Asheville Citizen Times | by Brian Gordon and Joel Burgess | Aug. 29, 2019
An apartment complex for the city’s low-income and disabled seniors is struggling with a bedbug infestation.
About 50 of the 248 units at the Asheville Terrace public housing development have been infested with bedbugs in recent weeks, according to the Asheville Housing Authority. This infestation represents a growing prevalence of bedbugs infestations across public housing in Asheville.
“Bedbugs have become something we deal with on a regular basis, all around our properties,” said David Nash, executive director at the Asheville Housing Authority. “It’s a trend.”
Asheville Terrace, off Tunnel Road, is designed specifically for tenants age 55 and older. Pest control costs at Asheville Terrace, which includes bedbug exterminations, have risen from nearly $14,000 in 2016 to over $30,000 last year. So far in 2019, the housing authority has dedicated $27,815 to pest control at the development.
“We have a full-time staff member dedicated to it,” Nash said. The housing authority contracts with Orkin Pest and Termite Control to handle bedbug situations.
While bedbugs are gently inserted into night-time nursery rhymes, infestations are serious matters.
The tiny, round insects sustain themselves on the blood of humans and animals. They seek out crevices that provide easy access to their food source, and their bites leave red marks on exposed skin. According to WebMD, female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs over a lifespan.
Nash said bedbugs are often carried into units on used furniture. Tenants with impacted apartments must exit the room as spray is applied. Infested clothes must be washed, and any furniture exposed to bedbugs must be thrown away. Tenants are not financially compensated for any furniture lost to bedbugs, including any chairs or beds with special features for disabled tenants.
The housing authority provides tenants tips on how to avoid bringing bedbugs into apartments after each infestation, but not before.
Several tenants at Asheville Terrace expressed concern about voicing their complaints over bedbugs or other facility issues, saying they feared eviction. Asheville Terrace is categorized as a project-based property, meaning the public voucher that subsidizes rent stays with the apartment if a tenant were to leave. To relocate to another public housing development, tenants would have to reapply and be put on a waiting list. The main waiting list for the housing authority has 1,518 applicants.
Nash said tenants are not evicted for voicing concerns. “Speaking with the press is not a lease violation,” Nash stated in an email. “They just need to be sure they pay their rent and comply with the other terms of their lease.”
After playing around a popular Upstate creek on the Laurens County/Newberry County line, two yellow Labs fell ill and die.
WIS News 10 | By Renee Wunderlich|August 30, 2019
WHITMIRE, S.C. (WYFF) -Deanne Wishert tells WYFF News 4 that, on Aug. 4, her two yellow Labrador retrievers, Max and Ellie, started shaking and foaming at the mouth after playing around Duncan creek off Little North Carolina Road, on the Lauren’s County/Newberry County line.
“They went from healthy to dead in 30 minutes,” said Wishert.
Max died on the way to the vet, and Ellie had to be put down.
A Laurens County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene on the 14th, and noted in their report that the water was ‘stagnant and green.’
At first, Wishert wondered if blue-green algae was to blame, but the toxicology report shows carbamate and carbofuran — insecticides that can be deadly to pups and people. “There’s someone here every day,” said Wishert “The children come down here and swim. And then would swim with my dogs down here.”
Wishert is hoping someone will come forward, or that investigators will figure out why this poison was in an area where dogs and children play.
“Right now, I can’t tell you who did this, but I would hate for this to happen to somebody else!” she said.
Newberry County sheriff Lee Foster tells WYFF News 4 that his office spoke with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on this matter, and that it is not uncommon for farmers or deer hunters to bait coyotes during this time of year.
Sheriff Foster tells WYFF News his office has no evidence, but it is reasonable to believe that the dogs could have accidentally come across poison meant for a coyote.
Both Newberry County and Laurens County sheriff’s offices do not have suspects at this time.
There is a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
Clemson Regulatory Services Criminal Investigative Unit oversees the sale, use and distribution of pesticides, as well as their illegal misuse within the state of South Carolina.
A day after this story aired on WYFF News 4, deputy director Mike Weyman told reporter Renée Wunderlich that the agency has opened up a parallel criminal investigation.
Weyman said that this particular product is an extremely toxic agricultural pesticide. He said, had it been in the water, any fish, bugs or other living things would have been killed.
He told Wunderlich that there is reason to believe the pesticide that killed Max and Ellie was put there on purpose – perhaps as a bait for a predator like a coyote or a fox – but that that the investigation is just beginning.
Weyman said this pesticide is highly regulated, and that placing it in an area like this without the proper permission is a both a state and federal violation of the law.
The person or persons responsible for this crime could face both state and federal charges.
