Interview on Worker Health and Safety
In June of 2004, Luis Tlaseca interviewed Ana Maria, a member of CATA’s Board of Directors, about her personal experience as a worker injured on the job.
Interviews on Immigration
In December, 2003, we interviewed two workers about their thoughts on the immigration situation, what their experiences have been, and why they support a general amnesty.
Interview on Worker Health and Safety
|Ana Maria has participated actively in CATA, first as a member of the Kennett Square Concilio, and now as a member of the board, since 2001. She has most fervently spoken on behalf of those who are injured on the job, and encourages all workers to stand up for their rights.|
“I was a Kaolin employee. I was a mushroom picker and I had an accident there. I fell in a mushroom house that had seven beds. The house was in bad condition. The day before it had rained hard, and the wood in the mushroom house was wet. It was very slippery, and the boards were loose. I slipped and fell.
When I fell, I was sent home. They told me that there were no available appointments and that I should go home, take some pills for the pain, and that the next day they would take me to the doctor. Afterwards, they took me to the doctor, but he only examined my arm, which I couldn’t move. He didn’t fully examine me, and he told me that I could return to work.
I worked for two weeks in the packing house with just one hand, but they continued to take me to the doctor. The doctor told me that I needed movement, that there was nothing wrong with me. They gave me therapy for awhile, but I continued to feel badly. I continued complaining that I couldn’t work, but the doctor told me that I would get better.
Later I went to another doctor who told me that the fall could have affected me greatly even though the company told me that it hadn’t. This was when I told them that if they didn’t have an MRI done, that I was going to file a complaint against the company. The MRI was done, but they told me that it hadn’t shown anything. Later they told me that I had one muscle torn halfway and another at the point of tearing. I continued to work for another two or three months in the packing house, but I couldn’t work. Finally one day in the cafeteria a man approached me, and quietly slipped me CATA’s card under the table so nobody would see, and he told me, “Take this card, look for this person. They will help you.” That is when I got involved with CATA. Afterwards in a workshop at CATA, I met some lawyers who took on my case, and I won.
I feel proud, because at Kaolin people laughed at me. They said that I didn’t know anything about lawyers, that I didn’t know how to defend myself, and that there had been many other people who hadn’t done anything to the company, much less a woman. I knew that I had to struggle, because I knew that I was injured. Because I had gotten involved with CATA, I began to know what my rights were and how I should defend them. Even though I am still injured, I feel proud of having struggled.
I know many other people are injured and continue to work because they are afraid that if they submit a claim against the company that they will be fired.
I would tell other workers, and I have told them that they shouldn’t be afraid, that they should get involved with CATA and defend their rights. The company will never cure them, and the company will never give them anything just because they want to. What the company gives to any employee is because the person earns it, and for this reason, we have to struggle.”
Interviews on Immigration
|Everardo has been a member of CATA for more than four years and is an active participant in the New Jersey Migrant Workers Concilio. Everardo is originally from Puebla, Mexico, but currently lives in Mexico City where he sells his own paintings. During the agricultural season, he works in the fields of South Jersey.|
When I left my home, I was told that I would have to walk two or three days, but this one time that I crossed (the border) I walked 15 nights. During the day we didn’t walk, but still it was very difficult. Various days, we went without water, without food. The balls of my feet were peeling from so much walking. The reality is very sad, but all with the hopes of arriving, of earning something for our families. Many times people suffer on the road, because they run into people who they call “fajadores”. They rob people of whatever they have; money, personal things, even the water and food that people carry for the trip. They leave you with nothing. Some of the friends that I traveled with were robbed of their jackets, hats, watches, whatever they had of any value. They were even threatened with guns.
The only thing I want to say to those who read this message, the only thing I ask of them is that they would understand this situation, not for what has happened to me, but for what has happened to thousands upon thousands of people. I want them to realize. We do not come fleeing our country because we are criminals. We come to work. I only ask that I could be able to have a work permit so that I could travel freely without having to face so many dangers on the road. I will repeat that there are too many risks for the amount of money that one can earn. People risk their lives on the road and suffer too much just to get here. Without documents, people are afraid to leave. People don’t claim their rights for the fear of being deported. People really can’t claim anything, and end up exposed to many abuses and injustices.
|Tomasa has been participating actively in the New Jersey Migrant Workers’ Council for a year and a half along with her daughter, brother, and other family members. Originally from Michoacan, Mexico, she has lived in New Jersey for the past 9 years.|
I would like to see an amnesty…a general amnesty, not just for Mexicans, but for people of all countries, because we all suffer to come here.
We all come with the illusion of working, to help our children get ahead, to give them that which they most need which is their studies. In Mexico this is very difficult to achieve.
When I came, we got stuck in the desert. Because we were already on this side (of the border) we didn’t want to turn back, because of the money, because of everything you start to think that you are already indebted, and so you tell yourself, “well I already made the sacrifice,” and you resign yourself to whatever happens. We got stuck in the desert for three days, three days when we only had water (no food), and one day, almost twenty-four hours in which we had no water. Can you imagine it? And that’s how it goes for so many people. That is why we are struggling for an amnesty.
Because we come here to work, and here we are often humiliated. They humiliate us, discriminate against us, and why?, because we don’t have papers. And what do we do? We put up with it, although we feel bad, because we are already here. I have put up with it, because I start to think….I have no goods in Mexico. We endure it because in Mexico we don’t have the resources, sometimes we don’t even have a place to live. There if you have to rent, the little bit of money you can earn isn’t even enough to eat. I have battled a lot in order to earn a little bit for my children. I have never even learned to read nor write. I do not want my children to live like that.
If one day God allows me to become documented, the only thing I desire is to work so that my children can get ahead. I have one son who wants to study, but he can’t do it because he does not have papers. And I don’t have a secure job that allows me to tell him that I can help. I work days here, a few months, going here and there, here and there. Here they give me a job for a month, two months, three months, and then I get laid off, and they employ people with documents. He (my son) wants to study and although it breaks my heart, I can’t help him. He is also working, and the little that he earns goes to pay the rent, the bills, because when I don’t work, it’s them (my children) who keep us alive. If one day God allows me to get papers, I will look for a job…a job that I can do, that is secure, and I will encourage my children, because Emperatriz (my daughter) wants to study as well…This is my dream, to be able to overcome the difficulties I have faced and to help my children to better their future.