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On July 2, I joined my friend, Joe Teehan, on his daily progressive radio talk show in Bellingham (KBAI-AM 930) to talk about the upcoming Farmworkers Third Annual March for a Contract, 7/11, Burlington, WA and debut my song, “Ballad of Sakuma Farms”, a narrative of the three-year-old struggle.
The previous day, Sakuma had implemented a new wage formula that they hailed as an increase for the workers and, which, was dutifully trumpeted to the media and legislature as a major increase in worker compensation. This was quickly disproven by the workers who demonstrated it to be an actual decrease.
In addition, Sakuma dispatched the workers into the fields in small staggered groups, isolating the union and non-union folks from each other. The tactic, designed to keep the non-union folks from hearing the union side, fooled no one and all 200 walked off the job in protest.
So, my appearance on Joe’s show the next day provided an opportunity niot only to publicize the march…but to provide a live cell phone update from the scene by Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community To Community Development (C2C) http://foodjustice.org. Rosalinda is one of my labor and cultural heroes, a remarkable activist, organizer, and communicator.
Check out the show.
And join the March!
I was honored to perform at the 2015 Workers Memorial Day in Bellingham. Last year’s music provider was the great Anne Feeney. The day is commemorated throughout the United States and several countries throughout the world to remember workers who were killed and injured on the job…or as a result of the job. In the USA, there are approximately 12 work-related deaths each day and nearly 4 million injuries per year.
My labor guru, Mark Lowry, President of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, facilitated the event with his usual blend of dignity and intensity.
Ramon Torres, president of FUJ, the state’s farmworkers union, with translation assistance from Rosalinda Guillen, related a story of a berry picker with severe symptoms of pesticide poisoning who was told by his bosses to basically “shut up or be replaced.” He died shortly thereafter.
The names of the remembered were read by two union brothers while a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.”
April brings showers, baseball, Passover, and Easter.
This April 11 saw our 5th annual Phil Ochs Celebration of Life concert at Egan’s Ballard Jam House in Seattle. For the second consecutive year the recipient of the funds raised by the event was Familias Unidas Por La Justicia (FUJ), Washington’s sole farmworkers union.
This year the show was different. We called it “An Evening With Phil Ochs and Victor Jara.” Victor Jara was the Chilean folksinger/poet/actor who was known as “Chile’s Pete Seeger.” Phil met Victor during a visit to Chile and was devastated when Victor was murdered by the same bloody hands that had killed Chile’s democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende, in the Kissinger/CIA coup that installed Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Victor’s death was considered one of the emotional blows that exacerbated Phil’s mental tailspin and subsequent suicide.
My co-conspirator in the event was Patricia Mazuela, a Chilean-American, of the remarkable Latino trio, Sin Fronteras. We had been talking about such a program for two years, having met while performing on the same bill. I had talked of Phil as an inspiration of mine, and she talked of the group’s affinity for Victor. Since that time, we performed together at various fundraisers and rallies. I even interviewed them on “We Do The Work”, the Skagit Valley Community radio show of which I am a revolving host. (KSVR-FM 91.7, http://www.ksvr.org)
So, with the annual Phil show scheduled, we finally got it together. It was quite the process, like planning a Jewish-Catholic wedding. On Phil’s side I selected Casey Graham, one of the most knowledgeable Phil-osophers around and a talented performer in his own right who, if you close your eyes, seems to be channeling…not imitating…Phil. I also asked one of my favorite Chicana poets, Angelica Guillen, to present the Spanish lyrics to two of the songs Casey sang, “Hands” and Changes.”
Lorna Dee Cervantes, one of the nation’s most acclaimed Chicana poet and writer, newly-arrived in Washington and old friend, actress/filmmaker/professional clown Maristela Diaz Sanchez, presented Victor’s lyrics and poetry.
Patricia and one of her Sin Fronteras partners, Abel Rocha, provided the music of Victor Jara with their impeccable musicianship and harmonies. Victor would’ve been pleased.
I performed my “Annotated Love Me I’m a Liberal” and updated “Draft Dodger Rag” in the first half and my original homage to Phil, “Farewell, Troubadour” after intermission. (See “Videos” on this website.
