July 2004, Volume 10, Number 3
The Justice for Farmworkers Campaign marched to Albany in May 2004 to press for state Senate approval of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which was approved by the state's House in March 2004. Most observers said that the bill, which extends the same overtime rights, collective bargaining powers, workers' compensation benefits and other protections to farm workers as enjoyed by other workers in the state, was unlikely to be enacted in 2004.
Maine. Portland, Maine schools received $900,000 to help preschoolers in migrant families, and $600,000 to help older children, but only 45 of the 1,000 children enrolled met Migrant Education Program guidelines. Many of the students that were enrolled were from Somalia and the Sudan, and moved to Portland from other US cities, but not in search of farm work, as required for MEP. Eligibility is determined by local school districts after interviewing parents, but the state Education Department has to sign off on the paperwork that goes to Washington DC to obtain funds.
Maine's MEP received $4.1 million in federal funds and served 19,475 migrant children between June 1, 2002, and May 14, 2003.
Midwest. It has usually been easier for migrants to find temporary housing in the Midwest than in high-cost areas in the east and west. However, a converted hotel in 800-resident Golden City, Missouri, charging $250 to $300 a month in rent, showed that multiple jurisdictions can allow migrants to live in marginal housing even after concern is raised. Dangerous wiring in a hotel owned by local leaders that housed families employed by J.L. DeGraffenreid and Sons, a Springfield pickle company owned by Bell-Carter Foods in California, led to a stream of officials saying the hotel was not in their jurisdiction.
The building's owner says that much of the damage was caused by short-term residents: "I can't force them to live cleaner. A lot of this is better than they ever had. We do keep it pretty clean, but there are some problems with it."