What Race Really Has to Do with The CA Central Valley’s Fight for Water

By Leticia Miranda Jul 16, 2009

Thanks to one of our readers and a local listener-supported radio station here in the Bay Area, I was promptly corrected about what the real racial politics are when it comes to water in the Central Valley. As an amendment to ease water transfers for valley farmers is steadily on its way towards a Congressional vote, some labor organizers are reeling over the exploitation of the farmworker movement’s legacy to serve the economic interests of agro businessmen. According to an article published in the Fresno Community Alliance Newspaper two weeks ago, the Latino Water Coalition, led by comedian Paul Rodriguez and the main organizing body of the recent farmworker protests, has hired Burson-Marsteller (B-M), a top public relations firm known for its “astroturfing” strategies. That means they help groups like Blackwater USA and different pharmaceutical companies deal with their PR messes using shady tactics (read the article for the details). The Coaltion and the PR firm have gone so far as to pay farmworkers to march in protest for water. The comment on my original post led me to this New York Times article which reports some of the workers they talked to said they were paid by growers to be there instead of working the fields. Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers, has reportedly called it a shameless exploitation of Cesar Chavez’s legacy. While the picture of thousands of farmworkers protesting excites this Fresno expat, I am reminded of the messiness of racial politics and the great lengths valley agro business will go to keep cash in their pocket.