Last Sunday we caught sight of a deer near the garden--nothing unusual there. But then Jim noticed a fawn--a very, very small fawn, possibly newly born. He opened the door to get a photo and the mother ran off. He was confident she'd return, so he ventured out to get a look at the baby.
Here's the fawn, very unsteady on its feet.
As soon as Jim moved toward the fawn, it would lie down and stay motionless. That's a self-protective measure; the fawn stays as hidden as possible and moves not at all so as not to give its position away to a possible predator.
Here's the fawn lying in tall grass and sheep sorrel:
We began to be concerned when, after three hours, the doe had not returned. At a loss as to the right course of action, we naturally turned to the Internet. Michigan's Department of Natural Resources had the advice we needed: leave wildlife in the wild.
If you wish to obey the law, note the location, but leave the animal where it is. If you have reason to believe the mother has been killed, return the next day, and if the youngster is still there and appears weakened, contact the nearest DNR office.
"This time of year it’s fairly common to come across young animals in the wild and sometimes it appears these wildlife babies are abandoned or orphaned," said Doug Reeves, DNR wildlife biologist. "In almost all circumstances that is not the case."
A doe may leave her fawn for up to eight hours. While we felt somewhat relieved by the DNR's information, we still found ourselves anxiously watching from the windows, checking to see whether the fawn was still there and looking for the doe.
But eventually we became occupied with getting ready to go to a holiday barbecue, and during that time the mother returned for her offspring, because when we went out to see the fawn one more time, it was gone. We enjoyed our little visitor and felt we'd been given a gift--a feeling we experience often out here.
A while back I posted on Burger King's refusal to join McDonald's and Yum! Brands (owner of KFC, Taco Bell, and other chains) in agreeing to pay Florida tomato pickers an extra penny per pound. The Coalition for Immokalee Workers has put pressure on fast-food corporations to increase pay and working conditions for these farm workers, who suffer under some of the worst working conditions in the U.S.
Burger King has now bowed to pressure and joined the other fast-food giants in agreeing to the extra penny. Nation editor Katrina van den Heuvel writes:
This victory is testament to the tenacity and discipline of the Coalition,a community-based worker organization, which has exposed a half-dozen slavery cases that helped trigger the freeing of more than 1000 workers. It has also advocated for better wages, living conditions, respect from the industry, and an end to indentured servitude. In this last year, CIW scored victories in negotiating a penny-per-pound surcharge--so workers would receive about 77 cents per 32-pound bucket--with McDonald's and Yum! Brands (owner of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC). (The corporations also agreed to work with the Coalition to eliminate slavery from the fields.) And the corporations --not the tomato growers--agreed to pay the 40 percent salary increase. Astonishingly, Burger King, until today, refused to go along with a deal that will cost them less than $300,000 annually; last year, the corporation raked in $2.23 billion in revenues.
But, as van den Heuvel notes, this is no time for complacency: not only are conditions in the field appalling, but the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is opposed to the penny-a-pound increase, even though that increase comes directly from the fast-food companies, not the growers themselves [link]:
As some growers began to implement the Yum/McDonald's agreement – an extra paycheck cut to the farmworkers by the buyers, not the growers, mind you – the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE), representing 90 percent of the state's growers, said any members who adopted this policy would be fined $100,000 per worker benefiting from the agreement.
At the hearing, Reginald Brown, Executive VP for the FTGE, tried to justify opposition to the agreement on the grounds of "legal concerns." Unfortunately for him, Senator Bernie Sanders
entered into the record a letter from 26 legal professors specializing in labor law, including antitrust dimensions of labor standards, writing that "the ostensible legal concerns of the Growers Exchange are utterly without merit." (In fact, the experts concluded, the only real antitrust issue might be several growers agreeing amongst themselves to reject the deal.) He noted that McDonald's and Yum! Brands also entered letters into the record stating that there are no legal problems with the extra penny deal and that they want it implemented.
"I gather that McDonald's and Yum have some money to hire some pretty good attorneys," Sen. Sanders told Brown. "You might want to reconsider the attorneys you are using and rethink this issue."
The FTGE looks the other way when slavery occurs in the field, professing shock, yet somehow never uncovering such cases--while the CIW has uncovered several. It's thought that for every case of slavery that comes to light, there are others still concealed.
So while the Burger King victory is cause for celebration, it's only the beginning. The CIW's next step may well be to begin pressuring supermarket chains, including Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. If so, we can do our part by letting supermarkets know we support the CIW and by boycotting where appropriate. Those who buy tomatoes from Florida growers are in a position to insist on better pay and working conditions for tomato pickers, lest they take their business elsewhere.