Be wary of drinking glasses, and don’t put your luggage on the bed if you want to avoid bed bugs
Don’t assume that just because hotel is super posh it won’t have bed bugs. Image: iStock
Irish Times |by Geoffrey Morrison | August 14, 2019
I’ve lost count how many hotels I’ve stayed in. Hundreds, for sure, and on every continent except Antarctica. From beach-side resorts in St Kitts in the Caribbean, to a grand, soaring high-rise in Tokyo, to a castle-adjacent treehouse on the north coast of Scotland, I’ve stayed in some truly lovely places. I’ve also stayed at dilapidated dives in Vegas with rusty taps and rugs so thin you could see the concrete underneath. The memory of the latter still makes me itch.
Over the years I’ve come up with a set of tips and tricks I use in every hotel, from 5-star to wear-your-shoes-in-the-bathroom-star. They range from a little peace of mind and a reduction of annoyance to maintaining a bit of safety and health while travelling. Starting with …
1. The remote is gross
What is touched by everyone but rarely cleaned? A quick swipe with some baby wipes or a damp (not wet) hand towel should help a bit.
2. 20°C is 68°F
Need to set the thermostat in your room? Twenty degrees Celsius is equal to 68°F – a good place to start.
3. Be skeptical of drinking glasses, especially if the hotel lacks a restaurant
Generally, drinking glasses are cleaned after every guest. Generally. If there’s no on-site restaurant, though, how are they cleaned? By hand presumably, but how well? Give them a rinse and a sniff, at least.
4. Don’t put your luggage on the bed
Bed bugs are gross little vampires. Like mosquitoes, but worse. Putting your luggage on the bed can give them a free ride to your next location … like your house. The luggage rack might not be a good option either, since it’s usually close to the bed. Your best bet is to put your luggage in the bathroom and then give the bed, rack, and chair/sofa a close look. Also, don’t assume that just because hotel is super posh it won’t have bed bugs. They might have more means to get rid of the problem, but it can happen anywhere.
5. Bring long cables for your phone
As the number of devices needing to charge increases, the number of outlets available in hotel rooms … stays the same. I’ve stayed in new hotels with zero easily-accessible plugs. Mind blowing. In most airports you can pick up long USB cables so you can plug in and still, hopefully, use your phone from the bed. Travel power strips are handy for plugging multiple devices into that one outlet you found behind the bed.
6. Yes, you can take the little shampoo bottles. No, you can’t take the robe
Some hotels give the remaining soaps to charities like Clean the World. It’s worth checking if they do, as perhaps that’s a better use of the remaining soap than getting lost in your luggage or forgotten in your home medicine cabinet. Many hotels are moving toward large-bottle dispensers, both as a cost- and Earth-saving measure.
7. Lock, latch, and put out the do not disturb sign
Housekeeping comes early. Exactly 100 per cent of the time I’ve wanted to sleep in and forgot to put out the sign, housekeeping wakes me up. In how many languages do you know how to say “come back later, please?” For me, when woken from a deep slumber, a croaky none.
Enabling the safety latch also lets you open the door to see if it really is management knocking while preventing said knocker from unexpectedly opening the door fully. Exceptionally unlikely, sure, but why take the chance?
8. Take a picture of the safe code
Even if you just use your birthday or something memorable in the moment, take a picture of the number you program into the safe.
9. Laundry is expensive
I travel for months at a time. I do laundry about once a week. At an expensive laundromat in Paris I paid €7 for a load of all my clothes. While trapped at a hotel in Fiji during a typhoon I paid $10 for each pair of underwear.
You should definitely pack light enough that you’ll need to do laundry on any trip longer than a week. Some hotels, and nearly all hostels, have inexpensive laundry facilities on-site or nearby. The staff will usually help you find a place. There’s always washing in the sink too, which is free if you have the time.
10. And lastly … Stay in a hostel instead
I’ve spent the majority of nights during my extended travels of the last five years in hostels. Hotels can be great, but they’re invariably expensive. Hostels probably aren’t what you think, and can be a great way to save money and meet new people.
Plus, some tips to make sure your stay is free of any creepy-crawlies
PHILLY VOICE by Bailey King – August 14, 2019
Airbnb has taken the world by storm since its 2008 launch, providing travelers a more home-y and authentic experience at costs often lower than hotels.
While the user experience with Airbnb is generally regarded as seamless, one irritating problem has bothered some travelers: bed bugs.
A quick Google search of “Airbnb bed bugs” brings up pages and pages of reports of the discovery of reddish brown bug infestations or clustered itchy bites on the skin.
A CNET story published Tuesday about Airbnb’s problem included one woman’s report of bed bugs at an Airbnb here in Philadelphia. (Perhaps this is no surprise since Philly topped one list of cities most infested by the pests.)
