Statement on Farm Workers and COVID-19

“Undocumented farm workers pay taxes, but they are left out of the stimulus check the rest of us are eligible to receive. Even their U.S. citizen children are left out. They are told they are essential workers, but they are not receiving essential benefits.”–United Farm Workers

The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) recognizes that farm workers have been left out of COVID-19 relief efforts, including our own. More often than not, this population is further marginalized during times of crisis. We realize that farm workers, particularly those who are undocumented, endure daily harm from the effects of systemic racism, inequities, and anti-immigrant policy, and that this harm is amplified when our food system is in crisis. Our coalition commits to working in solidarity with leading farm worker organizations to increase protections for farm workers during and after the pandemic.

While COVID-19 stimulus relief efforts have focused on farm owner concerns, farm workers, especially undocumented workers, continue to lack basic protections afforded to other workers. Our agricultural system would collapse without farm workers, and as such they are deemed essential workers. But as farm workers continue to grow and harvest the food we all rely on, they are putting their lives at risk.

Leading farm worker organizations at the state and national level are calling for action in support of farm workers, including guaranteed paid sick leave, enforcement of safety and health protections by OSHA, and premium pay to ensure our nation’s farm workers can survive this crisis while providing essential service. We are committed to using our organizational power to amplify the work of our allies leading this work, including Farmworker Justice, United Farm Workers, the Alianza Nacional De Campesinas, the HEAL Food Alliance, and the Fair World Project. As a farm organization, we will amplify their priorities in conversations from which they are excluded or ignored, include their policy recommendations in our advocacy for COVID-19 relief, and continue to work collaboratively through the unfolding impacts of the coronavirus and beyond. We will oppose recent efforts by the Department of Labor to reduce wages for H2A workers who make up 10% of the farm worker population.

Farm workers need accurate information, protection, and premium pay to survive this crisis. And this is not only a moment in which to provide immediate relief and safety to our essential farm worker communities, but to recognize their ongoing struggles and the hazardous working conditions they will continue to face when COVID-19 is over. These essential workers should have the opportunity to become citizens in order to be truly safe and in good health. We urge our farmers, supporters, and Congress to support the priorities of our allies and others as they work to protect farm workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coronavirus doesn’t choose based on whether you have documents or not. It hits uniformly across populations. Why isn’t the government helping uniformly too? –Yaneth Corona, Campesina in Homestead, Florida

 

This statement is the work of Sophie Ackoff, Michelle A.T. Hughes, and National Young Farmers Coalition staff. Thank you to our ally organizations for their contributions and review. Image credit United Farm Workers.

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