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Suppliers of Driscoll’s, which may be the U.S.’s most recognizable brand name on strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry cartons, are coming under fire for allegedly abusing workers, in the U.S. and Mexico. One Driscoll’s grower has spent weeks embroiled in a major farmworker protest, while a nearly two-year boycott against another grower recently intensified. Workers in both disputes have called for a boycott against the company.
Its conventional and organic berries can be found year-round everywhere from Sam’s Club to Whole Foods. Driscoll's is headquartered in Watsonville, California. The company has fields in California, Florida, Mexico, and Australia, but to keep its berries stocked far and wide, it uses a vast supplier network stretching from Canada to Argentina.
Last month in the fields of San Quintin, in the Mexican state of Baja California, thousands of farm laborers picking multiple crops destined for Driscoll's boxes stopped work for nearly two weeks, demanding higher wages and legally required benefits, among other protections. Protests turned acrimonious when demonstrators threw rocks at government vehicles and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
In Washington state, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), which says it represents over 400 berry pickers, has been locked in a labor struggle with Driscoll’s supplier Sakuma Brothers Farms since 2013. FUJ has long held a boycott against Sakuma berries and its largest customers, Driscoll’s and Häagen-Dazs. On March 24, it doubled down on the boycott when the fair trade advocacy organization Fair World Project sent a letter to Driscoll’s, signed by nearly 10,000 consumers, asking it to suspend buying from Sakuma Brothers until the dispute is resolved. The signatories pledged not to buy Driscoll’s berries until then.
Read More | See Also: Driscoll’s Berry Boycott and Labor Dispute Intensifies
Sheriff Jim Hart is making an emergency requisition in the amount of $47,925 to install a seven-foot tall, 364-foot long gated iron fence in order to close off the area of the Santa Cruz County Main Jail's parking lot that is most commonly used by community members for public assembly and political demonstrations. Hart has specifically stated that recent political demonstrations held at the jail are the reason for building the new fence. In response, activists are calling for the community to pack the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 21
when the proposal will be voted on.
Sheriff Hart explains his justification for the necessity of the fence in the April 21 agenda report: ".....following and in conjunction with the Highway 17 demonstration and closure, protesters blocked the driveway from Blaine Street to the garage, requiring Sheriff's deputies to clear a path for an inmate transportation van returning with inmates from court appearances...There have also been incidents within the last year wherein protesters walked to the garage doors, pounded on the doors, and caused disruption."
For years, the Santa Cruz County Main Jail has been the location of political demonstrations, and two months ago the Board of Supervisors took a different action to limit movement around the main jail at the request of Sheriff Hart. At the February 10 meeting, board members unanimously voted to approve a trespassing ordinance that now makes it a misdemeanor to move within "designated security perimeters" around the exterior of the jail. The security perimeters were defined as being any area surrounding the jail that is fenced.
Read More with Photos | See Also: Stop Us From Organizing at the Jail? We Say NO WAY!
April 21: No New Fence Around the Jail! - Pack the Board of Supes
The annual Walk to Stop the Silence was launched nine years ago in order to break through the silence surrounding the issue of sexual abuse and provide a healing space for survivors. The event is always well-attended, but this year, on April 11, the crowd was noticeably packed with families and young people whose energy led the walk with chants such as, "Walk to Stop the Silence!" and "Sí se puede!" While the topic of childhood sexual abuse is difficult to confront, the tone of the day was one of strength and resilience, and the Watsonville Plaza was filled with brightly colored art displays and over a dozen tabling organizations.
According to Maria Rodriguez-Castillo, who founded the walk, one in five girls and one in seven boys are victims of sexual assault before the age of eighteen. She also noted that 90% of the time, the person committing the assault is someone the child already knows. As part of breaking the silence, Rodriguez-Castillo emphasized the importance of people speaking up if they notice suspicious behavior in their community. Since those victimized are often afraid to speak about their experiences, intervention must be a community-led effort, she relayed to the crowd.