Representing FUJ were President Ramon Torees and Vice President Felimon Pineda, who updated us, through an interpreter, the history of abuse, wage theft, and in20150411_220231timidation heaped upon the workers by Sakuma Berry Farms in Skagit County. They shared their hopes for their children, and desire to earn a living wage. They were remarkably effective as they spoke of the Boycott against Sak20150411_220231uma products and customers.
We generated almost $400 and spread the word for the boycott. www.boycottsakumaberries.com
I think Phil and Victor would have approved.
It’s been a few months since I last updated these pages.
Those who depend upon this site for news and mishagos about me should first check my FB page, which I regularly update.
It’s been an interesting year so far. Have played at a number of labor and other events. Played at a rally for the striking steelworkers in Anacortes and a few days later the strike was settled. Other events included helping to kick-off the Washington Fair Trade Coalition’s two-state bus information tour at a rally in Mt. Vernon outside Rep. Rick Larsen’s local office, former Rep. David Bonior’s TPP event and panel discussion at Town Hall, and a few other things.
The highlight of the year so far was attending the 29th Annual Western Workers Heritage Festival in Burlingame, CA. Giot to stay with my daughter, the labor lawyer, in her Oakland apartment and drive her Prius.
Got to meet, enjoy, and hang out with an incredible mix of musicians, poets, activists…and even a few fellow Queens College grads. Got to do a few songs, myself, and in the California tradition of saving the best for the first, check out the highlight reel…,
Brought the KSVR station portable microphone and brought back a few show’s worth… two of which will be aired in June. The third, an interview with the awesome (a word I don’t overuse often) Emma’s Revolution. Some of the other folks were Union Maid Anne Feeney, Mark Levy, Rebel Voices (Janet Stecher, Susan Lewis), Avotcjia, Hali Hammer, Nina Fendel, Jimmy Collier (Martin Luther King’s warm-up musician), Luci Murphy, Peter Shapiro…and many more….
I’m looking forward to attending again next year with mixed emotions as it was announced that it will be the 30th and final festival. Organizers are older and more tired than they were three decades ago and there is no pipeline of young blood to continue the tradition. Check the schedule on “We Do The Work” for June (www.ksvr.org) for the actual dates of broadcast.
My third CD is finally done and ready to be inflicted on an unsuspecting public. It is a mix of original topical, labor, and social justice songs with assorted thoughts, concepts, and mishagos.
“Forever Vigilant” is now available for purchase on CD Baby. You can order the physical CD or digital version, including individual songs.
It is also available through this website. To purchase a copy contact me at email@example.com and we’ll get ‘er did!
So much has happened since my last contribution to this site.
We finally got ensconced in our new ol’ cedar home on Camano Island…after a brief stint in Auburn…two major moves!
We have completed the major remodeling and are finally down to the regular remodeling. This was all precipitated on the impending arrival of our first grandson.
He arrived on St. Paddy’s Day, under a full moon. Daughter Carrie and S.O. Daniel became the proud parents of Jaden Michael Brian Laurie, 9 lbs/4 oz. Yep, a big baby!
Carrie invited me to witness the birth…which I did from a modest perch on the side. It was magnificent…his first breath…his cry…his neophyte mother nursing him…tears from the grandparents…watching their baby have a baby.
Jayden has rocked our world! Becoming a grandfather, I must say, is better than I could have imagined. I have seen the future and it is him! And, for the first time in a quarter of a century, there are three generations of my family alive at the same time. A sobering thought.
I am glad they are living with us…I get to see and experiences the day-to-day changes I haven’t witnessed since his mother was born.
I have assumed the role of manny…I feed…play with…console…and tend to the little prince as needed. I have even learned to change a boy’s diaper…a skill requiring exceptional reflexes…though he did send a line drive my way I misplayed into wet jeans.
I bore the shit out of everyone I can with pictures…on Facebook and in person. The cell phone is the greatest invention for doting grandparent photo display since the expanding wallet compartments.
I know he is intelligent. How do I know? He was only a few weeks old when…as I attempted to feed him he…well check out his middle finger!
That’s my boy!
Joe Teehan, host of Bellingham, WA’s progressive “The Joe Show”, graciously invited me to play some songs and talk about “We Do The Work.” We were joined via telephone by Rich Austin, co-founder/host of “We Do The Work.”
Thanks again, Joe!