New York's largest circulation newspaper, uh took this on.As the editor said to me, uh, he said, this is really important to us.And I said why? And he said well, I think we can get a Pulitzer out of this. Well, whatever it takes."
  • It seems likely Gray has seen my materials because her paper states the following regarding drinking water legislation and OSHA rules:
    "For example, the drinking water law previously applied to farms where five or more fieldworkers were employed, so the change affected only the small- est farms. Moreover, federal Occupational Safety and Health Standards for agriculture already required all workers to be provided with water" (p.9).
    My material, which was part of what I sent the Pulitzer Prize judging board and my submitted testimony, which I have widely distributed on the internet and via other methods, states:
    "S 212, Drinking water for farm laborers, was actually an amendment in 1996 to an existing law which dated back to 1973.The amendment removed the words 'more than four persons.' Further, as the 1992 edition of the NYSDOL publication 'Farmworker’s Guide to New York State Labor Laws' points out under the heading 'Drinking Water', that 'Federal regulations also require your employer to provide safe drinking water in the fields.' In fact, OSHA Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR), PART 1928 Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Agriculture, Part 1928 Subpart I - General Environmental Controls, 1928.110 - Field Sanitation, states, 'Requirements.Agricultural employers shall provide the following for employees engaged in hand-labor
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operations in the field, without cost to the employee: Potable drinking water. Potable water shall be provided and placed in locations readily acces- sible to all employees.The water shall be suitably cool and in sufficient amounts, taking into account the air temperature, humidity and the nature of the work performed, to meet the needs of all employees.The water shall be dispensed in single-use drinking cups or by fountains.The use of com- mon drinking cups or dippers is prohibited.' The OSHA regulations long pre- date the 1996 amended state regulation. One other note, to suggest that employers with under five employees did not provide safe drinking water simply because those employers did not fall under the state regulation is baseless."
The reason I post the above on the internet frequently and have distributed it widely is because RMM et al and their operatives, unlike Gray, continue to distort the facts regarding this legislation.As recently as an article dated 2/23/05, from the Finger Lakes Times, entitled "Farmworkers' march to be local this year" by Sujaya Gupta, where CITA Executive Director Rosa Rivera is quoted as saying
"'It took us 17 years to get drinking water and toilets in the fields,' said Rivera, noting that the measure finally passed in 1996."
What's Rivera obviously implying? And during the February 20, 2005 broadcast of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canandaigua, NY radio program "LIBERAL RELIGIOUS HOUR" program host Rev. Carl Thitchener interviewed Rural and Migrant Ministry employee Bill Abom, and Abom stated:
"We've been working together the past 12 years. In that time we've been able in 1996 to gain the right for farmworkers to have drinking water pro- vided to them in the fields. Something so basic as that. It took a campaign to require by law that drinking water would be provided for them when they are working in the fields."
In a NYSLRC fund-raising letter dated June 2005 NYSLRC Executive Director Brian O'Shaughnessy states:
"Our leadership with the 'Justice for Farmworkers' campaign which advo- cates for farmworkers, many of whom live and work and pay taxes year- round in New York State. Only a few years ago, farmworkers had no right to basic decencies of drinking water in the fields or access to bathrooms.A day of rest with overtime pay is long, long overdue, as is passage of the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act presently being considered by New York's legislators."
Obviously, these comments are purposefully misleading, hence why I incessantly post about it. Gray does state the facts accurately regarding this specific issue.
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  • It should also be mentioned that NYSDOL staff formally meet with the staff of the advocate organization Rural Opportunities Inc. several times a year.Also farmwork- er advocate organizations have attended conferences put on by the NYSDOL. For example, the conference Gray mentions (and attended) on page 14 of her paper found Farmworker Legal Services staff in attendance as well. Finally, the NYSDOL Farmworker Monitor Advocate has organized a series of inter-agency meetings held in the Hudson Valley over the years. I was in attendance, as well as various NYSDOL staff and staff from the Mid Hudson Migrant Education Program, staff of the local migrant daycare centers, staff from the Farmworker Law Project (the Legal Services Corporation funded organization) and staff of migrant health centers, as well as other government and/or regulatory officials. Other inter-agency meetings, either hosted or attended by various NYSDOL staff, are held in other parts of the state, including western New York.To claim or even imply that NYSDOL staff only or near exclusively meet with growers or grower organizations is without factual basis.
