David Bacon is a writer and photographer, and associate editor for New America Media. He is the author of The Children of NAFTA and sits on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Committee of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.
A strike by Iraqi oil workers in early June threw into question the conditions that some in the U.S. Congress would place on ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. At the same time, Iraqi nationalists have grown more vocal in their accusations that the occupation itself has an economic agenda, centered on seizing control of the country's oil.
David Bacon: Recently the oil workers union went on strike for two days. What was the strike about?
Faleh Abood Umara: We have many problems in the oil industry. Some time ago we met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, discussed them, and reached an agreement. We asked the minister of oil to implement that agreement, and he refused. He was supposed to organize a special congress with oil workers in the south, to provide land for building workers' homes, to raise our pay, to implement profit sharing, and to suspend the implementation of the new oil law. Our discussions with the oil minister didn't change the situation, so we announced we would go on strike.
Bacon: What objection does the union have to the proposed oil law?
Raul Dominguez, a Mixtec immigrant from San Miguel Cuevas, Oaxaca, picks grapes in Madera, California. (Photo by David Bacon)
The comprehensive immigration bill may have stalled in the Senate last week, but the debate over immigration policy will undoubtedly continue -- especially over the status of the millions of undocumented workers presently in the United States, as well as those who will come in the next few years.
Julio Vargas was fired after leading the walkout among contracted workers for higher wages and safer working conditions at the Smithfield pork-processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina. (Photo by David Bacon)
RED SPRINGS, North Carolina -- To organizer Eduardo Peña, "the raid was like a nuclear bomb" -- more precisely, a neutron bomb, that ingenious weapon of the Cold War whose radiation was meant to kill a city's residents but leave its buildings standing. After the immigration raid of January 24 at the Smithfield pork slaughtering plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the factory was still intact, the machinery of the production lines ready to clank and clatter into its normal motion. But many workers were gone, and much of the plant lay still.
Development projects anywhere in the world often have a high human cost. In Colombia, the price is often measured in human lives and blood.
Esperanza (she would risk her life, she says, if her real name appeared in print) saw her neighbors pay that price in 2001. Her house sits on the bank of the Rio Salvajina, in the Afro-Colombian municipality of Buenos Aires in Cauca province. “I saw armed men arrive in cars,” she remembers, “with two, three, four, even five people tied up. They dragged them onto the bridge, shot them two or three times and threw their bodies into the river.” When the paramilitaries came to her own home, she was so frightened she lost the baby she'd been carrying for five months.