Constant readers will know that I don't give any fast-food "restaurants" my business. But I'm hoping to persuade any Burger King customers out there to give up their Whoppers, even if that means buying a Big Mac (shudder).
Let me give you some background, courtesy of Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation):
The Student/Farmworker Alliance and an affiliated nonprofit, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, have for years been urging the fast-food industry to accept some responsibility for the plight of Florida migrants who harvest the tomatoes for its hamburgers and tacos. . . . The wages of these farm workers, adjusted for inflation, have declined by as much as 70 percent since the late 1970s. And hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrants have been enslaved by labor contractors and forced to work without pay. The McDonald’s Corporation and Yum Brands (which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC) have agreed to subsidize a modest pay raise for their tomato pickers and work closely with the coalition to eliminate slavery from the fields.
The "modest pay raise" is a penny per pound of tomatoes picked. Schlosser's use of the word "enslaved" is not metaphorical: we are talking about actual slavery, people forced to work without pay. Last month a Senate committee hearing was held on the issue of working conditions for tomato workers. An investigator for the Collier County Sheriff's Office, asked by Sen. Bernie Sanders whether there was human trafficking occurring in Florida agriculture, replied,
"It's probably occurring right now while we sit here," Frost said. "Almost assuredly it's going on right now."
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Student/Farmworker Alliance have fought some tough battles on behalf of the farm workers. For their efforts, they are now being spied upon by the Burger King corporation.
At first the company denied using such tactics. Now, however, a Burger King executive has admitted to using a private security firm, Diplomatic Tactical Services, to spy on the Alliance--ostensibly to prevent acts of violence.
“It is both the corporation’s right and duty,” a company spokesman later wrote in an e-mail message to [Schlosser], “to protect its employees and assets from potential harm.”
Neither the CIW nor the Student/Farmworker Alliance has ever been guilty of any form of violence. Burger King spied on this group in order to learn of its plans in hopes of undermining those plans.
Burger King's actions are unjustifiable and unconscionable. Publicly, officials say they want to work with the coalition to improve working conditions for tomato pickers, while privately they engage in actions seeking to discredit the coalition. Disinformation campaigns and spying are despicable acts, particularly when directed against efforts to improve workers' lives. A penny a pound would certainly not greatly erode Burger King's profits; McDonald's and Yum Brands have found it possible to reach an agreement with the CIW. In fact, Eric Schlosser has said that the penny-a-pound increase would cost Burger King only about $300,000 a year. Burger King reported $2.2 billion in revenues last year, and its CEO made $4.1 million. It's extremely hard to understand why they are balking at that extra penny.
The CIW presented, or tried to present, Burger King officials with a petition signed by 80,000 people promising to boycott the company if it doesn't do the right thing. You can sign the petition, and you can promise to stop patronizing Burger King.
While the fast-food companies haven't been the only beneficiaries of shockingly low wages and outright slavery--the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is a particularly loathsome organization that has so far blocked that extra penny provided by McDonald's and Yum from reaching the workers--pressuring these companies, as the buyers, is a place to start. The buyers have the power to insist on decent treatment of workers and to look elsewhere for tomatoes (like Mexico) if growers refuse to be accountable.
Tomato workers have not had a raise in over twenty years. They average 45 cents per 32-pound bucket of tomatoes picked, about $50 per day. I hope that any Burger King customers reading this (and do follow the links for the whole story) will boycott the chain and urge others to do the same. Use your buying power to send a message.
This morning Jim heard the sandhill cranes making a racket and rushed downstairs just in time to shoot this photo of the proud parents taking their new little one out for a stroll. We'd been expecting to see the chick any day, as we knew the cranes were nesting nearby.
A bill sponsored by Michigan Democratic state representatives Joan Bauer (Lansing), Mark Meadows (East Lansing), and Mike Simpson (Liberty Township) would require parents to register their homeschooled children with the local school district and provide the parent's or guardian's name and address.
Sound innocuous? Maybe. But when seemingly harmless legislation is proposed, especially that which is completely unnecessary, it's wise to look for an agenda on the part of sponsors and supporters.
Michigan and its school districts have managed to function just fine without requiring homeschooled children to be registered, but suddenly, we are to believe that such legislation would "address questions of truancy" and that it is critical to our knowing, in Rep. Bauer's words, "where and if our children are being educated."
Beats me how registering homeschooled children would clear up questions about truancy. Just how would that work? A child who is truant from school is one who is registered at, and attending, a school; his or her continued, unexplained absence would point to truancy. It seems to me that registering homeschooled children would just muddy the waters here, as they'd appear on school rolls without actually ever attending.
The more revealing comment is Rep. Bauer's: "where and if our children are being educated [emphasis mine]." "If"?