  • For example, fellow RMM board of director member Irene Thiel stated the follow- ing in a letter to the editor she wrote to the Westchester Journal News (published 8/13/04) in response to an article that had recently run in the Journal News:
    "Actually, the cost of New York state offering the farmworkers these basic labor rights would amount to a few pennies per pound on produce.Would not most New Yorkers be willing to pay that price to know that all New York laborers were treated fairly?"
    And RMM staffer Bill Abom is quoted as stating the following in an article written by Joseph Sorrentino entitled "Farmworkers fight for rights" (dated 5/8/02) That ran in the Rochester City News:
    "That dinner might cost less than it should because farmworkers are paid so poorly. 'We pay less for food per capita than anywhere else' said Bill Abom of the Rural and Migrant Worker Ministry. 'Are we willing to pay more so that farmworkers get more benefits?'"
    Abom, in a letter to the editor he wrote to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and that ran on 12/5/03 in response to an op-ed piece my wife wrote a few months earlier stated:
    "According to a recent Marymount University study, an overwhelming major- ity of consumers - 86 percent - said they would pay 5 percent more for products if it meant decent working conditions for workers. For a product like apples, this would mean around five cents per pound."
    Abom doesn't explains how he arrives at the "five cents per pound" figure and
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Abom (and the other self-appointed advocates) never explain how they propose to increase these prices, and how the farmer would receive that increase in income so as to pass it on to their employees. In fact Abom et al never quite explain why, if a price increase were so simple, the farmer simply doesn't increase their price received thereby increasing their income.
  • For example, if the overtime exemption ends farmers may simply cut back hours during the non peak period between planting and harvesting to compensate for the increased labor costs that can't be minimized during the peak periods.This reduction in hours may lead to a real reduction in wages, which might lead to less workers traveling to NYS, which will only exacerbate an already acute labor short- age.
  • I'm not exactly sure what the relevance is of our lawsuit against the USDA regard- ing the crop insurance program, but included with this response is a document which outlines the complex issues connected with our legal case. It was written around the time when we appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Our appeal was denied.
  • This annual appropriation was awarded by the New York State Department of Education, Office of Migrant Education.The NYS Director of Migrant Education is Nancy Croce.Though the funds are awarded through her state agency the funding primarily comes from federal grants awarded through the United States Department of Education's Office of Migrant Education (OME). Most of the funds the CMP received were Title I Migrant Education Program (MEP) grants. As the OME website states:
    "The MEP provides formula grants to State educational agencies (SEAs) to establish or improve programs of education for migratory children.The over- arching purpose of the MEP is to ensure that children of migrant workers have access to and benefit from the same free, appropriate public educa- tion, including public preschool education, provided to other children.To achieve this purpose, MEP funds help state and local educational agencies remove barriers to the school enrollment, attendance, and achievement of migrant children."
    As the aforementioned appropriation language states, strict rules prohibit the use of any of these funds for any sort of lobbying activities. Strict eligibility rules regarding children that can be legally served also are part of this grant.Though the CMP received this grant through the NYS Office of Migrant Education the grant recipient still had to comply with all federal laws attached with receiving this grant.
  • Currently the USDOE is investigating the removal by Croce of the annual CMP funding and the reasons behind that removal.
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  • Yes, the former CMP director may have claimed that "lobbying by CMP staff is something the former CMP director said was explicitly avoided," but he did that as the controversy regarding those repeated lobbying activities heated up. Previously CMP staff had no problem admitting, even celebrating their lobbying activity.
