Action Alert


THE ISSUE: A bailout of Ohio’s two old, noncompetitive nuclear power plants is being disguised as a “Clean Air Program” in House Bill 6. This bill:

  • imposes a monthly charge on all Ohio electric consumers to bailout outdated, money-losing nuclear plants, even if they don’t get electricity from those plants. 
  • weakens Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.
  • favors greenhouse gas producers, such as coal and natural gas.

THE ASK: Call your rep and tell them that you OPPOSE House Bill 6 – The Clean Air Program – because: 

  • The way forward for an environmentally AND economically healthier Ohio is by supporting safe and affordable clean energy like wind, solar, and energy efficiency.  
  • Subsidizing noncompetitive, outdated nuclear plants will cause Ohio to fall behind neighboring states in job and economic growth.

Thank you, 

Jen Miller LWV Ohio Executive Director

League of Women Voters of Ohio | 614-469-1505 |

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Hearing Notice: Senate Bill 23, The Six-Week Abortion Ban

Next week, the Ohio Senate Health, Human Services & Medicaid Committee will hold a third hearing for opponent testimony on Senate Bill 23, the six-week abortion ban.    Hearing Details 3rd hearing on six-week abortion ban, opponent testimony Tuesday, February 26 3:00 pm (or after session) South Hearing Room of the Ohio Statehouse   Senate Bill 23 would criminalize doctors and ban abortion as early as six weeks – at a time before most women even know that they are pregnant. This extreme, dangerous, and cruel bill is a direct attack on reproductive health care access – and we need your help to stop it.
Here are 3 ways you can take action:
1.) Testify against the six-week abortion ban   Members of the Senate Health Committee need to hear from Ohioans who stand against this ban. At the next public hearing, on Tuesday, February 26 at 3:00 pm, opponents of the six-week ban will have an opportunity to present in-person testimony or submit written testimony. Testimony will need to be submitted 24-hours in advance of the hearing. Contact us if you are interested in testifying against the bill. 
2.) Attend Tuesday’s hearing at the Statehouse   On Tuesday, witnesses who support access to safe and legal abortion will be testifying before the committee to express their opposition to Senate Bill 23. The hearing on the six-week ban will begin at 3:00 pm or after session in the South Hearing Room. Join us at the hearing to show the legislators that Ohioans stand against this harmful bill.
3.) Contact your State Senator   Send a message to your State Senator: Stop The Bans. Use the letter-writing tool from our partners at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio to send a message directly to your State Senator’s inbox telling them to stop the attacks on abortion access. 
The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network is a coalition or more than 30 organizations working collaboratively to advance policies that create economic security for women and strengthen families. Using a collective voice that represents the women of our state, this network works to ensure that public policy reflects the true needs of women and families.   FIND OUT MORE
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Job Guarantee Teach-in Day at Denison University on Friday, Jan 25th

Friday, January 25, 2019
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Denison University, Granville, OH
Burton Morgan Hall (room 115)

Event is Free & Open to the Public
Hosted by Fadhel Kaboub

Job Guarantee Now!
Teach-in for Economic Rights

9:30-10:20: “What’s a Job Guarantee?” by Fadhel Kaboub

10:30-11:20: “Can We afford a Green New Deal? [Hint: Yes We Can!]” by Fadhel Kaboub

11:30-12:20: “Ohio-based Green Jobs to Fight Climate Change,” panel discussion with Olivia Aguilar & Fadhel Kaboub

12:30-1:30: Lunch break (Slayter Hall)

1:30-2:45: “Social Justice, Inequality, and the Job Guarantee,” panel discussion with Johan Uribe, Lesha Farias, and Allen Schwartz

3-4:15: “Embracing a Job Guarantee for Shared Prosperity & Participatory Democracy,” panel discussion with Melinda Miller, Jeremy Blake, and Stephanie Agosta