The woman, Dariele Blain, told CNET she found a bug crawling on the bed of a six-bedroom townhome she rented for a birthday party in July. She sent photos to Airbnb, which confirmed her suspicion that it was a bed bug, but the company said it could not relocate her 20-guest party to another Airbnb, to prevent spreading the bugs. Instead, the group was told to book a hotel, which Airbnb reimbursed – plus the original rental fee – within a few days, Blain said.
Blain told CNET:
“There’s nothing in there [about] what to do if the house is not clean or if there’s bedbugs. They need to be more proactive with stuff like that because it’s a public health issue.”
(This appears to be common protocol, as friends of mine had the same experience in Montreal and had to move to a hotel.)
While this is Airbnb’s unofficial protocol, there is no official one. The company claims to handle bed bug cases on a case-by-case basis and, in one such instance, reportedly asked a renter to sign a nondisclosure after an incident.
Bed bugs are a type of insect that feed on human blood, usually during nighttime hours. While they do not transmit disease, their bites can result in skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, bed bugs are, indeed, a public health issue.
While hotels primarily have a handle on the little critters, no place is truly safe from an infestation.
The New York Times has an all-inclusive tip guide for to make sure you don’t bring any bed bugs home with you. These tips include looking out for the telltale brown-black stains on sheets, mattresses and boxsprings, avoiding putting your luggage on the bed and use a lint roller to test luggage for bugs after travel.
And read the full story from CNET, “Bedbugs are giving Airbnb users headaches… and itchy bites.”
CRESTVIEW, Fla. (WKRG) — August 2, 2019 by Cody Long — Deputies responded to a call of domestic battery Tuesday to find a home with thousands of cockroaches, spiders and other bugs and children sleeping on the floor, according to an arrest report.
James Reid, Latina Reid and Daniel Reid were arrested at their home on Fleming Drive, charged with child neglect and taken to the Okaloosa County Jail.
Four children were home when their grandmother Latina Reid battered her adult son Daniel Reid who’s the father of two of the children, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
The arrest report states the home was in “deplorable conditions” and there were thousands of bugs crawling around. There was no bed for the children because it was thrown out because of an infestation of bed bugs along with the living room furniture.
Children were seen sleeping on a pallet on the floor while bugs crawled on their face. There was mold on the walls and floors, household garbage was found throughout the house and there was rotting food in the bathroom and cockroaches crawling on children’s toothbrushes, according to deputies.
Deputies also reported seeing bug bites on the children.
The Department of Children and Families removed the children from the home.
The woman said the flames from her stove lit up rubbing alcohol that she had poured to try to kill the bedbugs
NBC10 Philadelphia | by Randy Gyllenhaal and Rudy Chinchilla | August 1, 2019
A fire that consumed an Upper Darby apartment and caused evacuations in the rest of the complex may have been sparked by a woman’s misguided attempt to get rid of bedbugs.
An elderly woman living on the fourth floor of the Elizabeth Manor Apartments complex told firefighters and NBC10 that it was she who accidentally caused the Thursday morning blaze after the flames from her stove set alight rubbing alcohol that she had poured as a way of getting rid of bedbugs.
Because the fire station is only a few blocks from the complex, firefighters were able to respond quickly, going door to door to tell people to evacuate as they extinguished the blaze, Upper Darby Township Fire Company Deputy Chief Peter Huf said.
“First-arriving companies were met with heavy fire showing out the top floor and window of the apartment and a report of people trapped,” he said.
Dozens of residents were temporarily displaced, but there were no reports of injuries. The fire was also contained mostly to just the woman’s unit, with some minor smoke damage to neighboring units, and residents were allowed back inside.
Fire investigators, however, were still working to determine whether or not the blaze really was caused by a bedbug extermination attempt gone wrong, Huf said.
“They put me in a shower to get all the chemicals off me,” she reported. “I kept falling down. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t, my body got weaker…I felt like my throat was awful, as if it were cut on the inside.”
A new study that looks at the working conditions of ornamental plant nursery workers in South Miami-Dade found that low wages, harmful exposure to pesticides and inadequate access to drinking water and shade are among the top complaints from workers in the industry.
Miami-Dade County is home to more than 1,500 ornamental nurseries that provide flowering plants, shrubs and trees used for commercial and residential landscaping projects. WeCount, a farmer workers rights group in Homestead, surveyed 300 workers in a workforce largely dominated by immigrant women for the study called “The Human Landscape.”
Workers, largely from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, complete a range of jobs such as potting plants, weeding, driving tractors, digging up trees, loading pallets and customer assitance. They provide a portrait of working long hours outside in intense heat with little reprieve and low pay.
