FOOD & DRINK: Making America Great — Mexican Immigrants Go From Field Workers To Winery Owners — Learning The Business From The Ground Up (Literally) — With A Great Glass Of Wine To Boot!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2017/05/30/mexican-migrant-workers-came-to-california-to-pick-grapes-now-they-own-wineries/?utm_term=.84781b47d357

The Washington Post reports:

“Outside Robledo Family Winery, south of Sonoma, on a cool April Sunday, the U.S. and Mexican flags whipped a stiff salute in the wind blowing off the San Pablo Bay. A third banner bore the winery logo. The flags represent three themes central to the lives of Reynaldo Robledo and many other Mexican migrant workers who have helped shape California’s wine industry: heritage, opportunity and family.

Robledo is part of a small but growing community of Mexican American families who started as migrant workers and now have their own wineries. They have emerged from the invisible workforce of laborers who prune the vines in bitter winter cold and tend them under searing summer sun. We read about them when they collapse from heat exhaustion in California’s Central Valley or perish in a winery accident. But they rarely appear in the glossy magazines that extol the luxury wine lifestyle, except as cheerful extras in harvest photos.

Amelia Morán Ceja worked in vineyards after school in the early 1970s. Now she owns Ceja Vineyards. The Cejas are one of five Mexican American families recognized by the Smithsonian for their work in California’s wine industry. (Ceja Vineyards; Sarah Deragon/Ceja Vineyards)
Five Mexican American families are helping craft the next chapter in the story. They started as migrant workers and now have their own wineries.

They came from Michoacan or Jalisco, two agricultural provinces near Mexico City. Their fathers left for El Norte as migrant workers — some under the Bracero guest-worker program, others crossing the border illegally but gaining legal status in a time when papers were easier to come by. They worked in California’s burgeoning agricultural industry before settling in wine country. They encountered some of Napa Valley’s most celebrated winemakers and contributed to California’s wine revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, a period that saw dramatic changes in viticulture and food culture as the United States became a wine-loving nation.

“Their story is the journey,” says Steve Velasquez, associate curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, which honored the families during its annual winemakers’ fundraising dinner in May. “A journey from Mexico to the U.S. to work in agriculture, from a handful of families to a thriving community of Mexican Americans, from vineyard workers to winery owners. . . . These families represent Mexican Americans who once just supported an industry but now help shape it.”

*******************************************

Read the five inspiring stories at the link.

I observed similar success stories in many of the families that came before me in court. Laborers became supervisors. Cooks became chefs. Waiters became restaurant managers. Drywallers started construction companies. Truck drivers started trucking companies. Mechanics bought auto repair businesses. Gardeners started lawn services and landscaping companies. Folks took care of their own family members; but, they also created jobs and opportunities for other American workers. They were all about quality service, hard work, skills, family, and a certain amount of risk taking. Just what America needs for a great future!

PWS

05-31-17

HuffPost: The Dark Lord’s Budget

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-budget_us_58cb0384e4b0ec9d29da5634

“A presidential budget isn’t so much a policy proposal as a statement of an administration’s moral vision for the country. The budget presented by President Donald Trump on Thursday is a document fundamentally unconcerned with the government’s role in improving the plight of its most vulnerable citizens.

That message is clear in the budget’s topline proposals and its deeper details. Trump calls for a $54 billion boost in defense spending and immigration enforcement. More border patrol agents, more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, more fighter jets that don’t work, and a border wall with Mexico. To offset those fresh expenses, he wants to take an ax to a host of anti-poverty programs ― everything from public housing to food programs helping elderly people with disabilities.”

************************************

Tax breaks for the rich, more bombs for the military, an un-needed wall, dirty air, no diplomacy, and lumps of coal for the poor.

PWS

03/16/17

immigrationcourtside FOOD/ECONOMY: How Much Does The U.S. Restaurant Industry Depend On Foreign-Born Workers? What Would Happen If They Weren’t There To Serve Us?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/17/restaurants-imagined-a-day-without-immigrants-in-one-city-last-year-it-actually-happened/

Caitlin Dewey writes in Wonkblog in today’s WashPost:

“Immigrants are part of the U.S. economy,” Roblero said, in Spanish, via Facebook Messenger. “Now I’m under house arrest. I haven’t left to see any of my coworkers, the restaurant is closed and I can’t work.”

Thus far, few restaurants have suffered the scale of the raids that Agave did. But in cities across America, restaurants, bars and hotels are bracing themselves for the possibility of further enforcement action under the Trump administration. On Thursday, restaurants in several major cities — including José Andrés’s Jaleo, Oyamel and Zaytinya in D.C. — shut down or cut service to demonstrate how much their businesses would suffer without immigrants.

. . . .

That has been devastating to the families of the employees, Valladares said, particularly those with young children. Many of the families fear being split up if their relatives are deported. They’re also having trouble buying food and paying rent while their primary breadwinners await immigration hearings; Cosecha is now providing for many of those needs. Only one of Mucino’s restaurants, the taco joint La Divina, is open and in need of employees.