4:15-4:30: Closing remarks


  • Stephanie Eaton Agosta: Community activist, and Habitat volunteer
  • Olivia Aguilar: Associate professor of environmental studies at Denison University
  • Jeremy Blake: Councilmember at City of Newark
  • Lesha Farias: Community organizer at the Newark Think Tank on Poverty
  • Fadhel Kaboub: Associate professor of economics at Denison University
  • Melinda Miller for Ohio: Former candidate for Ohio Senate District 31
  • Allen Schwartz: Community organizer at the Newark Think Tank on Poverty
  • Johan Andres Uribe Perez: Assistant professor of economics at Denison University

Light refreshments will be available throughout the day.

Event co-sponsored by the

  • Modern Money Network,
  • Denison University economics department, &
  • Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity – GISP

Information about the Job Guarantee:


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League of Women Voters Gets Trump Bump Post-2016 Election, Nonpartisan Is Cool

The League of Women Voters oppose partisan and racial gerrymandering that strips rights away from voters (top). Suffragettes parading, April 5, 1917 (bottom). Photo credit: League of Women Voters and Bain Collection / Library of Congress

The League of Women Voters oppose partisan and racial gerrymandering that strips rights away from voters (top). Suffragettes parading, April 5, 1917 (bottom). Photo credit: League of Women Voters and Bain Collection / Library of Congress

The League of Women Voters is experiencing a surge of new blood, new resources, and new energy. But it is the League’s “old” values that are attracting new members. Values like nonpartisanship and integrity, civility, and a refusal to be bullied.

The organization was born nearly 100 years ago, founded by suffragettes unafraid to call out the elected officials who stood in the way of securing the right to vote for American women.

With suffrage achieved, the group sought to educate new female voters and help them engage in the pressing issues of their time. For generations, League members have been nonpartisan stalwarts and champions of civic engagement.

The ladies of the League were always polite but never pushovers. The League, which began to sponsor televised presidential debates in 1976, insisted on including third-party candidate John Anderson in the 1980 presidential debate, angering candidate Jimmy Carter, who declined to participate. In 1984, the League disclosed that the political parties had failed to approve 83 suggested moderators, embarrassing both parties.

By the next election cycle, Democratic and Republican political operatives had formed their own debate commission, attempting to dictate the terms of engagement for candidates. The League refused to go along. “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public,” said League President Nancy M. Neuman. 

League values have not changed, but the way the organization expresses those values is moving with the times. Over the past three years, the League, which had “unashamedly been the League of your grandmother,” has been on a “transformative journey,” said Celina Stewart, the group’s new director of advocacy and litigation.

“With this [2016] election and how hyper-partisan things have become, people want a safe space to be themselves and get things done,” she said. “People wanted to engage with a truly nonpartisan partner. They were tired of taking sides.”

The League’s membership is up 20 percent. The group is drawing new members, whose diversity has spanned age, race, and sexual orientation, Stewart said.

The League now has 400,000 members and supporters in more than 700 communities in every state. New Leagues “are popping up all over,” Stewart said, noting organization growth in Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio — all of which will be crucial battlegrounds in 2020.

Celina Stewart, Patti Brigham, League of Women Voters

Celina Stewart, Director of Advocacy and Litigation for the League of Women Voters (left). Patti Brigham, President of the Florida Chapter of the League of Women Voters (right). Photo credit: League of Women Voters

Along with more members, the League has seen a healthy increase in resources. Since 2016, its total net assets have jumped from just under $6 million to more than $10 million. The League’s existing donors gave more, and new donors joined their ranks.

The League is also using social media to extend its reach. One increasingly popular online tool for voters is the League’s “All candidate information is up there” as well as information about local ballot questions, Stewart said. In 2018, more than five million citizens used the tool, including more than 800,000 voters on Election Day.

Stewart is helping to shape the League’s future. Under 40 years old, although “just barely,” she jokes, she concedes she is “a little bit younger” than most League members.