Nearly 70 percent said they experienced heat related illnesses including fainting and headaches due to a lack of shade breaks.
“Folks are under pressure to work fast. They have their order they have to get out and so they don’t want them to take breaks, they want them to produce and that’s that’s a big issue,” said Jonathan Fried, executive director of WeCount.
Miami-Dade recently recorded record-breaking heat and as it gets hotter because of climate change, Fried says farm workers are on the frontline of serious health risks with little protections.
The study also found many workers did not receive proper training to handle pesticides as required by law and industry regulations.
Of the workers surveyed who used pesticides for work, 64 percent said they did not receive any safety training.
Miguel Bernal, a nursery plant worker and member of WeCount, told WLRN when he worked with pesticides, his employer instructed him to lie and say he had proper training if an inspector visited the nursery.
“She told me to spray, but to not tell them that she told me to do it,” he said.
Other workers who didn’t handle pesticides said they were still exposed because spraying would happen in close proximity to where they were working, according to the surveys. Sixty two percent of the workers reported symptoms of pesticide exposure—dizziness, vomiting and skin rashes.
Nora, one of the women who responded to the survey, described symptoms of pesticide poisoning after another worker was allowed to spray near where she and several other people were working. “He had practically sprayed it in our faces,” she said. Nora ended up in the hospital shortly after.
“They put me in a shower to get all the chemicals off me,” she reported. “I kept falling down. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t, my body got weaker…I felt like my throat was awful, as if it were cut on the inside.”
Miami-Dade County is consistently ranked as one of the most unaffordable metro areas in the country when it comes to housing. That reality is especially stark for farmwokers. According to the people surveyed, most earn the Florida minimum wage of $8.05 or slightly above.
A smaller percentage of workers reported earning less than minimum wage.
As is the case in most other industries, there is a pay gap for women. On average women earn 36 cents less than men. Workers also reported a pay gap for speakers of indigenous Mayan languages. Speakers of Mayan languages earned 34 cents less on average than Spanish and English speakers.
And across the industry, workers reported little room for economic advancement. Workers with more than 15 years of experience working in South Dade ornamental plant nurseries earned about 45 cents more than someone with one year of experience, according to the study.
WLRN intern Aaron Sanchez-Guerra contributed to this report.
Orkin declared Baltimore the number one bed bug infested city in the country in January.
It was the second year in a row that Baltimore topped the list of the Top 50 “Bed Bug Cities” in the United States.
“The number of bed bug infestations in the United States is still rising. They continue to invade our homes and businesses on a regular basis because they are not seasonal pests, and only need blood to survive,” Dr. Tim Husen, an entomologist who works for Orkin, one of the nation’s leading pest control companies, said in a statement released by the company that accompanied the announcement that Baltimore was once again the bed bug capital of the United States.
“The list is based on treatment data from the metro areas where Orkin performed the most bed bug treatments from December 1, 2016 – November 30, 2017,” the Orkin statement said.
The Top Ten cities for bed bug infestation for this one year period were:
New York City
San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland
Baltimore was also in Orkin’s list of Top Ten “Rattiest Cities” announced in 2018, along with Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York City.
All six of these pest “double-threat” Top Ten cities are currently run by Democrats, as Breitbart News reported earlier.
Two cities on Orkin’s Top Ten list of “Bed Bug Cities” ranked just below the Top Ten “Rattiest Cities.”
Columbus, Ohio, fifth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list, was the 25th “Rattiest City.”
Cincinnati, sixth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list, was the 20th “Rattiest City.”
One metropolitan area–Dallas-Fort Worth–was ranked tenth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list and 12th on the “Rattiest Cities” list.
The San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland metropolitan area was ninth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list, while the city of San Francisco, part of that metropolitan area, was the 5th “Rattiest City.”
“Bed bugs cannot be completely prevented so early detection is critical,” Orkin advised in its statement.
Bed bugs are always in motion. They travel from place to place with ease, including luggage, clothing and other belongings. In addition to single family homes, bed bugs can be found in apartments, hotels, hospitals and public places like daycare centers, public transit, schools and offices.
According to a 2015 “Bugs without Borders Survey” by the National Pest Management Association, the top three places where pest professionals report finding bed bugs are apartments/condominiums (95 percent), single-family homes (93 percent) and hotels/motels (75 percent).
Orkin noted that “Bed bugs are capable of rapid population growth with an adult female laying two to five eggs per day (up to 500 in her lifetime), often making treatment challenging.”
