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us into executive session for the purpose of calling the Secretary of Agriculture and other Cabinet officials to whom you presented demands, and let us at least have some consolidated presentation of why these things we have fought for so hard and you demand so urgently, many of them so just, have not been done.
As I say, I know of no one in the Congress more sympathetic than the Chairman. I would hope we could perhaps consider taking it into our own subcommittee and really completing this presentation which has been made.
Senator CLARK. I think the Senator has made an excellent suggestion. I will be glad to call the subcommittee into executive session in order to determine just how we should handle this matter.
At this point I don't see why we should call the Secretary of Agriculture in executive session. I would like to have him in public session and the Secretary of HEW and the Surgeon General, too.
Senator PROUTY. Mr. Chairman, I also think that Dr. Abernathy should be invited back in public session to that we can have an opportunity question him in more detail about some aspects of his proposed programs.
I hope this can be done as soon as possible.
Senator CLARK. I will be glad to suit our convenience to that and, Dr. Abernathy, I know how busy you are but perhaps you can find time to come back here again and give us a chance to question you.
Dr. ABERNATHY. Thank you so kindly, Mr. Chairman, and all the members of this subcommittee.
I will move now to the next appointment. I will ask my special assistant, Mr. Bernard Lee, if he will be in charge and take care of my responsibility.
I appreciate so very much the fine way in which you have received us. Let me repeat again that I still think that the subcommittee is stacked in our favor.
Senator CLARK. Doctor, we don't think that at all. We are trying to give you equal justice under the law.
Dr. ABERNATHY. Thank you very kindly:
Senator CLARK. Mr. Lee, will you indicate whom you would like to have speak next.
Mr. LEE. Yes, sir. Mrs. Lares Tresjan. STATEMENT OF MRS. LARES TRESJAN, CHATAUQUA COUNTY, N.Y.
Senator CLARK. You may proceed.
Mrs. TRESJAN. I am speaking for 1 million farmworkers. I will need 6 minutes, if I may, at least.
We are wondering what is the role of Senate Labor Subcommittee in the year after year damnation of 1 million farmworkers in this country.
We are wondering what is the role of this subcommittee.
Is it promoting or is it abolishing the criminal misuse of the farm workers ?
Senator CLARK. Madam, let me point out that is not within the jurisdiction of this subcommittee. I think Senator Yarborough who is Chairman of the Labor Subcommittee, might have some comment on that.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Yes.
In 1966, the Congress passed the first minimum wage for farm labor in the history of the Nation.
In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt recommended the first minimum wage law that was passed for the workers in the factories.
For 30 years that plea for the fieldworkers went unheard. But this Congress passed that minimum wage law and while it applies to less than 2 percent of the farms, it applies to over 40 percent of the farmworkers.
It applies to the workers on every farm that has over seven employees per quarter. That minimum wage was $1 an hour last year. It went to $1.15 an hour February 1st this year. It will go to $1.30 an hour on February 1st, next year, rising with other newly covered employees under the minimum wage.
So, for the first time these workers have that protection, and beginning February of this year, people who previously were being paid 60 cents, 65 cents, 75 cents or 40 cents, 50 cents and hour under this law are paid now $1.15 an hour minimur
Next year, it will be $1.30 an hour minimum, February 1st of next year.
Congress has moved in that field. After 30 years of struggle the Congress has passed a meaningful minimum wage law for the farms.
Senator MURPHY. I would like the record to show that the minimum wage rates in California are much higher than that. The minimum wage for agriculture in California is $1.65 an hour. I also would like to point out, so that you may understand, when the minimum wage law was being considered I went to great length to make certain that the minimum did not become the maximum. Because no part of my farmers are working at the minimum; they get a much higher rate.
They go as high as $2.40, $2.50. So I insisted that the minimum not penalize those who are more capable. I don't believe in penalizing anybody. I have kept the piece rate in along with the minimum.