An African American attorney, she was chief operating officer and director of philanthropy for the nonpartisan nonprofit FairVote, and worked for 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, when Abrams was minority leader of Georgia’s House of Representatives. Her League job, she said, was an ideal fit, because it was at “the intersection of my two passions” — practicing law and working for civil rights and social justice.

The organization has embraced new issues — like the country’s obligation to address climate change. “It’s something outside our traditional box,” Stewart said.

Our Children’s Trust, League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters and its Oregon chapter supported the lawsuit advanced by young people to force the government to protect the planet from climate change. Photo credit: Our Children’s Trust / YouTube (Creative Commons Attribution license – reuse allowed)

Working with its Oregon chapter, the League has submitted two “friend of the court” briefs supporting a climate-change lawsuit by 21 young people. The suit would require the government to submit to a court-ordered plan to reduce harmful carbon levels, and to move domestic energy away from reliance on fossil fuels.

“Climate change is certainly important as an issue in and of itself, but I also think that this case is a really good reflection of the transition the League is making,” Stewart said.

“At the center of this case are young plaintiffs who feel [that] the adults of this world — the people making decisions and empowered to make decisions — have an obligation to leave them with a safe planet. We agree.”

Related: As California Burns, Trump Administration Battles Climate Lawsuit

The League is using its power, and the power of its members, to amplify the message of young people, many of whom do not yet have the right to vote, “To leverage the power that they don’t have through the power we do have,” Stewart said.

“Leverage” is a word Stewart often employs to discuss the willingness of the League to use every means in its advocacy toolbox to advance its agenda.

Litigation is one of those tools, and the group’s increasing willingness to go to court is “reflective of the times,” Stewart said. Since the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which no longer requires that states with a history of discrimination get federal permission before changing election laws and processes, voter suppression tactics have increased, Stewart said.

In recent years, the League has partnered with democracy and civil rights groups, such as Common Cause and the Brennan Center for Justice, to pursue scores of lawsuits, most of them on voting and elections.

The national League, along with its state affiliates in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas, in 2016 sued the head of the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) over new restrictive state voter registration laws. The League charged that the EAC’s executive director had to consult with his board before approving the new laws.

In Georgia, the League was a major participant in a coalition of nonprofits that sued the state over its “exact match” law that jeopardized the voter registrations of as many as 53,000 voters.

In North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, the League has gone to court to oppose partisan gerrymandering, which dilutes the power of some voters, particularly minority voters.

Related: Wrong Votes and System Failures Mar South Carolina Elections, Report Finds

In New Hampshire, the League sued to block a new law that required more documentation for voter registration. The League argued that the new proofs of residency called for would have placed an unreasonable burden on students, the elderly, and the homeless.

Florida has been especially active. “We’re not afraid to litigate,” Florida League President Patti Brigham told WhoWhatWhy. “You have to be ready to go to court to fight for your principles, and fight for social justice.”

“We sued to get early voting on college and university campuses; we were successful and all of the major universities in the state provided those early voting sites, as well as a couple of community colleges,” Brigham said.

“We won down in Broward [County] when we sued to make sure the votes received on time were able to be counted.”

When Republican Governor Rick Scott, in an extremely tight race for US Senate, threatened to involve state law enforcement officials in a postelection investigation, the League went to federal court to block him.

“We did not win that federal lawsuit, but it was the ‘winningest loss’ our lawyer said they’d ever seen,” Brigham said. After Federal District Court Judge Mark Walker warned Scott to refrain from any effort to interfere with vote recounts in the tight Senate and gubernatorial races, Scott stopped interfering in the process.

The League also strongly endorsed Amendment 4, which will restore the right to vote to an estimated 1.2 million convicted felons who have completed the terms of their sentences. “That’s a huge victory for democracy,” Brigham said.

League members will be doing all they can to educate these voters, she added.

