boulderdash n: a road game played by California drivers during the wet season <Penelope called her friend to tell her about the ~ that was already underway along Pacific Coast Highway.> -more-



Environment & Weather

Migrant Workers Scrub Dirty

Crews of migrant workers have allegedly reduced the San Fernando Valley's smoggy ring by up to 80%. But human rights groups are crying foul.

By George Wolfe

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY --Driving along Highway 101, you wouldn't even know they are there, about 250-feet up the hillsides. But since June, migrant workers have been diligently scrubbing this valley's nasty ring, a remnant of decades of exhaustive automotive traffic and other pollutants that has established Los Angeles as the smog capital of the United States.

Migrant Headaches, a non-profit group that represents the rights of migrant workers, leaked information to the press about the little known program which pays workers a quarter of the minimum wage to perform the undesirable labor.

"These poor people work for peanuts at the most toxic heights of the valley... this must stop!"

Penelope DeChristo,
Executive Director, Migrant Headaches

Penelope DeChristo, the group's executive director, says, "These poor people work for peanuts at the most toxic heights of the valley. At that altitude, especially in the summer months, it's a real health threat. This must stop!"

Workers are given a baseball cap, a crude cleaning brush and a couple of Brill-O pads. They routinely tie t-shirts or bandanas around their knees to protect them as they scrub the dusty ground and ozone-soaked shrubs.

Pio Martinez, a migrant worker originally from Oaxaca, acknowledges that the work is bad but says he's grateful for even a few crumbs of the American dream. Pointing to the freeway, he says, "Yes, hot... very hot... but maybe some day I drive a car, too, like all them."

State Environmental Protection Agency sources denied knowledge of the program, but anonymous inside sources confirmed Migrant Headaches' claims. According to one source, Los Angeles is a testing ground for the environmental clean-up program which has been in effect since 1996.

Despite high levels of smog relative to other U.S. cities, the ring around the San Fernando Valley has supposedly been reduced by 80% this summer. Crews are now being dispatched to other problematic areas such as the Hollywood Hills, Pasadena, Glendora, Redlands, San Bernardino and Lake Arrowhead.


NOT SO BAD: Migrant worker Pio Martinez manages to keep an upbeat image despite the Depression-like work conditions.

LEFT IN THE DUST: Smog scrubbers find shelter in this grove of trees from the searing temperatures of the valley. The taxpayer-financed program pays illegal immigrants third-world wages to do the state's dirty work.





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