    For example, in the May/June 2001 issue of "Cornell Magazine," in the the "Currents" section, there appears an article by Paul Jaskunas, MFA '00, entitled "WORK STUDY :TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF MIGRANT ADVOCACY." The article, in part, states:
    "Despite the program's work over the past three decades, Engman says there's much more to be done. Farm workers still don't have collective bar- gaining rights, overtime pay, or a mandatory day of rest, he says. Still, he's seen some changes for the better. Most recently, hearings like the one McGee spoke at have led to three laws that should improve conditions on farms. In 1996, the New York state legislature required growers to provide drinking water in fields, and two years later lawmakers deemed field toilets mandatory. Last spring the legislators linked the state minimum wage for farm workers to the federal minimum.
    The program's efforts to change labor laws come at a time when the farm worker population has become dominated by a very vulnerable demograph- ic: Latino immigrants." http://cornell-magazine.cornell.edu/Archive/2001mayjun/Currents.html
    To claim the CMP didn't lobby over the years is absurd.
  • For example, Cornell University (and by extension the Cornell Cooperative Extension system), on the basis of being a quasi-private institution, has vigorously resisted compliance with New York State Freedom of Information Law, something their state University Land-Grant counterparts cannot do. See these NYS Committee on Open Government Advisory opinions:
    http://www.dos.state.ny.us/coog/ftext/f9940.htm http://www.dos.state.ny.us/coog/ftext/f12315.htm http://www.dos.state.ny.us/coog/ftext/f14047.htm
    The third opinion most directly addresses Cornell's resistance, with the foundation being its a private versus public institution status. It states:
    "In 1999, the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, found that the records at issue in that case maintained by Cornell University were not sub- ject to the Freedom of Information Law (Stoll v. New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, 94 NY2d 162). However, the Court of Appeals did not determine that all records maintained by or for
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Cornell fall beyond the coverage of the Freedom of Information Law.
In considering the scope of the term 'agency' in relation to Cornell, the Court of Appeals in Stoll indicated that SUNY is an agency, but that '[w]het- her Cornell's statutory colleges also qualify as agencies of the State for FOIL purposes is an open question' (id., 166).Although the Court stated that 'the law is settled that, for a number of purposes, the statutory colleges are not state agencies'(id.), it was also found that '[t]he statutory colleges are, how- ever, subject to certain oversight by the SUNY Board of Trustees' (id., 167). The Court referred to the 'hybrid statutory character of the colleges', stating that '[a]t issue is the threshold question whether the statutory colleges are subject to FOIL in the first place' and that '[t]his question cannot be answered by reference to broad classifications, but rather turns on the par- ticular statutory character of these sui generis institutions' (id.).
The request in Stoll involved a disciplinary record relating to a member of the faculty of one of the statutory colleges, and the Court found that disci- pline of employees is a university wide function, not a function special or unique to the statutory colleges. Specifically, it was found that:
'The principle that resolves the particular quandary here is that the Legislature has chosen to vest Cornell the private institution with discre- tion over the 'maintenance of discipline' at the four statutory colleges (see, Education Law § 5711[2]; § 5712[2]; § 5714[3]; § 5715[6]). In this respect, there is no statutory provision for oversight by the SUNY Trustees, or for any appeal to the SUNY Board. Consistent with that statu- tory mandate, Cornell has implemented a single system for administering discipline in the statutory colleges and in its private colleges. Indeed, as is manifest from petitioner's own FOIL request, there is a University-wide Campus Code of Conduct and a Judicial Administrator to whom all such complaints are directed.Thus, the disciplinary records of the statutory colleges and private colleges are all held by the same private office of the University" (id., 167-168).'"
The third opinion was actually a response to an inquiry I made of the committee.
