Farmworker Justice will recognize David Damian Figueroa with its Dolores Huerta Award Thursday, February 23, honoring his important contributions towards advancing farmworkers’ quest for justice throughout his career in business and at nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Figueroa, an executive with Frontier Communications, was a farmworker as a child, and is one of the leading influencers in shaping Latina and Latino popular arts through his work in film, television, music production, and publicity. His role as an executive producer of the critically acclaimed documentary film Food Chains and associate producer of The Harvest/La Cosecha brought national attention to the conditions of farmworkers. “David Damian Figueroa has never forgotten where he comes from and, more importantly, throughout his career, he has used his remarkable skills and resourcefulness to elevate often marginalized voices,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice.
Farmworker Justice will also present a corporate social responsibility award to Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce for its successful efforts to engage with employees, farmworker organizations, and other agricultural stakeholders to improve food safety, wages and working conditions, and occupational safety. “We greatly appreciate the opportunity the company has provided us to learn more about the business of farming and to collaborate on developing and promoting cutting-edge labor and environmental practices in agriculture.” Headquartered in San Diego with operations in Watsonville and Oxnard, California, and in Mexico, the company grows strawberries, tomatoes and other crops.
The event will be held at Sheppard Mullin |333 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles from 6 to 8:30pm.
Gilbert Vasquez Vasquez & Co.
Alfred Fraijo, Jr. Sheppard Mullin
Tony Salazar McCormack Baron Salazar
Arturo Rodriguez United Farm Workers
Andrea Bazan El Puente Learning Center
Alex Nogales National Hispanic Media Coalition
James Garrison Pacific Federal
Craig McNamara Sierra Orchards, Calif. State Board of Food & Agriculture
Dr. Alma Martinez
Special Guests: Dolores Huerta, actor/producer Nicholas Gonzalez, and actor Johnny Ortiz
Farmworker Justice is pleased that the EPA has published important changes to regulations that govern the certification, training and supervision of individuals who apply high-risk pesticides. The Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule (40 CFR 171), which has not been updated in nearly 40 years, provides national competency standards for those who may purchase and apply ‘restricted use pesticides’ (RUPs). A pesticide is classified as restricted if it poses heightened risk to people or the environment.
The new rule imposes stricter standards to protect human health and the environment and reduce risk to those applying pesticides. Currently there is wide variance among state certification and training programs for pesticide applicators, and requirements for supervision of non-certified applicators. We are hopeful that the new national standards will provide greater consistency in the knowledge and competency of applicators across the nation. In addition, those who apply pesticides aerially or by fumigation will have to demonstrate competency to use these application methods which pose high risk to applicators, farmworkers, surrounding communities and the environment.
Many farmworkers applying RUPs are non-English speaking, non-certified applicators who are applying these chemicals “under the supervision” of certified applicators. These are the applicators whoare the most vulnerable to occupational injury from pesticide exposure. The vast majority are unable to read the application instructions and safety information printed on the pesticide labels, which are almost entirely in English. Although we are disappointed that the EPA does not require pesticide labels to have bilingual content, the revised rule requires supervisors to provide to non-certified applicators the label information about safety precautions and detailed use instructions in a manner and language that the non-certified applicator can understand. The revised rule also includes improved standards for supervision, establishes a minimum age of 18 for applicators, and requires non-certified applicators to receive pesticide handler and safety training in a language they understand.
We hope that the improved regulation will result in greater awareness by pesticide applicators of the risks they face, stronger protections from exposure, and ultimately, fewer pesticide-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths among farmworkers and their family members. Farmworker Justice will work with farmworkers to help them understand these changes and their right to a safe workplace and environment. We will also work with EPA to ensure timely implementation and strong enforcement of the new rule, and continued engagement with farmworker communities.
Most representatives of agricultural employers and farmworkers agree that immigration reform is desperately needed so that the hard-working, experienced agricultural workers who lack authorized immigration status have an opportunity to earn immigration status and a path to citizenship.
