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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Bob Dunning: It’s time to pay workers their fair share

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From page A2 | April 12, 2013 |

HARVEST OF SHAME … growing up in Yolo County a number of decades ago, I was one of the local kids able to land a summer job picking tomatoes side-by-side with the hard-working men who came to this area from Mexico each year as part of the bracero program … since UC Davis had yet to develop the mechanical tomato harvester, this was back-breaking work, bending over all day picking the fruit, then straightening up only long enough to carry the heavy lug boxes to the end of the row to get your ticket punched … we were paid by the box, not the hour, truly earning the fruit of our labors …

There were, of course, many differences between me and the men I worked with that went far beyond the fact we spoke different languages … for one, I returned each evening to my parents and brother and sisters in our Davis home, while the braceros returned to their notoriously sub-standard labor camp … plus, while I used my meager earnings to buy baseball cards and bubble gum, they were sending as much as they could back to Mexico to support their families who remained behind …

So I was especially sad to read the plight of those bracero workers who are still owed money by the Mexican government for a portion of their wages that was deducted long ago and sent to a now-defunct Mexican farm bank … the government program allows compensation of $3,000, but workers must show proof of their decades-old employment, which is nearly impossible for many of those still living and still seeking justice …

Given how low the compensation is, and given that these workers contributed mightily to feeding the American public during World War II and for several decades after, it seems there might be a role here for the U.S. government as well … it’s the least we can do for those who served us so well in our time of need …

BRAIN DRAIN CONTINUES … no one knows for sure what would cause a native son to leave delightful Davis for wild and woolly Woodland, but there was Ken Hiatt’s face staring back at me from the pages of this very newspaper earlier this week announcing just such a decision … Hiatt, a talented and dedicated city of Davis employee for the past 20 years, has most recently served as the city’s community development and sustainability director … comments on his efforts in that regard have always been glowing …

Hiatt’s northward migration reunites him with former finance and budget director Paul Navazio, who now serves as Woodland city manager … both will be missed …

Interestingly, Hiatt noted that “I have always held that a position of this influence and importance in a city deserves to have someone who lives in the city and someone who is fully engaged with the community,” a sentiment I heartily endorse … unfortunately, whether it’s school teachers, firefighters, cops or city employees, the economics of housing in Davis doesn’t always allow for those who work here to also live here … that’s an unfortunate fact of life in our high-end town …

WORDS FROM THE WISE … Congregation Bet Haverim is offering the Davis community a unique opportunity to better understand the Holocaust from a survivor of that horror, UC Davis emeritus professor Alex Groth … Dr. Groth, who had a long and distinguished career teaching political science at UCD, will discuss the issues raised in his latest book, “Accomplices: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Holocaust.” … his talk is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Social Hall of Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Road …

As an undergraduate at UCD, I was one of those lucky souls who took as many of Alex Groth’s classes as allowed by law … in many other subjects my attendance was less than stellar, but I never missed one of Dr. Groth’s lectures … they remain treasures in my memory to this day …

THERE’S ALWAYS A LOCAL ANGLE … there she was, Davis High School’s only Nobel Prize winner, Carol Greider, pictured in her Johns Hopkins lab as part of a Science Times feature in the Tuesday New York Times … oddly, since The Times rarely misses a beat, there was no mention of whether Dr. Greider was a GATE student in the local school system …

— Reach Bob Dunning at bdunning@davisenterprise.net

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