Americans don’t want these jobs, or can’t do them—so nearly a quarter of a million guest workers do them instead.
by John Washington | July 29, 2019
(Krystal Quiles) Hudson Valley, New York
In the late 19th century, Polish and Volga German immigrants drained the muck out of this valley to reveal the residue of an ancient glacial lake—dirt so dark and fertile it resembles potting soil. Today, the farms that blanket the valley—known as the Black Dirt Region—brandish their organic or farm-to-table credentials and ship onion, radish, romaine, cilantro, as well as sod and poppy, to New York City restaurants and farmer’s markets, among other places. Most of the workers here, the ones bending over this black dirt with harvesting knives and hoes, now call the farms “los fields.”
I spent a recent late spring afternoon visiting various farms with Cristian Ávila, of the Workers Justice Center of New York, who drives around Hudson Valley fields evangelizing workers’ rights, work-shopping safety protocols, and giving and gaining respect to guest workers. He told me, for example, of occasionally hearing workers complain of allergies when they see rashes on their skin, and he has to tell them they’re actually suffering from pesticide poisoning. The men we met that day—they were all men—were polite, welcoming, and expressed few complaints—at least initially. After sitting and chatting for a while in their borderline-squalid flophouse trailers, details began to emerge: non-reimbursements for travel to the US-Mexico border, limited or no access to a vehicle to make purchases of food and other necessities, and intensely long hours, sometimes toiling over 90 hours a week.
These men are here as guest workers, part of a massive labor program that brings nearly a quarter-million agricultural guest workers—the majority from Mexico and Central America—to the United States to do the jobs Americans aren’t doing, and seem increasingly unwilling to do. These workers come to toil and sweat on American farms for, typically, a few months (though workers can be contracted for up to three years) before being ushered back to their country of origin. The H-2 guest worker system—H-2A visas for agricultural workers, H-2B visas for service sectors such as landscaping, hospitality, and fishing, which will bring an additional 96,000 workers into the country this year—puts temporary workers in jobs when employers need them most, while, at the same time, blocking imported workers from becoming part of the permanent social fabric of this country.
The set up squeezes guest workers nearly dry, and then disposes them back across the border. Farmworker Justice calls the program an “exploitative model of temporary indentured workers,” and some guest workers, especially if they have to pay high recruiter fees to connect with an employer, actually go home in debt. Contracts between employers and workers stipulate a variety of work expectations and conditions, but reports, including the Southern Poverty Law Center’s exposé, “Close to Slavery,” enumerate a litany of abuses: unpaid wages, dangerous—even deadly—working conditions, squalid living quarters, lack of medical benefits for on-the-job injuries, and being “held virtually captive by employers.”
Ávila and I wound along the valley’s picturesque roads—Celery Avenue, Pumpkin Swamp Road, Jessup Switch—that ran along and over the Wallkill River and through the vast plots of vegetables. As the sun was setting, we humped down a rutted dirt path through a cemetery of rusting, museum-worthy fire trucks—the owner is a collector—to a long, hastily built concrete structure that was temporary home to 25 men. Their knee-stained work pants and long-sleeve shirts were hung out to dry behind the trailer; the sunset was slashing shadows over the crop lines of onions; and a nonchalant woodchuck wobbled up and sniffed at a side door. A dozen men had circled around Ávila to chat about work conditions.
After a while we went inside the kitchen and I met Omar, a genial, soft-spoken Mexican man chopping summer squash while a pot of chicken bubbled on the stove. Omar also had a huge wok of nopales that were starting to soften next to the chicken. Like all the kitchens I saw that day in guest worker trailers, it was bare, not very clean, and young men (it was the end of the day, and they were freshly showered and smelling of cheap body wash) were constantly flitting in and out. Omar was wearing silver athletic shorts, a tan T-shirt, leather sandals worn to a shine, and an old Orioles baseball cap. He chewed gum very slowly. There was dirt under his fingernails.
* * *
OMAR, 42 YEARS OLD
Okay, my name is Omar García García. I’m 42 years old. I’m from Michoacán, from a ranch named El Gigante, which is actually a small village. There are maybe 1,500 to 1,700 people who live there, and… well, that’s where I’m from. I have three kids. They are all in Mexico, in Michoacán. My oldest son is 18, he’s about to enter into university. My daughter is about to start high school, and my youngest is about start elementary school. They live with my wife and my mother-in-law.
I’m one of those people, you know, I’m never happier than when I’m in the fields. It’s the best place for me. I like cities, but just to visit. I’m not used to them. When I was a little boy I first started working in the fields with my grandfather. Back then, working with him, I would just help out in the rainy season, with the corn. Weeding, putting down fertilizer, all that. And then when I grew up I did a little more, I’d work with the neighbors. Clearing a parcel, helping with the harvests. Some people in El Gigante have land, and they pay for help, for workers. And we plant everything. Or almost everything. We don’t have kale or bok choy or tatsoi there. Or green peppers. There we grow the chile serrano and jalapeños. We don’t have arugula, either. But we have everything else, pretty much.