However, the article, “We’d better have a good door: Colorado farmers depend on immigrants to feed the country,” should not have accepted the one-sided viewpoint of some farmers about the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program. The reality is that the program is not all that difficult to use. It’s been around in one form or another for decades. It has certain wage and labor protections to prevent displacement of U.S. workers or undermining of their wages and minimize exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers. There is no limit to the number of H-2A visas each year, and the U.S. Department of Labor approves almost all employers’ applications.
The H-2A program protections should not be weakened and should be enforced more effectively. More importantly, undocumented farmworkers and their family members should be given a chance to obtain a green card and continue their work to feed our nation.
Bruce Goldstein, president, Farmworker Justice, a national advocacy organization for farmworkers
With just two days until the inauguration of President-elect Trump, Washington, DC is preparing for the change in government. The Senate has been busy holding hearings on many of Trump’s nominees, although the hearing on the nominee for the Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, has been postponed until February 2 and there is not yet a nominee for the Secretary of Agriculture. Farmworker Justice has joined several coalition letters and statements opposing Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, EPA Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of Labor nominee Puzder. Links to the statements and letters can be found below.
As we have noted in previous updates, the anti-immigrant rhetoric and backgrounds of Trump and some of his key advisors and nominees combined with the threats of harsh immigration enforcement and potential termination of the DACA program have generated a great deal of anxiety and fear in immigrant communities.
Some farmers are also concerned about the threatened immigration enforcement and the impact it may have on their ability to find workers. The article reports that some farmers are investing in more machinery and others are wondering if they will need to pay more to attract workers. Tom Nassif, President of the Western Growers Association and advisor to Trump, stated that Trump is not interested in deporting their workers.
DACA and the BRIDGE Act
FJ has joined a letter from over 850 organizations requesting President-elect Trump to continue DACA. Also, on January 12, 2017, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the BRIDGE Act, with companion bipartisan legislation introduced in the House. The BRIDGE Act would extend protection from deportation as well as continued access to work permits for Dreamers in the event the Trump administration revokes DACA. While we are disappointed the legislation doesn’t go further to ensure a path to citizenship for Dreamers and provide broader relief for our broken immigration system, we believe the legislation is important to ensure protection for those Dreamers who came forward to participate in the DACA program.
Farmworker Justice is watching and will report on developments in the new Congress and upcoming Administration. In addition to the fears immigrant farmworker families are experiencing, we are very concerned by likely efforts by agribusiness to limit government oversight and protections in the H-2A guestworker program.
Trump’s Competing Views on Guestworkers
Trump himself has an interest in the H-2A program that could lead to self-interested changes removing key worker protections. As reported by The Washington Post, he is the president of a Charlottesville, VA vineyard that has applied for H-2A workers for multiple years, including for 2017. On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly stressed his interest in protecting American workers and, as we reported in an earlier blog, released a YouTube video stating that he intends to “direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.” Protecting American workers is intermeshed with protecting workers with H-2A visas, as the exploitation and vulnerability of H-2A workers harms not only those workers on visas, but all other farmworkers. The conflict between the pro-exploited-labor lobby and anti-immigrant voices in the incoming Administration is worth observing closely for its impact the H-2A program protections.
First H-2A Legislation of the Session Introduced
The first H-2A legislation of this Congress was introduced on January 4— the so-called“Family Farm Relief Act of 2017,” HR 281. The bill proposes to revise H-2A agricultural guestworker program in ways that would deprive U.S. citizens and permanent resident immigrants of job opportunities and allow exploitation of vulnerable foreign citizens who are hired on temporary work visas. The bill also would permit employers of year-round livestock workers to hire foreign workers under the H-2A program rather than keep its focus on addressing the alleged difficulty of filling jobs that are seasonal or temporary. Lacking in this bill are any meaningful steps to stop rampant labor abuses under the H-2A program. Nor does the bill provide a path to immigration status and citizenship for current undocumented agricultural workers or the future year-round dairy workers. . Versions of this bill were introduced in earlier Congresses but have never advanced. The legislation was likely introduced in response to interests of dairy farmer constituents in New York. An analysis of the legislation can be found on our webpage.
