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Farmworkers strike in Washington demanding safer conditions during COVID-19. Image: Civil Eats
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer
As Arun Gupta and Michelle Fawcett reported last week, coronavirus is “exploding” in populations of farmworkers across America. In their report, they noted that on a single farm in Tennessee, all 200 workers tested positive for the disease while in Immokalee, Florida, results indicated that over 1,000 migrant workers are infected. Many undocumented workerscannot get tested out of fear of losing their jobs. These anecdotes lay bare the stark inequities and power disparities of our present-day agricultural system.
Not only is this statement untrue, but, in the words of Florida State Representative Javier Fernández, such responses are “absolutely embarrassing, appalling.” He continued, “We’re living in very dark and sad times” when a political leader places blame not on “his failed leadership but on some of the most vulnerable members of our community here in Florida.” Advocates and activists are now challenging DeSantis’ statement on many levels.
Power Disparities in Our Food System: As law professor Beth Lyon told BuzzFeed News, “Covid-19 exacerbates long-standing power disparities between farmworkers, some of whom are undocumented, and their employees.” Because most farmworkers can be fired at will, many are understandably nervous to advocate for their protection. Lyon continued, “If they [guest workers] speak up for health protections like masks or social distancing, they are likely to lose not only their livelihood but also their housing.”
Labor in the Time of COVID: The Center for American Progress wrote an excellent brief about the specific dangers that farmworkers face in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Chief among them are the scant protections for workers to unionize and demand better labor practices. As CAP explained, “The fear of deportation looms large, and undocumented workers do not qualify for unemployment insurance and other social safety nets that they may need if they become sick.”
Improving labor practices includes ensuring that all farmworkers have access to free testing and treatment for COVID-19, regardless of immigration status.
Rural health care access must be expanded, with particular attention to farm communities.
Additionally, employers must provide information about outbreaks as well as proper handwashing and sanitation facilities to workers.
And modified working arrangements must be made that allow for social distancing, such as putting fewer workers at conveyor belts at the same time
With air travel more difficult and risky this year, many families are taking vacations the old-fashioned way — by going on a road trip. And we hear that renting a recreational vehicle or RV is quite popular. It is a great way to “see the country,” and maybe visit some National Parks, while maintaining coronavirus […]
Derek Green is an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council. As a member of City Council, Councilmember Green chairs the Committee on Finance and Disabilities and serves as the Vice Chair of the Committees on Aging and Law and Government. Additionally, he serves as the Chair of the Philadelphia Gas Commission, in addition to […]
This week our hero is eight-year-old Ali Hirsch, who won’t vote for another ten years but wants to make a difference. She has donated all her saved allowance and birthday money to an organization fighting to make sure every American can vote in November, with the help of her parents of course. She chose The […]
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