Read More with Photos
According to the environmental group EcoRights, polluted industrial drainage water is entering into Elkhorn Slough from the Pick-n-Pull auto-wrecking yard in Moss Landing. In response, the group has initiated a petition calling on the County of Monterey to require a Environmental Impacts analysis, and to require the business to relocate if it cannot operate without polluting the Slough and harming resident species.
Among the rare, threatened, and endangered species the Slough calls home are the brown pelican, California least tern, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander, southern sea otter, American peregrine falcon, and California red-legged frog. According to EcoRights, the estuary and its wetlands are a stopping spot for more than 200 migrating bird species.
On March 11, 2015, over the objections of our legal representatives, the Monterey County Planning Commission extended Pick-n-Pull’s Coastal Development Permits for ten more years, without requiring a thorough analysis of the operation’s impact on the Slough and its resident species...EcoRights is appealing that decision to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, and if needed, we will appeal the decision to the California Coastal Commission. EcoRights has also notified the company that its discharges violate the Federal Clean Water Act and of our plans to enforce that law.
Read More | EcoRights
On April 14, the Salinas City Council voted to approve the purchase of enough body cameras to outfit every officer in the Salinas Police Department. On April 9, the Capitola City Council unanimously voted to approve a request from their police department to use $100,501.31 in Supplemental Law Enforcement State Funds (SLESF) to purchase a dual video system for police vehicles and body cameras.
Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante said the "benefits" of using the equipment were to enhance opportunities to capture evidence, assist in patrolling anti-social behavior, provide impartial and accurate evidence collection, and for greater insight into service delivery.
Organizations including the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) caution that there are many unresolved legal and civil rights issues regarding the police use of Personal Digital Recording Devices (PDRDs). "PDRD video is treated as evidence first and foremost," Rachel Lederman of the NLG wrote in 2014. "This means that regardless of whether the video has captured illegal activity, or is being used in an investigation, it is not accessible to the general public – at least not without an attorney and a federal lawsuit, and even then, it may be difficult and take months or years to obtain the complete videos."
Salinas City Council Approves Police Body Camera System Purchase | Capitola City Council Approves Purchase of Body Cameras for Police
See Also: PDRDs – Quick Fix for Police Misconduct, or Counter- Surveillance Tool?
In response to a 2012 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and several renowned scientists and herpetologists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on April 9 that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted for the western pond turtle. The agency will now conduct a one-year status review on the turtle, which faces declines of up to 99 percent in some areas. “Threats like habitat destruction from urbanization and agriculture are driving western pond turtles toward extinction,” said Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and lawyer.
On April 13, a group gathered at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse in support of Alix Tichelman, the woman charged with killing a Google executive named Forrest Hayes in 2013. Dozens of pamphlets were handed out in front of the courthouse detailing the case against Alix. Her parents personally thanked the group for their presence.
Free Alix! writes:
Inside the courthouse, the defense and the prosecution explained to the judge how much time they would need to sift through all of the available evidence. According to the defense, this amounts to over a terabyte of data. Much of this data is from the computers and cell phones that belonged to Forrest Hayes and they undoubtedly contain many secrets. The court appearance was brief and the next date was set for May 11th. It will be a few months before the trial itself will begin. We hope more people can learn about the case through these words and come to support Alix when the time comes. She is being unfairly railroaded into jail for an accident that was not her fault.
Previous Coverage: Demonstration on Courthouse Steps for Alix Tichelman
The six UCSC students arrested and charged in association with the March 3 blockade of Highway 1 where it meets Highway 17 in Santa Cruz returned to court on April 8. As the six defendants and their attorneys made their second appearance as a group before Judge Denine Guy, a prosecutor indicated the District Attorney's office will not offer them a plea deal to reduce misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and creating a public nuisance. The Santa Cruz DA also desires a restitution amount of $19,000 be paid. Additionally, UCSC has suspended the students until the Spring of 2016.