“Our League volunteers are very anxious to start this process and get these former felons … or as we call them, returning citizens, registered to vote. We’ve very excited about that.”

They’ll also be monitoring the state legislature to make sure that the amendment is implemented “correctly” and in a timely fashion, she said.

Under Brigham’s leadership, the Florida League also has spearheaded gun control efforts, helping create a coalition of more than 100 organizations to lobby for stricter gun control efforts in the sunshine state. Brigham’s efforts to bring together scores of other groups began in 2016, spurred by the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, which claimed 49 lives.

“We started educating the state about how the NRA works, the Florida gun laws, the issues that we’re dealing with,” she said. “As a result, we had a robust infrastructure in place to address gun violence prevention. When the Parkland shooting happened, [which in 2018 killed 17 students and staff], we were able to bring our coalition’s steering committee together to work with the legislators in Tallahassee on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas [High School Public Safety] Act, and got some good things.”

The law raises the age for purchasing guns to 21, bans bumpstocks that permit guns to shoot faster, and increases the time for background checks for many types of gun purchases.

One continuing point of contention, however, is the law’s permission for many school staff members to carry guns.

The League now is suing Duval county, charging that its “school security assistants,” hired to police elementary schools, are not even subject to the vetting and training requirements required by the new Stoneman Douglas law.

The League was once a target of conservative mockery; a columnist for National Review termed the group “poisonously sanctimonious” and “excruciatingly dull.” But now the organization is facing more serious assaults, as right-wing critics accuse it of “pushing left-wing policies.”

League of Women Voters

League of Women Voters members participated in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. Photo credit: League of Women Voters of California LWVC

The League’s progressive views on everything from voting rights to addressing climate change and gun control have so angered some Republicans that they no longer respond to candidate questionnaires or participate in League debates.

“We noticed that more this election year,” Brigham said, noting that only one Republican statewide candidate responded to its questionnaire this election. “That is concerning to us,” she said, adding that “it is not surprising,” given the increasing partisan divisions in the country.

The League shows its nonpartisan stripes when it pushes for redistricting reforms. The president of the League’s New Jersey chapter this month strongly opposed a Democratic proposal to redraw New Jersey’s lines, calling the plan a “classic” example of “partisan gerrymandering.”

When federal judges ordered that a congressional district in Maryland created by Democrats be redrawn to more accurately represent state voters, Republican Governor Larry Hogan named a state League staffer to a small “emergency commission” to come up with new lines.

The League’s independent approach likely will continue to irk both political parties during its next century of existence.

“Our focus and our positions come … after study and reaching consensus,” Brigham said. “Our consensus comes from our grassroots.”

It is the political parties that have changed, with Republicans moving to the right and Democrats becoming far less conservative, Brigham contended. “Our positions have remained steadfast.”

LINK: read:

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from LWVC cheering (League of Women Voters of California LWVC).

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Race, Protest and Politics: Where do we go from here?

As the first of the 2019 Phoenix Rising Roundtable discussions, we are honored, in partnership with Denison, to welcome Mary Frances Berry. Dr. Berry will be the sole speaker as the keynote speaker for Denison’s Martin Luther King celebrations. Following her talk, Dr. Berry will sign copies of her latest book from 2:30 to 3.

Discussion of the issues raised by Dr. Berry
at 3:15 PM on Monday, January 28, 2019
Burton-Morgan room 218

Phoenix Rising Roundtable by the Robbins Hunter Museum

Register Here: Register for the Phoenix Rising discussion and other activities.

Space is limited so please register. If demand exceeds space, we will have to move to a larger room and will contact enrolled participants directly.


