Farmers must still work during the pandemic—but are they treated like other essential workers around the U.S?
If you remember, I recently took a trip to FL in January to learn about WHO and HOW food gets made. More importantly, HOW workers are treated by the government through their PAY and LACK of RIGHTS (see Who Grows Your Food post for more details).
Sadly, I learned that PHYSICAL ABUSES that used to happen decades ago are STILL HAPPENING and the spread of CORONAVIRUS is making their working conditions WORSE.
First—FARM WORKERS are ESSENTIAL WORKERS, this was announced by the federal government last month. You would think this would be a big WIN, but remember many farm workers especially the area I visited are NOT PROTECTED by the government because of their immigration status. Being an essential worker in farming conditions is completely different than an essential worker in the health field or other non-manual labor jobs. In farming, this means being in really CLOSE CONTACT to PEOPLE (allowing for the virus to spread easier), extremely HOT TEMPERATURES, getting PAID by the BUCKET (creating a higher need to work to make more money) & less WORK BENEFITS (less likely to have health insurance & not having sick or vacation days).
Second—Delayed testing & delayed personal protective equipment. This was and is still a problem around the U.S. Since farmers cannot work from home like many during a pandemic, they have work in the same HEATED & CROWDED CONDITIONS, increasing their risk of getting infected or infecting others. During these times it is the RESPONSIBILITY of both the GOVERNMENT and the FARM OWNERS to make sure that workers are given GLOVES, MASKS, and everything they need to remain safe. Farmers across the country are GETTING INFECTED and INFECTING each other because of this IRRESPONSIBILITY.
From what I remember CORONAVIRUS TESTING SITES starting popping up in states as early as March. Because of the way laws are set up, state government has MORE POWER than the PRESIDENT-to help or harm in times like these. In this case, the governor of FL (Ron DeSantis) has similar views to the president when it comes to delaying or refraining from taking heavy precautions, so this will determine HOW the STATE RESPONDS to VIRUS. On top of that, the state of FL is not friendly to immigrants. That is why finally THIS MONTH (May) the governor sent testing sites for farm workers in Immokalee, FL. Thanks to the HARD WORK of an organization of farm workers (CIW): sending letters and creating a petition (over 40K signatures including myself) they were able to GET the GOVERNOR to LISTEN! Is what it takes to get tested nowadays? TESTING SITES ARE ESSENTIAL, I mean even AMAZON checks your temperature before you can start a work shift...BUT in farm towns like Immokalee TESTING SITES are a PRIVILEGE that needs to get earned...
Third—Farm workers don't have a choice, they have to work. If you didn't know OVER 70% of farm workers are immigrants. I just remembered DURING MY TRIP one of the owners of the farm made a joke saying "yeah we've hired a few folks born here and they didn't last more than 3 days." Like I was saying earlier farmers get paid by HOW MUCH FOOD they collect per day-during the trip I was told that they make about 50-60 cents per bucket. Honest, difficult work with LOW PAY, but again essential. Not to go off topic but you might ask WHY someone might work for such a low amount....the reality is that back in their home countries the SAME type of WORK, if there is any, PAYS WAYYY LESS, or the earnings they would make in their country would give them a lower quality of life(civic unrest, less access to clean water or food and even human trafficking).
Because these workers DID NOT GET STIMULUS CHECKS, unemployment benefits, or even a cut from farm owners protection checks, they have to KEEP WORKING to PAY the BILLS. This reminds me of WORK TRAFFICKING. Being forced to work when if they had a FAIR CHOICE, they wouldn't in order to stay safer.
As always STAY WOKE my friends. During this quarantine some of us might of lost a lot, some of us might just be super bored. REGARDLESS we all NEED TO EAT and DEPEND ON FARMERS to keep supplying food to restaurants, grocery stores, and our mouths! Stay posted for my next post (WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE SURE FOOD DOESN'T RUN OUT DURING COVID-19)