Buttons were printed up and distributed that had the following messages on them: "Stop Political Repression At UCSC - Free The HWY 6!" "Slugs Against First Amendment Suppression - Drop the HWY 6 Charges," "Sit Down Fight Back - Support the HWY 6," and, "Repeal the Suspensions - Reject the Regents!" Food Not Bombs arrived an hour before the students' scheduled appearance and served hot oatmeal as family members and supporters mingled near the entrance of the court house.
While the six students appeared upbeat and energetic before, after, and during their court appearance, they still face quite a few challenges. The University has suspended them until Spring of 2016, and if they return to school they will be forbidden from participating in any "political activity" on campus.
Read More with Photos | See Also: Santa Cruz ACLU Addresses Letter of Concern to UCSC Chancellor
| Highway 6 Statement of Concern and Support
Previous Coverage: The Unmanageable University
|| Supporters Pack the Courtroom for the Highway 17 Six
|| Students Shut Down Santa Cruz Highways and UCSC Campus During 96 Hours of Action
A new report
released by Californians for Pesticide Reform asserts that fumigant pesticides are an outdated, toxic technology that undermines soil health, and safe replacements are needed to grow food on the Central Coast of California. The report examines data that revealed cancer-causing chloropicrin is in the air where Monterey County children live and play, and shares monitoring results that confirm chloropicrin in the city of Watsonville’s air poses an increased cancer risk, despite state required “safer tarps” and "buffer zones".
In 2012, Monterey County was the sixth highest pesticide use county in the state, applying more than 9.2 million pounds of agricultural pesticides. Half (50%) of this use came from just five fumigants: chloropicrin, Telone, methyl bromide, metam sodium and metam potassium. That same year, Santa Cruz County applied 1.7 million pounds of agricultural pesticides, with more than 80% of this use coming from the same five fumigants. Californians for Pesticide Reform urges the California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation to immediately protect Californians by: establishing protection zones, requiring neighbor notification for all fumigants, developing stronger regulations on chloropicrin use, and committing to reduce fumigant use.
Highlighting recent race data from the Department of Public Health (DPH), Dr. Ann Lopez, Executive Director of the Center for Farmworker Families found that Latino children are the children most often in harm’s way of pesticide threats, especially in Monterey Bay region. “The DPH study last April reported that Latino children in California were 91% more likely than white children to attend schools within ¼-mile of the heaviest use of hazardous pesticides. We’ve just learned from DPH that in Monterey County, Latino schoolchildren are 320% more likely to attend schools with the highest pesticide use nearby. It’s deeply troubling; it’s environmental racism,” Dr. Lopez stated.
Read More | New Report: Cancer-causing pesticide found in the air; Chavez Day call for reform | Californians for Pesticide Reform
Previous Coverage: California's New “Recommended Restrictions” for Chloropicrin are Inadequate
|| Groundbreaking Report Finds High Rates of Pesticide Use Near Monterey County Schools
The only oil company to sue San Benito County over a local ban on fracking and other high-intensity petroleum operations announced on April 6 it has dropped its lawsuit, leaving the voter-approved ordinance in place. Citadel Exploration’s decision to dismiss its own case means that local fracking bans in California face no remaining active legal challenges, despite threats from the oil industry.
Community members opposing the City of Monterey's new sit-lie ban held their third sit-in on Alvarado Street on April 3. Individuals with Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) and other supporters returned to the same location of the previous two demonstrations and faced increased pressure from business owners, who expressed more aggressively their desire for the group to either move the location of their gathering, or leave the downtown area altogether and stop protesting.
On March 28 in Monterey, about 75 people joined a broad coalition of activists in a rally and march starting at the Monterey Wharf to protest white supremacist police brutality in Salinas and nationwide. Thirty protesters marched to Highway One, blocked all four southbound lanes, and closed the highway for 45 minutes. Eight people in total were arrested. The action was organized in the context of the killing of five unarmed Latino men since March 2014 by white Salinas police officers: Angel Ruiz; Osman Hernandez; Carlos Mejia; Frank Alvarado, Jr.; and Jaime Garcia.