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Panel Discussion – Sex Trafficing in Ohio – 16 January 2019


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Advocate article on voting at Denison

Allegations of voter fraud by college students in Ohio elections have a long history and so do allegations of voter suppression.
An article in the Newark Advocate today details a complaint from six Granville residents about alleged irregularities around Denison students’ voting in the last election. The Licking County Board of Elections is seeking legal advice on the charges. According to the article, the allegations include letting students vote with a utility bill as ID, specifically, a “zero balance utility bill” issued at the bookstore.
According to a memorandum issued by the Secretary of State to Boards of Election in 2007, reaffirmed in 2008, and cited in the article, such bills are in fact acceptable forms of identification.
The purpose of showing ID on election day is to affirm that the voter lives where he or she is registered, and a utility bill with the name and address is valid for that purpose. At Dension and many other private colleges, however, all students are required to live on campus so they do not receive separate utility bills; the cost of utilities is built into a larger fee for room and board. The memorandum clarifies that a bill from an institution, even one with zero balance, shows that the recipient lives on campus.
Although the authors of the letter seem to think that only public colleges are covered under the advisory memorandum, the document itself mentions only “colleges and universities in Ohio,” making no distinction between private and public.
Another private Ohio college, The College of Wooster, instructs students specifically about presenting a zero-balance bill when going to vote.
We will be interested to hear how this issue develops.


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We have been approved by LWV Ohio as a Local League.


It’s official:  We have been approved by LWV Ohio as a Local League.  Hooray!

I know that some of you have been awaiting this good news before renewing your membership or joining for the first time.  Wait no longer!  We will still use the same membership form and the process outlined on our website.  Here is a link to the form.  Just print it, fill it out, and mail it to the address listed on the bottom along with your dues.  If you are renewing, please write Renewal at the top of the form. In the future we may also work out a way to pay by credit card.

Do you have a child, grandchild, or neighbor who is a student and who would like to be involved in our work?  Notice that student members can join for a mere $5 per year now.

Here are some things coming up soon.  Get involved!


The Hands that Feed Us: Migrant Workers in Licking County

A Panel and Discussion, Open to the Public

September 25th 7:00 at United Church in Granville


LWV Social Hour

October 5th at 5:30

Trek Brewing Company


Voter Registration


  • September 25th (National Voter Registration Day)
    • Denison University, Newark High School, Granville High School
  • September 26th – OSUN-COTC
  • September 29th – Granville Farmers Market
  • October 6th – Granville Farmer’s Market

Contact Anne Goodge ( if you want to be on her list of registration volunteers.


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The League Reflects on the Kavanaugh Hearings

Since its founding in 1920, the League’s core values aim to empower voters and expand participation in our democracy through public education and advocacy throughout the nation. We believe that we must challenge the discriminatory laws in our country and build a system that allows all citizens to have an equal voice. We fight for a representative government because protecting the right to vote is indivisibly part of the League of Women Voters’ basic purpose.

Today, our core work focuses on voter engagement, protecting voters’ rights, improving elections, campaign finance/money in politics, and redistricting. We are leaders in this space through the many decades of work by the League’s dedicated service at the local, state, and federal levels of government and throughout communities nationwide.

The League does not take a position on appointees and we don’t dispute an appointee’s qualifications. Our steady focus is on public policies—namely, the decision-making process, enforcement, and the relevant administrative rules. Yet, we are advocates and we fiercely understand the importance of our role as advocates for nearly a century.

And, while we do not take a position on appointees, we are obliged to stand up when and if ideologies—spoken or implied—threaten the people, the rights and the public policies the League has long worked on to protect and expand fundamental voting rights.

With that framework laid, it is critical to share how our work and legacy measures up against the ideology of the next Supreme Court Justice. After three days of hearings, this is what we’ve learned about Judge Kavanaugh’s record as it relates to our priority issues.

Judge Kavanaugh has not demonstrated a commitment to protect voters

The League believes that voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. The fight to protect voters’ rights, especially those whose voices are least heard– specifically communities of color – is ongoing and fierce.

Judge Kavanaugh’s voting rights record causes some concern and we need clarification around how he will handle important voting rights protections and whether those protections are at risk of being further eroded.

