20 Apr 2009

Latinos Marching for Capitalists

JM has noticed something interesting about the March of the Latino Workers: They are being paid to march.

Here's what the NYT says:
Organizers are calling for a new canal that would divert water from the Sacramento River to Central Valley farms as well as a relaxation of the environmental protections given to threatened species like the delta smelt, a pinky-sized fish native to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a critical aquatic byway for water from the wetter north part of the state.

[snip]

Still, some labor organizers and advocates for rural areas contend that the marchers’ goals reflect only the desires of agribusiness and not the real needs of farm workers.

Many of the protesters were paid by their employers to march in lieu of harvesting crops.

“In reality, this is not a farm worker march,” said Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, the 27,000-member union founded by César Chávez, which did not participate in the march. “This is a farmer march orchestrated and financed by growers.”
I was not going to cover this march, since it seemed like more grandstanding by south of Delta interests using political means to push their economic interests, but it's important for us to clearly identify who would receive benefits from opening up the valves -- land owners.

The farm workers (as people) could move elsewhere, but the land owners cannot. That's why they want to talk about saving JOBS instead of saving PEOPLE from the adverse impacts of water delivery reductions.

More importantly, reduced water supplies is reducing the value of their land and having a strong adverse impact on their income. (At least, that's what Jean Sagouspe would say...)

I will be south of the Delta, doing water chats, on Apr 30 and May 1, so I'll try to learn more. (If you know of anyone I should talk to, send me an email!)

Bottom Line: When economic times get tough, protect workers -- not jobs or businesses.

6 comments:

  1. This is the second time you've accused south-of-Delta guys of "grandstanding", which I guess betrays the economist's lack of familiarity with, or disdain for, the political process. You've got to remember that the political process is what brought us the ESA in 1973, so political pushback in the same process is entirely appropriate (and fair game) as a matter of continuing policy evaluation. Those guys have every political right to scream (check the First Amendment and every other right of political participation) and if they can get loud enough - as loud as, say, the environmental movement was when they originally convinced us all to pass the ESA - they will deserve the change that the process can bring them.

    Point well taken about farmworkers marching, though. On the other hand, that is not fraudulent or even unethical. They might not know exactly what they're involved in, in all instances, but on the other hand it's a safe bet that (1) they need their jobs, and (2) they are not big environmentalists.

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  2. @CF -- I define granstanding like this "claiming that you represent more than you do." If we consider the hyperbole of claims put forward by the "pump baby pump" crowd (the children, the losses, the shock, etc.) , then they are grandstanding. Having paid protestors (even if they do need the $$) does not lend credence to their claims of "community" support/passion.

    In contrast, the ESA (I wasn't there, but I am guessing) was something that had genuine popular support. That was the same era as Earth Day, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, etc. so the enviros were riding a wave of genuine popular sentiment.

    Note how the envios WERE populists with the "save Hetch Hetchy" crap...

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  3. Ahh, the original enactment of the ESA was holy, but efforts now to reform it are not...

    I guess I disagree. When the ESA was enacted in 1973, it was sold to the public as a relatively non-intrusive way of protecting charismatic species like the grizz, the eagle, the wolf, etcetera. 35 years later, it turns out that the ESA has become a one-way listing process (only something like 11 species have ever come off the list) protecting an incredible volume of obscure species (more than 500 listed animal species, and more than 700 listed plant species, and critical habitat for the same now covering some one-third of California's landscape) with burgeoning economic impacts, something which - if known at the time, in 1973 - probably wouldn't have been supportable and thus would not have been enacted. At least not in the form that has manifested itself now.

    So the time is probably coming when the ESA will have to give, either through the God Squad or a bill carving the pumps out - and any similar situation, down the road. The private costs are just unsupportable; you saw a little bit of that in the Klamath, but not enough to change things. Now, in the San Joaquin, you're seeing a little more of that - but still, maybe not enough to change things. But don't kid yourself - when 23 million Californians start to seriously feel the pain, the ESA will carve the water supply out.

    All of which you should have no problem with. The ESA is not funded, anyway, so it's not a market actor. Its only costs are the private costs it offloads onto the unwilling.

    In fact, a solid argument can be made that the way to protect species in the long run is to downsize or fund the ESA in a manner that causes less political conflict. Hardcore proponents of an outsized ESA like the Center for Biological Diversity may actually hasten its demise.

    I'm still divided on the farmworkers getting their regular pay for the day they spent at the march, rather than, say, pruning. They certainly aren't being asked to do anything against their interest. And most of them could not afford to make that march, if they were told they'd have to take the day off without pay to do it. So, think of their employers as actually FACILITATING their First Amendment rights...ha ha.

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  4. Yeah, most people are paid for the time they spend voting, and nobody thinks that's bad. Unions and community organizers regularly bus the benighted proletariat to the polls. Farmers do overstate their importance to the universe, but so do violinists, cops and venture capitalists.

    The ESA is a fine political tool but a lousy biological one. Focusing on one species gets into a lot of taxonomic gimmickry to invent "standing". The more serious issue is that we really need to manage for *habitats*, not species. Focusing on just one species can often lead to shortsighted and extremely disruptive policies that produce little general benefit.

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  5. David, you are right on target with this comment.

    "The farm workers (as people) could move elsewhere, but the land owners cannot. That's why they want to talk about saving JOBS instead of saving PEOPLE from the adverse impacts of water delivery reductions.

    More importantly, reduced water supplies is reducing the value of their land and having a strong adverse impact on their income"

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  6. @CF -- I agree that some people are pushing ESA too far to stay in business...

    As for wages -- it's a job, right?

    @Philip - yep, I agree on habitats. The enviros are using ESA b/c it's the only tool they have...

    @Jeff -- thanks. I am sure that CF agrees too :)

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