On a recent Wednesday evening, the phone at La Divina was answered by a 21-year-old college student named Drew Smith. He was hired after the raids, he said, to replace a cashier who had been arrested, along with several new cooks who, early on, didn’t even know where to source ingredients. Smith loves La Divina: The people are nice, the tacos are good, and it “feels like working in Mexico,” he said.
“But it seems like less people come to the restaurant now,” he added. “I think there’s a perception that the tacos are different.”

****************************

PWS

02/18/17

Time Maggie: “Day Without Immigrants”

http://fortune.com/2017/02/16/day-without-immigrants-strike/

Madeline Farber reports:

“Businesses across the United States are preparing to close as immigrants plan to partake in the “Day Without Immigrants” protests.
Immigrants—namely in Washington, Austin, and Philadelphia, among others—are planning to stay home Thursday, boycotting their jobs, businesses, and even refusing to send their children to school, the Washington Post reports. The strike is in response to President Trump’s promise to crack down on those living in the country illegally, primarily through “extreme vetting.” The immigrants will also be protesting Trump’s mission to build a wall along the Mexican border.”

*********************************

According to local news, “Busboys and Poets” and several other DC area restaurants will be closed today, and some others will open but with limited staff providing service.

PWS

02/16/17

NYT: Japan Finds Out (The Hard Way) How Limiting Immigration Limits Future Economic Growth

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/business/japan-immigrants-workers-trump.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Jonathan Soble writes in the NYT:

“Japan, on the other hand, long ago achieved what Mr. Trump has promised: It has very little illegal immigration and is officially closed to people seeking blue-collar work.

Now, though, its tough stance on immigration — legal and illegal — is causing problems. Many Japanese industries are suffering from severe labor shortages, which has helped put a brake on economic growth.

That is prompting Japan to question some fundamental assumptions about its labor needs. The debate is politically delicate, but changing realities on the ground — in Japan’s factories and fields — are forcing politicians to catch up. Japan’s total foreign-born labor force topped one million for the first time last year, according to the government, lifted in part by people entering the country on visas reserved for technical trainees.

That growth has also led to an increase in cases of worker abuse and fraud, labor activists say.”

*******************************

Yup.  When my parents went into a very “high end” retirement home in this area, I noticed that virtually all of the dedicated staff, from doctors and nurses down to the janitors, were recent immigrants. I never ran into a high school kid, when our kids were at that stage or later, who said he or she aspired to be an orderly, a janitor, or even a Certified Nursing Assistant. But, I don’t think most of our kids and grandkids want to take care of us to that degree, either. So, those of us who plan to live to a ripe old age had better hope that Trump’s upcoming “war on immigrant workers (legal and undocumented)” is less than fully successful. Or else, we’ll be emptying our own bedpans.

PWS

02/10/17

“Duh” Articles Of The Week: Rural Trump Supporters Discover They Are Likely To Feel The Brunt Of His Trade & Immigration Policies!

From the WSJ:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trade-punishment-for-trump-voters-1486686758

“Global competition has forced U.S. farmers to become efficient and productive, but the reality is that other countries have arable land and willing labor. They can replace U.S. agriculture in a tariff war. Australia has a trade deal with Japan, and exports Down Under will have an advantage over American beef and wheat. U.S. beef imports to Japan will face high tariffs that the Trans-Pacific deal would have phased out or reduced. Mexico has bilateral trade deals with Chile, the European Union and others, and may buy more from Canada.

The bigger political picture for the Trump White House is that U.S. agriculture is already struggling amid a strong dollar and declining export volumes. Net farm income dropped 15% to about $68 billion last year, the lowest since 2009, according to the Agriculture Department. Unless Mr. Trump wants to compensate with more taxpayer subsidies, the best way to boost incomes is to let farmers sell in more markets, not fewer.

One reason the U.S. benefits from free-trade deals is that America has among the lowest import barriers on earth (5% average for agriculture), so new agreements tear down levies abroad and open new markets. President Trump should consider that reality before escalating on trade—and betraying the Farm Belt voters who are relying on him to bring growth and opportunity.”

WSJ Subscribers can read the full opinion piece at the link.

From the NYT:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/us/california-farmers-backed-trump-but-now-fear-losing-field-workers.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

“They are hopeful Mr. Trump will not make good on most of his threats. “Quien más habla, menos hace,” they tell each other — the more you talk, the less you do. There are too many of them, they reason, to throw them all out.

“We’re just waiting and praying, hoping that somebody can convince them that we are not hurting anyone by being here,” said Isabel Rios, 49, who has been picking grapes for the last two decades. Like most women in the fields, she covers her face with a bandanna to protect against the blaring sun, dust and pesticides. Her two children, 9 and 18, are American-born citizens and she worries what will happen to them if she is sent back to Mexico. “Who will benefit if we are not here?”

Mr. Marchini, the radicchio farmer, said he felt similarly after seeing generations of workers on his family farm send their children to college and join the middle class. Mr. Marchini’s family has farmed in the valley for four generations and he grew up working side by side with Mexican immigrants.

He said that no feasible increase in wages or change in conditions would be enough to draw native-born Americans back into the fields.

It was the other conservatives, Mr. Marchini said, who were out of touch about how to deal with foreign workers. “If you find a way to get in here,” he said, “there’s a need for what you do.”

********************************

PWS

02/10/17