FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Princess Manuel, Co-Coordinator – South Bay Chapter
SOUTH BAY/LOS ANGELES – The City of Carson in California is hosting a march and tribute to Larry Itliong on Saturday October 25, 2014. Larry Itliong organized the immigrant farm workers in the 60’s and protested against low wages and miserable working conditions as part of the United Farm Workers Union. Though we pay tribute to the legacy of Larry Itliong, AF3IRM knows that there is still much work to be done in the demand for higher wages and diminishing miserable working conditions, especially for transnational, immigrant women who comprise of over half a million of those working in the fields in the U.S. today. It was just in 2002 that the first landmark case of rape in the fields of undocumented immigrant women has been challenged through the legal system in E.E.O.C. v. Harris Farms.
AF3RIM knows that although the case has only recently surfaced in 2002, the sexual harassment and rape of immigrant women has been occurring for generations. Dolores Huerta, one of the founders of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers, stated, “Women are looked at like sexual objects in the fields. Sexual Harassment is an epidemic in the fields and it goes back to the vulnerability that women have. They work in isolated places, they don’t know the laws, and they don’t even know that they can report sexual harassment and have their supervisors reprimanded. Many don’t speak english and so they feel helpless.”
The undocumented immigrant woman who initiated the case worked at Harris Farms in Fresno, CA. Olivia Tamayo gave her testimony to no longer remain silent on the miserable slave-like working conditions initiated by her supervisor. “He told me to get in his truck. That was the moment he showed me the gun. I tried to defend myself the best way I could. He raped me. He always said that I was his and that he would never leave me in peace. He said if he wanted to, he could kill me. I became so weary of abuse.” She eventually mustered the strength to report to the Rape Crisis Center who initiated the 2002 landmark case through the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee.
AF3IRM applauds these women and the legal case brought against the perpetrators. However, AF3IRM still demands more than a mere band-aid solution to this mass epidemic. We know that the legal system has not prosecuted any of the perpetrators of abuse towards the women. Testimonies of the women, though abundant, aren’t good enough to the legal system. No man has served criminal sanctions of jail time for these crimes. We stand with our sisters here and abroad to demand real justice and safe working conditions without sexual harassment and rape.
On October 23, 2014 the South Bay chapter of AF3IRM met in Long Beach for another engaging conversation in the monthly Women’s Dialogues, this time on Imperialism. Transnational feminists discussed their migration stories and concluded that the reasons for migration are due to poverty and the hope of reaching the “American Dream”, or what the women described as the “American Nightmare”. In the testimonies given by the undocumented immigrant women who work in the so-called “Fils de calzón” or “Fields of Panties,” they described the same reasons why many families are forced to migrate– namely, to put food on their tables and for survival of the family.
AF3IRM stands with the transnational women who have spoken out on the injustices that have silently been occurring in the fields of produce consumed by Americans. As transnational women, AF3IRM knows that these conditions exemplify similar conditions to that of transnational domestic workers and trafficked victims. Economic instability caused by advanced capitalism has created the experience of vulnerability, erasure, and injustice. We will no longer remain silent on these traumas felt by women on a global scale.
As an anti-imperialist organization we believe that these occurrences are in conjunction with the legacy of the mass rapings and killings during the colonial years-from the Japanese invasion in the Philippines that forced mothers and daughters to become comfort women to the US-backed war on Gaza that supports the mass killings of women and children. This is part of the continued war on the women, and we demand the dismantling of the patriarchal system that destroys women’s dignity, lives, and ultimately demolishes entire communities for the profit of global capitalism, the most profitable form of imperialism.