37. A number of growers over the years, along with myself, have had various conflicts with Cornell University over such issues as Cooperative Extension or the applied research being conducted by Cornell University researchers.This includes a prob- lem which developed in Orange County in late 2001 that ran through 2003 in regards to the Executive Director that was hired to head the CCE office in Orange County.This person was more than woefully unqualified, he was ethically chal- lenged and was a serious threat to the farming community (in the decisions he was making regarding CCE programs).A number of farmers, besides my wife and I, raised legitimate complaints with Cornell University administration.This culminated
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with a number of stakeholders, myself included, in filing a lawsuit against Cornell University, in regards to how this situation was being handled (or not handled) by Cornell University.Though the lawsuit was dismissed the problems were eventually resolved on the local level when new board of director members were elected and they acted to remedy the situation. Cornell University did send a review team and I'm told the review team found the situation troubling but Cornell University essen- tially did nothing to fix the situation. I only can wish that Cornell University rou- tinely caved to the interests of agriculture and agricultural related persons. It would have saved me a great deal of grief. My real life experiences with Cornell University, like this one in particular, makes me laugh when I think of Gray's fantasy theories regarding grower power and influence over Cornell University.
38. New York State is not a "Right to Work" state. As the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Inc.'s website states:
"You may not be required to be a union member. But, if you do not work in a Right to Work state, you may be required to pay union fees. Employment relations for almost all private sector employees (other than those in the air- line and railroad industries) are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Under the NLRA, you cannot be required to be a member of a union or pay it any monies as a condition of employment unless the collective bargaining agreement between your employer and your union contains a provision requiring all employees to either join the union or pay union fees.
Even if there is such a provision in the agreement, the most that can be required of you is to pay the union fees (generally called an 'agency fee.') Most employees are not told by their employer and union that full union membership cannot lawfully be required. In Pattern Makers v. NLRB, 473 U.S. 95 (1985), the United States Supreme Court held that union members have the right to resign their union membership at any time." http://www.nrtw.org/a/a_1_p.htm
One has to wonder if the above facts have been thoroughly explained to farmwork- ers, that being in a union isn't "free?" That a portion of their paycheck will be deducted each week to pay for their union membership? Have they been told how much those potential union dues may be each paycheck? Have they been told that New York State isn't a "right to work state," therefore though they may not be required to be a union member, they still may be required to pay "agency fees" as detailed above?
Or, has unionization been presented by the self-appointed farmworker advocates as a panacea that has no costs or potential drawbacks associated with it? Have farm- workers been given the entire picture? I seriously doubt it.
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  • Anecdotally I can point out that in three of the past six growing seasons on our farm we have had a farmworker leave us mid-season (for various personal reasons) and have been unable to find a replacement.We were shorthanded one person the bulk of those seasons. If farmworkers were as plentiful as Gray intimates we cer- tainly would have been able to hire one to replace the person lost, docile or other- wise.
  • In the following Cornell Daily Sun website online postings I clearly state that
    1. My complaints to Brannon are what initiated the CMP review process and/or
    2. Dean Brannon was a major force behind this review (and certainly Henry wasn't the only actor that motivated it) and/or
    3. Legal issues surrounding inappropriate lobbying conducted by CMP staff are what primarily precipitated this review:
    http://www.cornellsun.com/vfeedback/frontend.v?ACTION=display_post&Si te_ID=&Post_ID=c378d4effac8f9bfec107d86d7df6f69 http://www.cornellsun.com/vfeedback/frontend.v?ACTION=display_post&Si te_ID=&Post_ID=5affd86c5d02566c022b75a4bc25c132 http://www.cornellsun.com/vfeedback/frontend.v?ACTION=display_post&Si te_ID=&Post_ID=278463c891f77bfac8500ba67577f941 http://www.cornellsun.com/vfeedback/frontend.v?ACTION=display_post&Si te_ID=&Post_ID=465d9632669ab9410de2808365aaa8c4 http://www.cornellsun.com/vfeedback/frontend.v?ACTION=display_post&Si te_ID=&Post_ID=e1b981774182f6971d413414ae8b7c2b
    Now, from Gray's perspective what I'm claiming may not be true, but she can't seri- ously claim she wasn't aware of what I stated. Her 25th endnote cites the same online website. By her own admission I am a "influential and zealous grower " and one would assume, since my claims directly contradict her primary supposition regarding what motivated/led to the CMP review and actions, she would have to do at least a cursory examination into what I claimed. Is there any evidence she did that? And if so, what evidence can she produce to support her conspiracy theory claims as to what was really behind the CMP review?
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