In South Carolina v. United States, Judge Kavanaugh precleared a voter photo identification law, after the Department of Justice deemed it a threat to the voting rights of tens of thousands of minority voters in the state. The separate concurrence by Judge Bates, in that same decision, is significant because it shows a clear distinction between the two judges with similar worldviews of precedent and the historic importance of not only section 5 but the Voting Rights Act generally. Ultimately, it shows that regardless of which side of the political aisle a judge sits, the ability to leave precedent undisturbed is the standard unless a compelling reason exists.

Secondly, the case of Rice v. Cayetano has also come up. In Rice, an amicus brief by Judge Kavanagh was filed that was co-authored with Robert Bork and Roger Clegg. In this brief, they argued that Hawaii violated the Constitution by permitting only Native Hawaiians to vote in elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency charged with working for the betterment of Native Hawaiians. However, Justice Stevens wrote a compelling dissent asserting, “there is simply no invidious discrimination present in this effort to see that indigenous peoples are compensated for past wrongs, and to preserve a distinct and vibrant culture that is as much a part of this Nation’s heritage as any.” Judge Kavanaugh’s record in these voting rights cases raises red flags about how he might rule from the highest court in future decisions.

The late release of the SCOTUS nominee’s full record undermines much needed public transparency

The League has long worked for the citizen’s right to know and for broad citizen participation in government. We further believe that the government bodies protect the citizen’s right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings, and making public records accessible.

As an organization that promotes and reveres transparency, the current Supreme Court nominee process has been unusually opaque to the public. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings were scheduled before obtaining the nominee’s full record, and over 42,000 records were released just hours before the first hearing. The proximity of the documents’ release to the hearings does not pass the transparency sniff test. When a full record of a SCOTUS nominee is not available, the public, and those officials elected to represent us, are at a disadvantage and cannot capably assess whether the nominee reflects American democracy.

Judge Kavanaugh’s record shows a consistent refusal to uphold campaign finance restrictions

The League believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should enhance political equality for all citizens, ensure maximum participation by citizens in the political process while protecting representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns. We are fighting to reform money in politics in Congress, with state legislatures, with the executive branch, and, where appropriate, the courts. Without further inform, Judge Kavanaugh’s level of concern for the influence of money in politics runs counter to the League’s principles.

In the campaign finance case of Emily’s List v. Federal Election Commission, Judge Kavanaugh reversed a lower court’s opinion that enacted regulations to limit an influx of spending from outside groups to nonprofits. He held that contributions and expenditures constituted speech, and thus are afforded First Amendment protection. This decision laid the groundwork for the holding in the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited sums in political campaigns.

Similarly, in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission, he wrote the opinion for two-panel members utilizing what Demos and Campaign Legal Center deemed “a novel theory that would limit disclosure based on a spender’s tax-status, a theory subsequently rejected by a three-judge court and the Supreme Court.”

It goes without saying that the Supreme Court plays a critical role in protecting the rights of voters in this country. While we won’t assess the qualifications of the Supreme Court nominee, we exercise our obligation to diligently review Judge Kavanaugh’s record and the testimony made before the Senate Judiciary Committee to determine how this appointment could impact the fundamental values that the League of Women Voters of the United State works to protect and enhance, now and for decades to come.


Source: League of Women Voters – National

LINK: read:

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Migrant Workers in Licking County: The Hands That Feed Us

The Hands That Feed Us

When Marshall Branstool, owner of Branstool Orchards in Utica, steps behind his market table filled with fresh peaches and ripe apples many are quick to notice his shirt does not have the well-known Branstool Orchards logo but instead reflects the heart of the business. The T-shirt simply reads, “Immigrants Feed America.”

In today’s political climate it may feel surprising to have a business owner make such a bold statement at what feels like a simple Saturday morning outing. To those within the food chain, however, recent focus on immigration policy is a constant reminder of how essential immigrant labor and families are to our agricultural economy.

