Fresno State students support farmworkers' rights

FRESNO, Calif.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez died of heat stroke in 2008-- after working nine hours without shade or water breaks.

The UFW and other supporters hope to convince the judge the defendants deserve to spend time in jail.

'The Farmworkers Prayer' began the day of action at Fresno State Monday.

Students and community leaders came together to protest a plea deal that would allow the people responsible for the 2008 death of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez to receive only community service and probation.

"I myself have worked in the fields and I know the conditions that one has to work in," Jaime Chavez said.

Laptop stations were set up and students were urged to send letters to the San Joaquin County Judge and the District Attorney James Willet-- asking for a more "just" punishment.

"If there is no punishment it's going to get worse and worse and worse. This has been an issue for many years-- that is why Cesar Chavez started this; he's dead now and the same problems are happening and we need to make sure that that stops," Jay Mathew said.

Maria Isabel was two months pregnant when she died. She'd been working in a vineyard near Stockton nine hours during a 95-degree day without proper water breaks or shade.

Her employers, Merced Farm Labor Contractors had been fined for similar violations before.

"When you tell somebody that you are suffering from heat stress or you don't know what is happening to your body-- to have nobody there who is trained, according to the law someone needs to be trained to say this is a heat illness, we need to get her to a hospital," Matt Rogers said.

In Stockton-- the UFW and other supporters held a vigil outside the courthouse where Judge Michael Garrigan will decide whether to accept the plea deal Wednesday. Similar events are being held throughout the state.

Activists hope emails, letters and phone calls will convince the judge the defendants deserve no less than jail.

"It's just unacceptable to have people treated that way," Andrea Price said. "I feel that if I have my voice to say I don't agree with that, then I get my choice."

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