Response to Omaha World-Herald Editorial 5-12-2020
Jose F. Garcia
Former Director: Chicano Awareness Center
Thank you Omaha World Herald for informing the public about conditions that are making South Omaha, Nebraska, one of the current hot spots of this Coronavirus – COVID-19 engulfing our Nation.
It was in late March that I sounded the Alert to those that found themselves in social media to the hazards associated with the process the Governor of Nebraska was condoning as the Pandemic spread among packing house workers throughout the state of Nebraska.
As the weeks wore on I called out those within the Latino cadre that continued to ignore a deadly menace, making statements about assisting management as best we can “to inform your employees about how best to protect themselves”, when the real issue was that these workers were falling victims and dying of this virus at their workplace.
It was not until the middle of April did news outlets such as Telemundo Nebraska through the reporting of Marina Rosado, broadcast reports to the Hispanic audience exposing the collusion between state and Industry to keep the plants open at whatever cost.
During this time the Grand Island’s Mayor, literally pleaded to state government leaders and Federal authorities for assistance as the COVID-19 Pandemic tore through his City.
It was not until the 3rd week of April did the Packing House Industry began blaming the workers themselves for introducing COVID 19 into the workplace. Nationally, allies for the creed “PROFITS AT ANY COST” such as the Supreme Court Judge in Wisconsin, referred to packing house workers as ‘those other people’.
Yes, thank you Omaha World Herald for emphasizing the ‘essential importance’ of these mostly immigrant/people of color food processing workers to an industry that feeds America and the seeming disregard for the sanctity of Human life by the Packing House Industry and the State of Nebraska’s response to effectively confront the danger within this working class segment of our society.
But, that is just half of the story. Who is going to be empowered to legitimately work towards an equitable approach? Current agencies serving Latinos have not been forces of activism since the early 1980 ‘s. Those that do exist at the present time are primarily safety net organization that perform contractual services and help spread information and opportunity to grow and prosper within our National economy. Their community exposure is more to manage than to than to mobilize efforts that advocate change in work-place environments and protection.
Who then can accept the challenge of advocating, outside the courtroom for a growing Mestizo/Spanish speaking population? The current statewide Nebraska Latino American Commission, founded in 1971 to be the conduit of need and of opportunity within a bi-lingual/bi-cultural populations within the state, has been neutralized by members chosen outside the realm of the average immigrant trabajador/worker. It’s state capitol office denuded of staff and resources that in years past allowed its Director to keep a vital connection between the State and Latino expatriate along with a large population of generational Mexican Americans and current Hispanic/Latinos.
Another statewide agency, the Nebraska Association of Farmworkers, since Ella Ochoa retired, has lost its statewide impact that focused on farmworkers/immigrant work place environment.
One agency, whose roots were nourished by the Indian Chicano Health Center in the 1970’s, ONE WORLD Health Centers, has effectively responded to the challenge of being a legitimate destination in the middle of 6 of the 9 packing house production facilities in South Omaha. I salute them.
The challenge lies herein: that Latino people need to accept individual responsibility to follow the imposed regulations designed to not only save their own lives but the health and lives of all those of family, friends and members of the community Latinos call their own.
TRUST is what is missing from this formula. A social characteristic towards political governmental authority from which many expatriates fled their country of birth.
This sense of denial is seen throughout our American society, placing personal conditions over the society, are attitudes that must be changed for the common good.
Governmental, social, and educational institutions must recognize their responsibilities about educating, motivating, creating an environment of Trust, of recognition of the danger facing us during this Coronavirus Pandemic.
Unless this campaign is brought to the Expatriate/multi-cultural people by those who live and work, pray, participate within a Latino, Mexican American community and People of Color, these efforts will fall on deaf ears.
Herein lies the 2nd wave.