What I earn here in a day though, that’s what I can get in Mexico in a few weeks or more.
The first time I came as a guest worker, in 2005, it was really hard. Because you aren’t where you were born, where you’re used to living. And, you know, it’s hard because even if the work seems simple, if you haven’t done it before, it’s more complicated. The hard part was doing work that I thought was going to be easier, but you do it different here. Even if you’re used to it, with just a little difference, it makes it more complicated. Back in Michoacán we only had one type of green bean, and we harvested when it was still tender, but here, no, you have different kinds. You have to cut the big ones when they’re not too tender and not too hard, so the machine can husk them. In Mexico, we harvest only when the bean is really dry, when it’s about to open out of the pod, but it’s different here. And bunches of kale, you have to tie them up, so you have to cut them with the knife and then tie them up. I’d lived my whole life in the fields, but everything was different in the US.
The hardest part was just getting used to being so far from my home. Being outside of my country. I wasn’t used to it. I wanted to go back to Mexico. I really wanted to go back, and I asked myself, What am I doing here? But if I go, what do I go back to? Because it was expensive to come. I had this debt. I don’t remember how much, maybe 6,000 pesos. The bus to Monterrey, the hotel, the food. We had to wait in the hotel for a while, two days I think, while we were giving our information and doing the interview. I was thinking, I want to go back. But back to what? I had rent, had to pay for electricity, gas. I would have had to find work again, figure out how to get to work.
So I didn’t know what to do. I thought, Okay, I’m already here. I gotta keep going. If the other workers can do it, I can do it, because I have two hands like they have. I can use them, just like they can. I don’t think the others came and already knew everything. They had to learn, too. So if you learn, you move up, you learn to work like the others.
After that first season in Florida, I was able to fix up my bathroom back in Michoacán. That first trip, my earnings were mostly the experience. It was worth it, because it pushed me. I was able to save a little, not much. Everything you don’t have, you suffer a little bit for. We just had a small tub, and we bathed with a bowl. Our house had two windows and a door. The door was just a curtain. And the windows had plastic bags so the wind wouldn’t come in. But after that first year, I put a door in, put two windows in. Put a solar heater in. And ever since, I’m still fixing up the house. And I said to myself, Okay, I have two kids who are growing up, already in school, and then the youngest one. And I thought, Okay, I can’t stay here. If I can’t provide enough for my kids. Because I don’t want them to live like me. I couldn’t provide for my family, not by staying home.
My wife never said anything, but, I mean, when someone was selling a piece of land, and we didn’t have any money to buy any land, you notice. Or when my son says that he wants a car, or wants something smaller, anything, and working in the fields I couldn’t buy it for him… You have to give priority to food, shoes, clothes, education. Your family needs to eat. To go to the doctor. The basic things.
It’s not shameful to work in the fields. You’ll be able to eat. But it’s hard. So [in 2014, nine years after his first H-2A experience, in 2005] I told myself, told my wife, I’m going to go back to the US. This, 2019, is now my fourth year in New York, working for the same boss. I made about $5,000 that second trip.
Strawberry picking is the hardest. Even in Mexico you work all day, and you have to bend down all day, but not quite all day, because in Mexico it’s different. You stand up, you chat for a minute. You sit down for a minute. I don’t know, it’s calmer. But here, no. When they’re paying you by the hour, they’re paying for those hours. And they want you to work. They don’t want to see you standing. If the work is hunched over, they want you hunched over. If the work is standing up, they want you standing. If they want you kneeling, they want you kneeling and working. And they ask you, Why are you standing? I mean, if you just stand up for a bit to stretch or to drink water, it’s okay, but if you’re standing there for a bit—I mean it’s logical—they’re like, Hurry up. Because I’m paying you. And I understand. I’d do the same.
We usually work six days a week here. We work 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes more. It depends on what work there is. Sometimes we’re doing 14 or 16 hour days. And sometimes we work Sundays. They pay us by the hour when we’re packaging for the market. They pay us by the box for cilantro, parsley, beets. If you’re only working three hours or so, you make more if you’re working by the box. But the longer you work, the more tired you get, and you start to slow down. It doesn’t go down that much, but you can’t fill the same number of boxes at two or three in the afternoon—in the heat, when you’re tired—that you were filling at six in the morning. I’m making now about $500, $400, sometimes $300 a week. Later in the season maybe $700, $800, even $900 a week. And we work Sundays later in the season.