I want the record to show that in California the rates are much higher.
Mrs. TRESJAN. If I felt I had more time to speak I would ask you whether that law is as shot through with exceptions as we find it to be in New York State and elsewhere.
Senator MURPHY. I went to the trouble to get information on the rates of pay. I sent my son out and he worked on farms up through the San Joaquin and down through the Imperial as a result he got a chance to look at the pay books so that he could get adequate accounts on the rates of pay.
I, myself, went on some of the farms and talked to many of the workers to find out exactly what the rates were, how they varied and what the piece rate was against the minimum, how the general farmworkers were organized.
Mrs. TRESJAN. How many minutes do I have? How much time? Senator CLARK. You just go along for a while.
Mrs. TRESJAN. Let me say that uninformed as we are, backward, primitive as we are, farmworkers, we continue under the impression, which we get only from our life and from our reality, that committees such as today's committee is, should I say, playing with us.
For example, the Department of Labor that we visited yesterday, we cannot help wondering in defense of whose rights is it operating?
Is it in defense of the worker's right to live on a scrap of income, not to mention happiness, or is it in defense of the farmers' rights to superprofits?
We even catch ourselves wondering if the Department of Labor functions as a kind of procurer. Let me say so far as the farmworkers, we have not even established the right to be poor. We have not even yet established the right to be.
Every time we get an opportunity to come some place and complain and cry out about abuses, traditional abuses in the sphere of wages and hours, we have to postpone that and we have to come telling about the simple primitive life and the problems that we face and we never get to the second part of our story which is all the abuses in wages and hours.
This has gone on now for 3 or 4 years that we remember telling this this. We can never get to the next paragraph. We are always on the question of the protection of bare life, itself.
Again, I am curious to see if we get beyond the facts that I have to race through this—if we get beyond the facts of the 17-hour workday that is still going on in our vicinity, not only our vicinity, and you know every bit as I know this is going on throughout the country, and the fact of overexhaustion, what we call criminal tiredness, the fact of the death traps we are condemned to live in.
I am going to throw a paragraph at you. It may go faster and this is an extract from a two-page petition to which we have collected 3,000 and some signatures.
It has been circulating. This is our summary of our living conditions. The people who signed it said that, “We note with amazement and sorrow that there are in New York State and throughout these United States a vast multitude of shacks and camps, some converted from chicken coops, some improvised out of discarded city buses, tractor sheds, barns, tinder boxes in which farmworkers, men, women and children, are housed face to face with defective heating stoves with leaking gas, exposed wiring, illegal kerosene stoves and deadly radiant heaters with polluted drinking water, sometimes with no water at all, with 13th century toilet facilities or none.
“They are housed in premises lacking emergency exits and that in at least one instance a three-story structure housing farmworkers has a fire escape built of wood.
"These workers are housed as though they were hose and wagons and tractor parts."
Then also the question of the complete failure in our view, the complete collapse, of the county health department throughout our State of New York and throughout the other States with which we are becoming familiar.
Where health and sanitary codes exist they are so far from complied with that they have become a kind of legendary poor joke.
The question of compliance with the code is only one of the questions. The companion question is the question to us, of pathetic mine standards required by these codes. So that we see a double problem here, that the codes have to be lifted up by the ankles and turned up
side down and shaken and completely reworked so that they protect the human beings.
That is either protect these people, protect us or give up making a pretense about it.
The question of poison compounds, the question of organophospherous compounds, who is going to tell us what are we working with? What are these deadly organophospherous compounds that are used not only extensively throughout the length and breadth of agriculture in the United States that by their very nature the use of these compounds must be accelerated and intensified because the bugs and weeds catch onto the habits of the compounds. They become immune so that the deadliness, the extreme dangerousness of the compound and the workers exposed to the compounds both in concentrate form and in residue form. The seriousness of this question becomes greater not only every day but every hour.
