For several years Grassroots International has had a collegial relationship with Carlos Marentes of the Sin Fronteras Border Agricultural Workers Project in El Paso, Texas. Carlos is also a leader of the Via Campesina – North American Region and chair of the Via Campesina’s international commission on Migrations and Rural Workers. The Via Campesina understands that most migration is a consequence of the corporate-led global trade model that has exacerbated rural impoverishment in many already poor countries.
In the United States, migrant and immigrant workers make up the majority of the people who tend the crop fields, harvest, transform and transport our food goods. The majority of these workers, whether in conventional or large scale organic agriculture, are not afforded a living wage, decent working conditions or basic rights that workers in other sectors of the economy take for granted. Carlos Marentes has worked tirelessly for over two decades to organize agricultural workers on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Their efforts resulted in the recognition of the right to retirement payments for Mexican “braceros” or “guest workers” who participated in the World War II era agricultural workers program.
More recently, the struggle for workers’ rights has involved fighting against the construction of a 24-foot wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, along the Rio Grande River. Communities on both sides oppose the wall, saying it wil further separate families and communities.
On November 9 – the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – agricultural workers and other immigrants began a long march to protest the construction of the border wall. To read Carlos Marentes’ article on the subject, click here.