We keep track of our own hours. They give us little sheets that we mark down hours on, from Friday to Thursday. The week starts on Friday and it’s over on Thursday. And you mark down when you started, when you finished, your lunch. They pay us on Saturday. There’s not time to do anything else but work. Sometimes you’re only sleeping four or five hours a night. Right now we have a little more free time, because it’s early in the season. We’re getting off at five or six, and we don’t go in until seven tomorrow morning. So we’ll wake up at six, drink a little coffee, eat something, and then go to work.
But sometimes when we’re coming back at eight or even nine, there’s not really time to do anything. We eat some cookies maybe. A juice, and then fill up our lunchboxes with some crackers, a juice, a soda, whatever we have, for the next day.
In this house there are 25 people. We all know each other. We get along. We all chat. Nobody gets out of hand, nobody looks down at other people. We walk a little when we have downtime, or talk to our families. Or just sit around. There’s no TV, but we listen to music, or just talk. We play soccer sometimes, but we don’t always have enough energy. I talk to my family every day. With these phones, it’s easy. I talk to my wife for twenty or thirty minutes a day, with my kids, too. Or we send messages to each other.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t feel good here. I’m too far from my family. I’m too far from the place where I was born, where I grew up. I lived all my life there, and now I come here, I come because I want my kids to study. In Mexico, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It would even be hard to send my kids to high school. But I can do it working here. God willing, I’m going to send all three of my kids to college. My son, he’s not sure yet what he wants to study. Maybe industrial processing. I don’t know much about that field. But maybe he’ll study agricultural engineering. I know more about that. But there’s not much demand for that where we live. My son likes working in the fields as well. He’s like me, but in the end, I told him he needs to think hard about it, because it’s his future. I tell him, Look, I don’t know about all these things, but look around you, look around at what you can do. Look at what I have to do. If I had the chance, I’d think hard about another line of work.
I think the United States is really beautiful. It has so much. It has a lot that Mexico doesn’t have, but I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want to move here. Not me. My rancho is my rancho, and I’ve thought a lot about it, and I tell my wife, I don’t come here because I want to. I don’t come here because I don’t want to be with you. I come to give you something better. Something better, something we can’t get there.
I’ll wake up tomorrow at six. I’ll drink a coffee, maybe a shake. The driver, or maybe the boss, will take us to los fields. I don’t know, maybe to pick radishes, or, who knows, we won’t know until tomorrow. We’ll probably be packing veggies for the Saturday market [it’s Thursday night when we’re speaking]. We’ll cut lettuce, romaine and Boston, red and green. We cut the hearts and put twelve in a box, or depends on what brand we’re working for, and then we cut the cilantro, also for the market. Depends on what box, but usually 24 bunches per box. Maybe we’ll finish packing for the market by noon, or maybe earlier, and then we’ll get together, and we’ll go to some other fields, for the radishes, or the kale. The radishes you pull out, seven or eight at a time, then wrap them with a band. It’s not too hard. The earth here is really soft. Dark and soft. So you don’t need to really tug too hard. What’s difficult is to be doing it for so long. You don’t get like crazy tired, but you get tired.
I don’t know why Americans don’t do this kind of work. I don’t understand why. Maybe it’s the pay, or the work itself. Maybe it’s cheap seeming. There are a lot of reasons. I don’t know which it is. Or maybe it’s because, how can I put it, we’re the people who accept this kind of work because we’re used to hard work. And maybe Americans try to find ways not to do this kind of work. Not this kind of hard work. But I don’t know what the exact reason is. There may be multiple reasons. There are a lot of Americans who, okay, they do work on the tractors, or weed a little, but they don’t harvest. A lot of them just give orders.
My interest is just to come to this country, do the work, and then leave it. That’s all. My work is what interests me. That’s all I do here. My family tells me they miss me. But then I think about coming home with nothing, without having food to eat… I like the US, I like it a lot. But this isn’t where my life is. All there is here for me is working and sleeping. In Mexico it’s different. You can have more free days, you can be with your family.
A recent reported outbreak of bed bugs at public housing units in Fort Simpson earlier this month has many in the village raising the alarm about an ongoing problem with the invasive pests, despite claims by the NWT Housing Corporation that the issue has largely been resolved by recently purchased heating equipment.
Tom Williams, CEO and president of the NWT Housing Corporation (NWTHC) admitted this week that bed bug infestation has been a growing problem in public housing, mostly in the southern NWT over the last few years. The corporation was able to respond and treat reports of bed bugs in the Fort Simpson “nine-plex,” where individual tenants rent, and in “the clusters,” where seniors stay.
“Because (bed bugs were) starting to become more frequent, we managed to purchase our own equipment,” said Williams, adding that the July outbreak at the Stanley Isaiah Seniors Home was the second such incident there this year. “We got people trained, including the local maintenance staff to be able to use our equipment.”
