David Bacon

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist; his latest book is The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2014).

Recent Articles

In the Name of National Security

E rlinda Valencia came from the Philippines almost two decades ago. Like many Filipinos living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she found a minimum-wage job at the airport, screening passengers' carry-on bags. Two years ago, organizers from the Service Employees International Union began talking to the screeners. Valencia decided to get involved and eventually became a leader in the campaign that brought in the union. "It seemed to us all that for the first time, we had a real future," she recalls. A new contract raised wages to more than $10 an hour, and harassment by managers abated. Then the airplanes hit the twin towers in New York, and everything changed. In short order, legislation established a new Transportation Security Administration, which required that screeners be federal employees. That could have been a good thing for Valencia and her co-workers: Federal workers have decent salaries and federal regulations protect their right to belong to unions -- at least they used to...

The Kill-Floor Rebellion

S t. Agnes church and its sister parish, our Lady of Guadalupe, are the heart of south Omaha, Nebraska. Every Sunday, hundreds of packinghouse workers -- Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans -- dress up in their best clothes and stream through St. Agnes' doors for Spanish-language mass. The men take off their wide-brimmed sombreros as mothers call out to little girls in frilly dresses who run giggling through the aisles. On the last Sunday in April, the parish priest, Father Damian Zuerlein, began the service by addressing the subject on everyone's mind: the coming election at the ConAgra beef plant. Standing at the altar, he acknowledged the many ConAgra workers in the congregation. "We say, there's nothing new under the sun -- some people have a great deal, while others have nothing," he said. "Our community knows the unequal treatment of the poor, and the time has come to make a decision." Then he introduced the plant's union committee. Olga Espinoza, who works on the kill floor,...

The Coca-Cola Killings:

A fter the leader of their union was shot down at their plant gate in late 1996, Edgar Paéz and his co-workers at the Coca-Cola bottling factory in Carepa, Colombia, tried for more than four years to get their government to take action against the responsible parties. Instead, some of the workers themselves wound up behind bars, while the murderers went free. Convinced that Colombian officials were unable or unwilling to bring the perpetrators to justice, they decided to go abroad for help. Accordingly, last July, the Colombian union Sinaltrainal, together with the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), filed a lawsuit in the Florida courts against Coca-Cola, Panamerican Beverages (the largest soft-drink bottler in Latin America), and Bebidas y Alimentos (owned by Richard Kirby of Key Biscayne, Florida), which operates the Carepa plant. The suit charges the three companies with complicity in the assassination of the union leader Isídro Segundo...