Marshall wears his shirt to remind customers who is behind their food.

“People need to be aware and know about the work that goes on for operations of our size. We aren’t large enough to be mechanized and we aren’t small enough for just a family to manage. Our immigrant employees pick each peach and apple by hand.”

Branstool Orchards and other U-pick and agritourism farms are often the only intersection a shopper might have with the labor aspect of the food system. For one afternoon a year a family will pile into the car and drive to the countryside to pick a bushel of apples before paying the farmer for their work. Picking fruit for the afternoon feels like the perfect fall day but the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry requires a labor force of millions.

Marshall Branstool, owner of Branstool Orchards, with one of the signs he displays at his farm market on the farm.

Statistics vary and are hard to collect given the nature of a migrant and seasonal workforce but according to industry associations 2.5 million farmworkers are hired annually. This includes those working to harvest fruits and vegetables as well as farmworkers tending to livestock, ranches, nurseries and fisheries. While we may imagine picturesque scenes of fresh fruit being picked from the vine, for these farmworkers work starts in the late winter to plant, prune, thin, mow grass, spray for disease and pests, build trellising, maintain fencing and infrastructure, harvest, grade, wash, pack and deliver product.

These daily tasks begin before the sun fully rises and last until it sets 14 hours later. For most farmworkers these long hours do not pay off as they would in any other industry. While Branstool Orchards ensures their employees are paid time-and-half, the agriculture industry is exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Farmworkers have the lowest annual family income of any U.S. wage workers—averaging $17,000 to $19,000 a year.

Agriculture, by nature, is unreliable and lacks job security. Produce is perishable and needs to be harvested within a small time frame. Many farmworkers migrate to follow the harvest between Florida’s winter citrus, California’s spring strawberries, the Midwest’s summer sweet corn and the Carolinas’ fall sweet potato harvest. About 13,700 migrant farm workers travel to Ohio each year through H2A visa programs alone for orchard work.

Most consumers are aware of the notion that “Mexicans pick our food” and in a real sense they are correct. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), immigrants account for 73% of all farmworkers and the survey showed up to 75% of those were born in Mexico. The NAWS survey reported 47% of those foreign born are undocumented immigrants, but farmworker justice surveys have shown up to 70% of the workforce goes undocumented. This is a wide range and no matter which survey results one accepts it still leaves a large portion of the workforce vulnerable.

Fruits and vegetables are not the only products that require a large immigrant population. The poultry, dairy and meatpacking industries depend on immigrant labor. More than half of all dairy workers in the U.S. are immigrants, according to a 2015 industry-sponsored study, and farms that employ immigrant labor produce 79% of the nation’s milk with over half of the immigrant labor coming from Mexico. Declining rural populations, increased herd sizes to increase farm income and family members seeking off-farm jobs for health insurance purposes has shifted family dairy farms to hired staff over the last 20 years. Dairy workers account for the highest-paying farm labor jobs.

In Licking County, Stacey Atherton of Shipley’s Dairy Farm simply says, “We do not look at our immigrant labor as cheap labor. In fact, we look at them as dependable and hardworking employees.” In this competitive labor market, employees make almost double minimum wage and have stayed employed for over a decade on the farm. Stacey has worked hard to learn Spanish to create a better work environment for everyone.

Photo 1: Heading out to the orchard for a days work.
Photo 2: At Shipley’s Dairy Farm.

Most consumers may assume the nationality of those employed to harvest their food but most are unaware that an estimated 430,000 under-age children are working in the fields. U.S. labor laws provide no minimum age for children working alongside their parent on small farms with their parent’s permission. Children may work for hire on any farm with parental consent from age 12, and there are no legal limits on the hours children can work in agriculture outside of being enrolled in school fulltime. Industry studies have shown 25% of our food picked in the U.S. is by children as young as 6 years old.

