California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris talked education, economy, environment and equality Saturday afternoon as she addressed several hundred delegates attending the second full day of the United Farm Workers’ 20th Constitutional Convention at the Rabobank Convention Center.
Harris entered the arena surrounded by women who were carrying UFW flags while those in attendance welcomed her with applause and loud chanting of “Sí se puede.”
“I am so honored to be here. This group of people, this leaders, this organization, has done such extraordinary work for such a long time. I grew up as a child knowing that the work that happens here, in the United Farm Workers, is the work of giving people a voice, giving them dignity and fighting for the American dream and all its promises,” Harris said. “The work of the United Farm Workers has always been about challenging our county to live up to its ideas.”
“Unfortunately the struggle continues,” Harris added. “But I look around at the leaders around this room and I know that they are prepared to do all that is necessary to make sure that the working men and women of our county, all working men and women will have a voice.”
Harris publicly thanked Dolores Huerta for being “such an extraordinary friend, a role model to me and just family to me.”
Huerta did a 30-second Spanish-language campaign ad endorsing Harris for the U.S Senate.
Harris also thanked UFW Arturo S. Rodríguez for his “extraordinary leadership and inspiration.”
Harris talked about her background from growing up to running for public office as a woman of color and the reasons she is running for the U.S Senate.
“When I look at some of the issues that challenge our country,” Harris said. “I think about these issues in the context of the work I have always done as a prosecutor.”
Harris said she thinks about those issues through the voice of the people.
“And I began to think about four issues that I would like to talk to you in particular,” Harris said, adding that she refers to those issues as the four Es – Education, the Economy, the Environment and Equality.
When it comes to education, Harris said across the state 40 percent of the truants are elementary school children. She added that an elementary school truant child is four time more likely to drop out of high school. She said 82 percent of the prisoners in the United States are high school dropouts.
When it comes to the economy, Harris said that federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
“That is less than $15,000 a year,” Harris said, adding that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, who are parents, are trying to put food on the table every night and working two jobs.
Harris said there is not a national commitment for paid family leave or national commitment for affordable childcare.
On the issue of environment, Harris said the climate change is real and as a country people need to get together on this issue and in particular diversify water policy in a way that puts equal resources into conservation, recycling, and storage of water and desalination.
When it comes to equality, Harris said the front and center civil rights issue of our times is the issue of immigration.
“We need to fix this problem,” Harris said, adding that some leaders talk about the issues of criminal justice policy and immigration policy as if they are the same thing.
“They are not. Criminal justice policy is one matter with its own problems, immigration policy is a separate matter,” Harris said.
Harris said she has seen and prosecuted some of the worse criminals and that “an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”
Harris received a replica of the United Farm Workers’ Aztec eagle after addressing the UFW convention delegates Saturday afternoon.
Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to speak at Saturday’s dinner. (Check Vida en el Valle’s Facebook page for live coverage of Brown’s speech at tonight’s UFW dinner at 7 p.m.)
The convention continues Sunday at Rabobank Arena, with scheduled appearance from former President Bill Clinton who is expected to address delegates at the last day of the UFW convention.