In California alone, more than 400,000 farmworkers are picking the food that we eat every day. While millions all over the country are forced to stay home because of the coronavirus crisis, and millions more are now out of work, farmworkers have no other choice but to put themselves at risk of infection and pick fruits and vegetables. Now Latino lawmakers demand the government protect and support these workers who continue to work on the frontline with zero financial or medical support.
On March 31, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) leaders including CHC Chairman Joaquin Castro, Immigration Task Force Chair Linda T. Sánchez, and Education and Labor Task Force Chair Raúl Grijalva signed a letter urging the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redford to take necessary measures to protect farmworkers and their families during this public health crisis.
Carlos Garcia, 73, couldn’t afford to stop working. His employer hadn’t said anything about the virus, provided extra protective gear, extra handwashing stations, he said. He worried about catching it & passing it to his 5 children & 12 grandchildren, who constantly fill his home
— Esmeralda Bermudez (@BermudezWrites) April 1, 2020
“Throughout this public health crisis, there has not been a day when farmworkers have stopped showing up to work. Their work ethic and commitment keep food in our grocery stores and fill America’s tables. As you know, farmworkers have been deemed essential during this public health crisis, and, as such, they have been asked to continue working. Although they help feed the nation, the mean and median income of a farmworker family are $20,000 and $24,999, respectively. Despite their low-wages, many won’t be able to receive the direct cash assistance headed to millions of U.S. households. Many of these essential workers lack critical benefits,” the Members wrote. “Our country depends on their valuable work. During this national emergency, protecting farmworkers and their families is a matter of national security since this workforce is the backbone of the country’s food supply. It is critical that we work together to address any ongoing and emerging needs in farmworker communities. In order to safeguard the health of our communities and the security of our entire food supply, we cannot leave farmworkers behind as we combat the COVID-19 crisis.”
Congress passed economic relief our country desperately needs. US farm workers are #EssentialWorkers and most will not benefit while they harvest our nation’s food supply during the #COVID19 crisis. #WeFeedYou pic.twitter.com/74OE38O2sU
— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) April 1, 2020
As the letter notes, farmworkers won’t get any financial benefit from the stimulus bill, they also don’t have health insurance, so if they get sick, they have nowhere to turn.
To make matters worse, as a Los Angeles Times report shows, employers have not told the farmworkers anything about how they are dealing with the coronavirus issues, or how to prevent them from getting sick.