For these children, they will go to school and then join their parents in the field through the afternoon and weekends, often working over 40 hours a week. It is a common misconception that these standards are higher for certified organic produce but the certification process does not have any labor conditions incentives. Our country’s desire for the cheapest food possible, competing with imported goods, has led to a human rights crisis in our fields.

For Columbus Rabbi Jessica Shimberg it was an article similar to this in a 2001 Gourmet magazine that opened her eyes to whose hands were picking her food and the privileged role she had held in the food system.

“My mother gave me an annual gift subscription to Gourmet, because we both enjoyed cooking and reading about great restaurants. One day, I opened the magazine to a stunning article by Barry Estabrook about the tomato industry. There was a picture of brown hands holding green tomatoes with the town of Immokalee, Florida, listed. I stopped to read the article, recalling that our family had taken a day trip to Immokalee for a boat ride and realizing that the impoverished homes we had driven by housed these migrant farmworkers. Here my family was sightseeing while human rights abuses were occurring within miles of our destination.”

The article was one of the first mainstream publications to shine a light on the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The CIW is a worker-based human rights organization organizing the farmworker community since 1993, and was reinforced with the creation of a national consumer network in 2000. In 2011, CIW launched the Fair Food Program (FFP), which focuses on a Worker driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model based on a unique partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers and participating retail buyers. Companies such as Taco Bell, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and more have signed on to this agreement to pay one penny more per tomato and purchase from ethically responsible growers. Other firms continue to resist joining the agreement.

As a rabbinical student, Jessica began to consider more about what it meant for her to keep kosher, not just to obey scriptural laws but also as a spiritual practice of blessing those who cultivate and harvest the food. Through this introspective learning, Jessica connected with T’ruah, an organization that brings a rabbinic voice and the power of the Jewish community to protecting and advancing human rights in North America. In October 2012, Jessica spent time in Immokalee learning from the CIW and has worked, locally and nationally, as part of T’ruah’s Tomato Rabbis (#tomatorabbis) ever since.

Rabbi Jessica’s work as the spiritual leader of The Little Minyan Kehilah has allowed her to connect and organize with other Central Ohio faith leaders and with the active Ohio State University Farmworker Alliance. The OSU chapter is a part of a national network of students and youth organizing in partnership with the CIW. Students Rachael Birri and Alex Hoey have been organizing with students on campus. Students volunteer to educate, organize, train and demonstrate the plight of the farmworker. Each year students host farmworkers from Immokalee to share their story. The CIW has been fighting for over 20 years, longer than some student organizers have been alive, but the students say they are not disillusioned and instead view the work of the CIW in holding space in a larger movement inspiring and renewing every time they take action together.

The work to create a fair food system involves protesting with your food dollars every day. Simple choices make a difference, such as buying in-season produce, especially avoiding imported and out-of-season berries. Buy directly from producers where you can ask about farmworker conditions and seek out farmers like Stacey and Marshall who respect their employees and are grateful for their labor. Joining a CSA program and purchasing meat and dairy products from those who utilize independent meat processing facilities also helps.

As Rabbi Jessica explains, as fellow human beings, we have an obligation to “do our best to ensure the food we put in our mouths is clean, free of human exploitation; if we can know that basic human rights have not been violated—that those who tend the crops weren’t sprayed by pesticides, that they have adequate bathroom and shade access and are free from sexual assault in the fields and other work locations, why would we choose not to? In this way, the food we eat can truly nourish our bodies and our souls.”

To get involved in Central Ohio visit: Ohio For Fair Food and Farmworker Justice on Facebook. And to learn more, Rabbi Jessica recommends reading I’m Not A Tractor: How Florida Farmworkers Took On the Fast Food Giants and Won (2017) by Susan L. Marquis. The book chronicles how farmworkers have greatly improved their working conditions on farms and more.


Source: Edible Columbus

By:  Bryn Bird



Here’s the link to the LWVUS position on immigration: 

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