Prairie FireSeptember/October 1996 issue of Poverty & Race
550 llth St.,#220
Des Moines, IA 50309
Contact: Rev. Gil Dawes
Prairie Fire is an independent, non-profit, farm and rural advocacy organization. Our work on immigrant workers' rights is part of our Corporate Agriculture Organizing and Training Project, which is committed to confronting the social and economic impacts of corporate concentration on the farmers, ranchers, workers and rural communities that feed the nation.
PRRAC's financial support made it possible for us to get ahead of the curve on the issue of the immigrant presence in Iowa. It allowed us to do the research that was necessary to produce "Shattered Promises," a report documenting the recruiting and employment practices of the meatpacking industry in Iowa. The report and subsequent public policy development led to passage of legislation (though vetoed by the Governor) strengthening the protection of immigrant workers' rights and to the development of a brochure in Spanish and English informing both employees and employers of workers' rights.
The research, which included a fact-finding trip to San Diego and Tijuana, also enabled us to do stories in the press with enough graphic detail to catch the attention and inform the public on the issues of immigrant presence. The need for this capability is still increasing, as the political process seems to be targeting immigrants as the most vulnerable potential scapegoats available.
The work we have done on this issue also prepared us to oppose the passage of NAFTA and to continue monitoring its results as it impacts workers, both here and in Mexico. Solid analysis can help prevent the pitting of workers here and there against one another.
Finally, the project has helped us be more effective in analyzing and informing others about the dynamics involved in the concentration of the livestock production and food processing industries. We are able to draw conclusions in time to affect the process while things are in motion rather than being too late with too little.
Prairie Fire's 122-page report, "Race & Economics in the Rural Midwest, "is available from them.
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