Williams said a report that came back from his staff earlier this week showed that the problem at the two largest public housing units in Fort Simpson was rectified.
“A report I got late last week stated that everything seems to be back to normal,” he said. “So I think we resolved the issue.”
Williams said the reason he’s confident about the corporation’s ability to address the issue is because of the efficiency of the treatment process itself. Rather than scheduling time for an exterminator like Edmonton-based Orkin Canada to come North, extreme heating equipment purchased over the last year has meant shorter treatment times and less disruption to tenants.
“The word or rumours that have been put out in the public is that we have to relocate people (tenants) for six to eight weeks, but that is not the case,” Williams said. “It is a four-hour treatment. You ask (the tenants) to leave the premises for four hours and ask them to move everything away from the walls and (our trained people) go in and treat it.
“The next day they get a vacuum and vacuumed up any of the dead bed bugs and then it is monitored on a regular basis to see if they come back.”
Local Housing Authority disbanded
Last week the corporation disbanded the Fort Simpson Local Housing Authority. More than one of the sources that News/North reached this week insisted that the corporation is under-stating the severity of the bed bug problem.
“The NWTHC is trying to cover up a public health issue that is affecting elderly/disabled Metis/First Nations residents in the two largest public housing complexes in Fort Simpson (nine-plex and clusters),” stated an email from one individual.
According to the source, the most recent bed bug problem stretches back to last fall when there were “some” units heat treated by the housing corporation due to the presence of the parasite. However, between January and March, “several sightings were reported, with some units deemed infested due to 1,000s of bedbugs,” the source stated.
According to the source, the Fort Simpson Housing Authority (FSHA) manager ordered all public housing units to be heat treated between April and May, but this was done one unit at a time.
“In June, bed bugs were reported again in the clusters, so the FSHA manager called an emergency inter-agency meeting,” the source stated, noting that this meeting included representatives from the Health and Social Services Authority, Liidlii Kue First Nation, Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, Dehcho First Nation, Metis Nation, a seniors’ advocate, Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson, and department officials from the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services. “This was to inform the community of this impending disaster. Neither minister (Alfred Moses nor Glen Abernethy) attended or sent a representative.”
The source stated that at this meeting, a decision was made by the FSHA that the best course of action was to evacuate all 40 residents occupying the nine-plex and clusters buildings “to heat treat, clean and discard of all mattresses/couches.
In an email response from the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS), department officials denied the minister had been invited to any meeting. The email also stated HSS “hasn’t received any complaints regarding bed bugs in the Fort Simpson area.” However, in an email obtained by News/North dated July 12, 2019, addressed to HSS minister Glen Abernethy and housing minister Alfred Moses, Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson wrote: “Please be advised the bedbugs issue is very much alive and well unfortunately.”
“The NWTHC was approached for assistance in funding/co-ordinating this effort, which was supposed to occur in July,” the source stated, adding that this would have involved moving the residents to another location as well as providing clean clothes, cots, meals and new mattresses or couches until they were able to return to the units.
“The whole process (was) estimated to take four to eight weeks for both locations. NWTHC has not provided any assistance in this matter and their senior staff … even publicly deny there is a problem.”
More bed bugs discovered in other units
Yet another public housing complex on Antoine Drive was discovered to have bed bugs in mid-July, the source wrote. “Since July 17, 2019 bed bugs have been confirmed in several units in the clusters with at least three being infested,” the source stated.
Yet, as of early July, the corporation was taking the stand that all bed bug issues were dealt with in Fort Simpson, that all units in the seniors complex were treated and that there was no need to evacuate any of the units for longer than the four hours because of the effectiveness of the treatment.
Muaz Hassan, a board member with the Fort Simpson Housing Authority, who was among those the local housing authority board disbanded last week, said it’s well known in the community that the bed bug issue is more pervasive than what the corporation is saying.
“It’s a big issue,” Hassan said. “The corporation denies that we have a bed bug issue.”
Thompson said he has spent weeks corresponding with both Abernethy and Moses. Thompson was informed earlier last week that the problem was rectified. He said he realizes that some in the community, including the recently dismissed local housing manager and housing authority board members, dispute this point.
“My understanding is when I talked to the manager when we had the (June) meeting, I was advised that bed bugs were still an issue and that (the housing authority) were working on a plan and reached out to organizations like the NWT Senior Society,” Thompson said. “All I know is that as of (early this week) I received an email from the minister that the bed bug issue has been addressed.”
Thompson said the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services has begun providing communications about the health implications of bedbugs. According to a document on the department’s web page called Bedbugs the red-brown, oval-shaped insect does not carry disease, but does feed off of human blood. They can easily be transferred through clothing and furniture and tend to bite at night while hiding during the day.