By Sintia Castillo, farmworker and member organizer, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)
I am the daughter of single farmworker mother. I began working in the fields when I was 8, selling food with my mom on the weekends and summers. When I turned 13, I started to work with my friends from middle school, picking crops like berries, tobacco, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
In the fields, no one cared that I was young or undocumented because it meant that they could pay me less. They paid me based on how much I picked- $2.50 for a bucket of blueberries sometimes earning me only $15 dollars for 10 hours of work. So I moved to the packing sheds to make the $7.25 minimum wage but conditions there turned out to be even worse, requiring 10 hours of work without breaks. Worse still, it was here that I realized the grower was stealing my wages. When I reported the wage theft to my boss, he retaliated and eventually fired me. I turned to the NC Department of Labor for help, but the first thing they asked for was something I didn’t have to give – a Social Security number.
Written by Olivia Jones
*All names have been changed to protect the individual*
Walking into the home of Ms. Angelica, I quickly smelled the home cooked meal she was preparing for her two school-aged kids. My first reaction was amazement as I sat down and noticed her fragile, rough and shaking hands were the hands of a hardworking woman. Coming from Guatemala she grew up realizing the small tin built homes and outhouses were not acceptable for her growing family. She felt she only had one option- the American Dream.
Her journey started with $5,000.00. Her husband had come to American earlier to try and build a future for her and their kids. When she decided to come here, he helped pay her way. To come up with the rest of the money was a struggle but she persevered thinking she was making the right decision for everyone. Angelica paid a coyote the $5,000.00 and made her way to America. When asked what she had to go through to get here, she sighed and lowered her head, “I was lucky. No one messed with me. I saw violence though. Some women were degraded or raped just because of the way they looked or if they were short on money. I was nervous, but we understood that sometimes that happens if we really want to be free in America.” She stopped after that to taste the food she was cooking, politely offered me some, and sat back down. Continue reading The “American Dream”