It is one thing to ask for an answer but we have not been told yet, we have not been told locally. The farmers have not told us what are the names of these compounds, nor have any of these very proud bodies that we speak in front of offered any clue.
Our only clues have come from the World Health Organization which confesses that it cannot help us as farmworkers unless and until it is invited by one of the member nations to step into this question.
I would like to urge that the United States as a member nation invite the World Health Organization to help the farm workers protect their lives against the use of these poison compounds.
We also—this is one of the elements of our petition-would like to be told in whatever language we speak—and many, many of us speak Spanish--we would like to be informed of the dangerousness of the compound, what precautions we must take and the name of the compounds.
Senator MURPHY. Do I understand that the health and the lives of the workers are in danger and they are not instructed as to the danger of the compound?
Mrs. TRESJAN. I lost one word in the middle of what you said.
Senator MURPHY. I said do I understand that these compounds the workers are exposed to, that they are not warned that there is no protection or not the proper protection?
Mrs. TRESJAN. Correct. I think you understand correctly.
Senator MURPHY. I was amazed to see in regard to the housing that again in California one of the worst examples of farm housing that have been publicized over the years I found was in Stockton County, Three years ago I went out there and I would like to say I caused enough trouble so that that has been completely new housing built in there.
Also, that the self-help-you are shaking your head now
Senator MURPHY. No, the gentleman next to you. I don't know whether he knows more about it than I do. Where are you from?
Mr. ROBINSON. Me? I am from Washington, but I know something about the farmhouses. I worked out there, too.
Senator MURPHY. What is your name?
Senator MURPHY. Ray, I don't want to interrupt this lady's testimony but I would like to speak to you after I have finished to find out what you know that I don't know.
Mr. ROBINSON. Okay.
Senator MURPHY. I saw 10 shacks that had been condemned in 1935. They were still there. People were living in them. Then they raised the rent. Those have been torn down, Ray; they assure me, a year ago.
There is new housing. So that I know something about what you are talking. I have been concerned about it as have many members of the committee.
Mrs. TRESJAN. You had better and we had better all of us be concerned about it because this affects actually the skins of the tomatoes that the Nation eats. It affects the gentleman on the subcommittee every bit as it affects people in other occupations, low and high.
So I would recommend that we all be very concerned about it. I would most sharply recommend that somebody get concerned soon about our relations with these compounds because it is more serious.
Senator MURPHY. I assure you that I will take this up with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare immediately. Because of the number of people they have over there I would have thought that they would have done this long before it was necessary for you to come here and testify.
Mrs. TRESJAN. That is good.
themselves with a copy of the World Health Report, Geneva, 1962. This is the 12th report of the World Health Organization, Geneva, 1962, pages 20 and 21.
They should get hold of one of these. It is on poisonous compounds.
There is a minimum requirement that there be water and soap in the field so that when the workers in spraying operations take time out for lunch they may wash their hands.
And also there be technical and medical supervision of all spraying operations.
About the workers' picking time exposed to residue, I will not take time on that. I want to rush on through these very briefly.
Chronie starvation, rice and lard. Are we living in the Far East or are we living in the western counties of New York State?
Occupational hazards. Make a note that agriculture is the number one most dangerous occupation in the United States, not overlooking construction, mining, the merchant seamen's occupation and so on.
We have figures as to the number of fatalities in certain years and comparative figures and we are not going to look for them or throw them at you now.
Make a note, please, that the fire in the tractor shed in Brockton, Chautauqua County, September 25, 1966, where two farm workers were burned to death, trapped inside. These workers have not yet been adequately buried. They are still on the outside, the periphery of the cemetery in Brockton.
There is not even an inscription to tell you who has been slammed into the ground.
The widows of these workers are in deep anguish in Puerto Rico and have not been compensated. The case has not yet been heard. But I understand trial must occur in Chautauqua County and the feeling on the part-I think I gave you a hint about the county health depart