Several recent media pieces of interest include the following:
An article addressing the issue of safety in farmworker transportation, which continues to be a serious concern, as highlighted by the multiple farmworker fatalities that have occurred.
A piece in the Huffington Post noted that providing decent affordable housing may help attract U.S. farmworkers to fill open jobs. The company, which had built the housing to bring in H-2A guestworkers, also found that worker productivity increased with the new housing. As we have been arguing for years, instead of keeping farmworker wages low and working conditions poor, growers should be improving conditions and labor standards to attract and retain workers. We are pleased to see some of these basic principles of supply and demand are beginning to get recognition in agriculture.
And finally, a LA Times article discussing a plan released by the produce industry regarding abusive Mexican labor conditions. While this is an important issue that needs to be addressed, the produce industry unfortunately elected not to engage with farm labor unions to design its plan and is instead an effort by some of the big players to avoid the real efforts at meaningful corporate social responsibility in agriculture, such as the Equitable Food Initiative, of which FJ is a founding board member, and the Coalition of Immokalee’s Fair Food program.
Reminder: Please join our webinar on Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 2:00 PM EST with the Mexican Consulate to learn more about their potential services and how to work with the Consulate to help farmworkers in your community in the face of potential immigration enforcement.
A Conversation with the Mexican consulate: Discussing services and protections for Mexican nationals
Please join Farmworker Justice for a conversation with Alejandro Celorio Alcantara, the Head of Section / Hispanic and Migration Affairs for the Embassy of Mexico. Mr. Celorio will share with us the work in which the Mexican consulates are engaging to help their nationals in the face of increased immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration. Mr. Celorio will also discuss potential collaboration to help Mexican workers facing violations of their workplace rights. The call will enable participants to gain a better understanding of how they can collaborate with the Mexican consulate in their communities to better improve services and protections for Mexican nationals.
Attorney General nominee Sessions
Letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and 144 organizations writing to express strong opposition to the confirmation of Senator Jefferson B. Sessions (R-AL) to be the 84th Attorney General of the United States.
Statement from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 of the nation’s most preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, which adopted a resolution, presented by MALDEF, opposing the nomination of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General, citing his long record in opposition to immigration reform and his work to undermine the protections of voting and civil rights laws. Farmworker Justice is on the Board of the NHLA
Labor Secretary nominee Puzder
Statement from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, which sent a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing the confirmation of Andrew F. Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor citing Puzder’s practices and policy positions that are at odds with the needs and aspirations of American workers. Puzder has expressed opposition to raising the minimum wage, has criticized paid sick leave policies like those mandated for federal contractors, and has said that expanding eligibility for overtime pay is bad for workers. FJ’s Bruce Goldstein is a cosigner of the NHLA letter as he is a co-chair of its economic empowerment and labor committee.
EPA Administrator nominee Pruitt
Statement from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, which adopted a motion opposing the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing his long record working to undermine the environmental protections and enforcement entrusted to this vital agency. FJ’s Virginia Ruiz is co-chair of the NHLA Energy and Environment committee.
Department of Agriculture nominee
As of January 18th, the only Cabinet level position that remains unfilled is that of Agriculture secretary; possibly due to disagreement between different factions of Trump’s transition team.
On November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced his plans for executive action on immigration. We applaud the President’s action, which includes a deferred action program that provides relief from deportation and work authorization for millions of undocumented individuals, including hundreds of thousands of farmworkers and their family members.
Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Learn about current legislation proposals impacting farmworkers.
Learn about the history of guestworker programs, H-2A program for temporary agricultural work, and the H-2B visa program.