How would merely registering a child with the district give any information about whether that child is "being educated"? Well, it wouldn't, of course. And that points to the real purpose of this legislation: to establish a record of homeschooled children that will then allow the next slide down the slippery slope of more and more regulation of homeschooling. The real agenda is given away in that casual (unguarded) remark.
No wonder homeschooling parents turned out to protest in Lansing. They see this bill for what it is.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, there's a persistent belief that homeschooling is usually inferior to public education. Nothing could be further from the truth. There's also a horror out there of children unrestrained by the regimentation of school: witness this opinion piece by Jack Lessenberry, in which he says that this bill is necessary:
For one thing, if we don’t know who is home schooling their kids, how can we know who is teaching their kids at home – and who are simply letting their kids run wild?
Apart from some terrible writing ("if we don't know who's teaching their kids at home, how can we know who's teaching their kids at home?"), there's an assumption here that needs to be addressed. That assumption is that numbers of homeschooling parents are shirking their duties and, instead of teaching their children, are just letting them turn into little Lord of the Flies wannabes. There's also the implication that the real purpose of registering homeschooled kids is so that homeschooling parents can be spied upon to ensure that the children are being educated instead of just being allowed to be little savages. That's precisely what homeschooling parents immediately sniffed out in this supposedly innocuous bill.
Lessenberry goes on to call for greater regulation of homeschooling:
Actually, this bill doesn’t go far enough. We need a strong package of bills firmly regulating home schooling. They should prescribe a curriculum and require home schoolers to prove they are qualified to teach. We owe it to our kids and ourselves.
I believe that a bill establishing registration of homeschooled children is the first step toward exactly that kind of regulation. Once you know where they are, and once you pass laws regulating homeschooling as to curriculum and whether or not parents are qualified to teach, it's a simple matter to hunt down families and force their compliance.
There may also be a motivation for the individual school district to add students to its rolls. Whenever schools in my area experience a drop in student enrollment, the schools always talk about this in terms of loss of federal funds to the district. So, in the monetary crunch the state of Michigan is currently experiencing, getting all those homeschooled kids into the classroom may be seen as a plus. This doesn't actually make sense to me, as more kids means more teachers, classrooms, equipment, buses, and so on, but since schools regularly mourn the loss of students as a loss of federal dollars, I can only speculate that such might be the case.
Whatever the motivation, it certainly isn't concern for children and families and their needs. Some variation on this comment by Lessenberry is often heard:
More and more, we are evolving into a place where two kids the same age have wildly different educational experiences.
That’s a prescription for eventually losing our identity as a people and a nation. And if that doesn’t scare you more than internet porn, you clearly need more education.
Actually, it doesn't scare me. There's enough cultural sharing through mass media alone to make that a silly bugaboo. Americans also share a government and a history, a popular culture, and so on. Beyond that, most homeschooled children learn just what publicly schooled children learn--only more of it, and in many cases, with the kind of in-depth treatment and critical thought that public schools just don't prioritize in this standardized-test-driven era. But that fear of "losing our identity" is often echoed by other critics of homeschooling. I once visited a blog on which the author had posted a tirade against homeschooling that declared homeschooling parents to be traitors! She was quite serious, claiming that to homeschool a child was to defy the state. If so--more of this, please.
I also think that people invested in public education and employed in public education fear for the future of that institution. Homeschooling becomes more attractive as public education becomes less effective. Perhaps some see public education as able to continue only if parents are forced to place their kids in public schools. That's pretty sad. A better solution would be to revitalize public education, but alas--we don't have too many thinkers outside of the box when it comes to creative ways to do so.
Finally, let's not forget that the public schools are all about providing what the corporate culture demands. For all the spouting off about how we need highly educated citizens in this technological age, blah blah blah, in fact most of the jobs that are being created are in the service sector, mostly having to do with serving food and drink. For that you need people who will do what they're told without fuss and without suggesting a better way to do it; otherwise, it's too difficult to standardize menus and foods and so on. Not rocking the boat is much more important at most places of work than coming up with creative solutions or suggesting changes. Homeschooling is not efficient at providing what late capitalism/high consumerism demands, namely, an unthinking subjection of the self to market forces and advertising. I don't say it doesn't, given American culture, produce workers who fulfill corporate needs, only that homeschooling isn't nearly as efficient at doing so.
For all these reasons, there are a lot of people out there who want to make homeschooling difficult and fraught with regulation, red tape, prescriptions, and proscriptions, in order to discourage it or make it nearly impossible. Registering homeschooled children can have no other purpose than to gradually introduce such a process a bit at a time. It's just the first step in eventually taking away the right of parents to educate their children at home.