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Friday, June 13, 2008

Speak out on behalf of the ongoing Farmworkers struggle to be treated as respected human beings!

Thank you for caring about Maria Isabel.
Please help us spread the word about her tragic death.

We told you about the tragic death of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died due to heat stroke while laboring in a Stockton area vineyard and asked you to send her family a condolence letter. You responded. Thank you!!!

You were part of the approximately 3,000 supporters sent Maria's family beautiful personal notes of condolence which we've shared with her grieving mother, Jovita, and the rest of her family.

We want to continue to spread the word about this tragic incident. It's important that Maria's story is heard and that her tragic passing helps make people aware of the sad indifference farm workers face from growers and labor contractors regarding basic safety protections required by law. Together we can help other farm workers avoid the same fate.

Could you please take the next step and forward this e-mail to at least 10 friends and family so they can add their name to our online condolence card? Help ensure Maria's death will leave behind a legacy of change for farm workers.

Thank You!

Add your name to the online condolence card for the family of Maria Isabel, 17-year old heat victim. Tell Maria’s mother, Jovita, that you care.

Thank you for caring about Maria Isabel. Please help us spread the word about her tragic death.

I thought you might want to sign the UFW's the online condolence card.

17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez tragically died due to heat stroke while laboring in a Stockton area vineyard.

To date no one from the companies involved has had the decency to express condolences to Maria's family--not the farm labor contractor, not the company who owns the field where Maria labored, nor the wine distributor. There have been no letters, no one showed up at the funeral--nothing. The only reaction they had was to try to shift part of the blame of Maria’s death onto her fiancé, Florentino.

We want to let Maria’s family know that people from all over North America care about this tragedy—that people from all walks of life and of all backgrounds recognize the value of Maria’s life and death. Tell the family that you share the sorrow of Maria’s death and pledge to do what you can, so other farm worker families do not have to endure the same agony.

It is very easy to participate. We have put together a simple sign-on condolence letter, in English and Spanish that we will share with Jovita and the rest of Maria’s family.

Maria’s Story

On May 14, the official temperature was 95 degrees; it was even hotter inside the wine grape vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming, east of Stockton, where Maria and her fiancé, Florentino Bautista, worked. Maria had been working for nine hours.

At 3:40 p.m. Maria became dizzy. She didn’t know where she was and didn’t recognize Florentino. Maria passed out. Florentino helplessly held her in his arms.

There was no water for the workers from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. When water arrived, it was a 10-minute walk from where Maria was working, too far to access. There was no shade or training for foremen and workers about what to do if someone became ill from the heat—as required by law.

The foreman came over and stood four or five feet away, staring at the couple for about five minutes. He said, "Oh, that’s what happens to people, but don’t worry. If you apply some rubbing alcohol to her, it will go away." It didn’t.

After a number of delays Maria was taken to a clinic. On the in Lodi, the foreman called on the driver’s cell phone and spoke to Florentino. “If you take her to a clinic,” the foreman said, “don’t say she was working [for the contractor]. Say she became sick because she was jogging to get exercise. Since she’s underage, it will create big problems for us.”

They arrived at the clinic at 5:15 p.m., more than an hour and a half after Maria was stricken. She was so sick an ambulance took her to the hospital. Doctors said her temperature upon arrival was 108.4 degrees, far beyond what the human body can take.

Maria’s heart stopped six times in the next two days before she passed away on Friday.

Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

It is hard for Maria’s family and her fiancé, Florentino, to accept her death, knowing it could have been prevented.

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