David Bacon

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.

Recent Articles

A Charged Atmosphere

I f the proposals for privatizing Mexico's nationalized electrical system bear an eerie resemblance to California's disastrous experiment in deregulation, it should come as no surprise. The proposals, after all, share some of the same authors. In fact, as Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay were setting up shadow corporations to hide Enron's huge U.S. losses in 2001, other Enron executives found time to hobnob with Mexican politicians and design projects in cooperation with that country's industrial elite. Enron executives advised incoming President Vicente Fox on energy policy during his transition period. Since Fox took office in 2000, a slew of power companies, many of them U.S.-based, have gone on a construction spree in Mexico in anticipation of legislation that will privatize the nation's electric-power industry, which has been nationalized for the past four decades. On April 4, 2002, Enron Energia Industrial de Mexico received a license from Mexico's Electricity Regulatory Commission...

Shore Bet?

T he bitterness of the current West Coast longshoremen's lockout was vividly demonstrated on Tuesday, Oct. 1, when the two sides met in Oakland, Calif., to explore federally mediated bargaining. Representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association showed up at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service office accompanied by two guards armed with pistols. International Longshore and Warehouse Union President James Spinosa, who said that both sides had previously agreed to bring only five negotiators apiece, was taken aback to see the entire negotiating team for the PMA with its security escort. "Hiding behind the government and armed thugs, PMA's lockout is holding a gun to the head of the American economy," Spinosa declared angrily. "Now they move to aim real guns at us. We will not be intimidated." After the head of the FMCS, Peter Hurtgen, said he was aware of the PMA's plan to bring guards, Spinosa and the union delegates walked out. Hurtgen apparently was unaware the guards...

In the Name of National Security

E rlinda Valencia came from the Philippines almost two decades ago. Like many Filipinos living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she found a minimum-wage job at the airport, screening passengers' carry-on bags. Two years ago, organizers from the Service Employees International Union began talking to the screeners. Valencia decided to get involved and eventually became a leader in the campaign that brought in the union. "It seemed to us all that for the first time, we had a real future," she recalls. A new contract raised wages to more than $10 an hour, and harassment by managers abated. Then the airplanes hit the twin towers in New York, and everything changed. In short order, legislation established a new Transportation Security Administration, which required that screeners be federal employees. That could have been a good thing for Valencia and her co-workers: Federal workers have decent salaries and federal regulations protect their right to belong to unions -- at least they used to...

The Kill-Floor Rebellion

S t. Agnes church and its sister parish, our Lady of Guadalupe, are the heart of south Omaha, Nebraska. Every Sunday, hundreds of packinghouse workers -- Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans -- dress up in their best clothes and stream through St. Agnes' doors for Spanish-language mass. The men take off their wide-brimmed sombreros as mothers call out to little girls in frilly dresses who run giggling through the aisles. On the last Sunday in April, the parish priest, Father Damian Zuerlein, began the service by addressing the subject on everyone's mind: the coming election at the ConAgra beef plant. Standing at the altar, he acknowledged the many ConAgra workers in the congregation. "We say, there's nothing new under the sun -- some people have a great deal, while others have nothing," he said. "Our community knows the unequal treatment of the poor, and the time has come to make a decision." Then he introduced the plant's union committee. Olga Espinoza, who works on the kill floor,...

The Coca-Cola Killings:

A fter the leader of their union was shot down at their plant gate in late 1996, Edgar Paéz and his co-workers at the Coca-Cola bottling factory in Carepa, Colombia, tried for more than four years to get their government to take action against the responsible parties. Instead, some of the workers themselves wound up behind bars, while the murderers went free. Convinced that Colombian officials were unable or unwilling to bring the perpetrators to justice, they decided to go abroad for help. Accordingly, last July, the Colombian union Sinaltrainal, together with the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), filed a lawsuit in the Florida courts against Coca-Cola, Panamerican Beverages (the largest soft-drink bottler in Latin America), and Bebidas y Alimentos (owned by Richard Kirby of Key Biscayne, Florida), which operates the Carepa plant. The suit charges the three companies with complicity in the assassination of the union leader Isídro Segundo...

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