Farmworkers in the U.S.

Friday, 31 March 2017

We are delighted to host guest blogger LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti, Director of Marketing Communications for the Equitable Food Initiative

Equitable Food Initiative brings together growers, retailers, farmworkers and consumers to transform agriculture and create a safer, more equitable food system. It’s a lofty goal and one we believe can only be reached when everyone comes to the table, agrees that fundamental changes need to occur, and finds value for themselves in those changes.

Like many who become familiar with EFI, after touring a certified farm, Congresswoman Julia Brownley called EFI a “win, win, win – good for farmers, farmworkers and consumers”. That three-way win is only possible when all parties uphold their commitments to each other.  

Growers need to provide not only a fair work environment, but one where farmworkers are engaged to identify potential issues and protected when they speak up. Farmworkers need to stay engaged to ensure safer and efficient farm operations. Retailers and consumers need to recognize and support the effort to create a safer, more equitable food system by purchasing EFI-certified fruits and vegetables.   

Through its training and certification program, EFI has had great success in bringing all parties to the table to understand one another’s needs and make some of those necessary fundamental changes.

The success and certification doesn’t come easy. Growers and farmworkers need to find trust and rely on one another to reach the high standards set out under EFI certification. But it’s a worthy effort, and every day we hear reports from EFI certified farms of better working conditions, fewer absences and workers who are engaged and solving problems in ways that management would not have even considered.   

During Farmworker Awareness Week, we ask you to think about the seat that you hold at the table and how you are working with others to find and build shared value.

When you buy EFI-certified, Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured™ fruits and vegetables, you know that farmworkers were treated fairly, experienced decent working conditions and were engaged in following food safety and pest management protocols.

Celebrate Farmworker Awareness Week by making a commitment to buy EFI-certified fresh produce. Your support of the growers, retailers and farmworkers who have made a commitment to one another through EFI will bring even more people to the table.

Join EFI's email list today to stay informed on where to buy certified fruits and vegetables and take your seat at the table.



 

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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Farmworker Justice is honored to host guest blogger Mónica Ramírez for today's post. Mónica serves as the Director of Gender Equity and Advocacy at National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and the Director of Gender Equality for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).

Today, more than 600,000 women make up the agricultural workforce.  They toil countless hours in agricultural fields, packing houses, and nurseries scattered across our nation. Though their work is extremely important and critical to our sustenance and the well-being of our economy, most people do not realize that such a large number of women are responsible for this work. Women’s History Month provides us with an opportunity to reflect on their many contributions. It is also a chance to consider how we can best join them in their efforts to resist anti-worker, anti-women, and anti-immigrant campaigns that harm them, their families, their interests, and our entire country.  

For decades, farmworker women leaders, like Mily Treviño Sauceda, Suguet Lopez, Ana Laura Bolaños, and many others, have been organizing to address the many issues that affect them, such as unequal pay, widespread sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, exposure to harmful chemicals and dangerous working conditions.  Farmworker women have been on the front lines educating their families and co-workers about their rights, not to mention teaching members of the public and the government about the many issues that they face and the priorities that they require to be safe, healthy, and productive at work.

Over the past twenty-five years, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, with NHLA members Farmworker Justice, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and additional organizations, has proudly worked together with the farmworker community to advance the policy concerns that are required to improve their living and working conditions.  Together over the years, we have successfully achieved improved health and safety standards, strengthened the worker protections, and increased accountability by the federal government to farmworkers. Yet more work remains to ensure that these gains are not lost and that we continue to build on the hard fought wins, including our work to promote and achieve gender equity for farmworker women.  

NHLA is committed to working with farmworker women to demand equal pay for equal work.  We have been loud and clear that we will not rest until farmworker women can work free of gender-based violence, not to mention all forms of employment discrimination.  In addition, we will not rest until immigrant farmworkers and all immigrants are able to live free of harassment, bullying, profiling, and anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions that currently leave farmworker women and their families feeling vulnerable and afraid.

We are proud to work closely with organizations like Lideres Campesinas en California, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the United Farm Workers and many others that are committed to advancing the priorities of our nation’s agricultural workers.  Together, we will continue to march, organize, educate, raise awareness, demand what is just and resist all attempts to divide, to diminish, and to deny our collective power on behalf of one of our nation’s most important workforces.

 

Mónica Ramírez is a civil rights attorney, skilled public speaker, and an author. She has also been a women’s labor, farmworker, Latino and immigrant rights activist for more than two decades. Mónica is a nationally recognized subject matter expert on gender equity, including ending gender-based violence in the workplace against farmworker and immigrant women. She is the founder of several major initiatives and projects, including Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mónica holds a Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University Chicago, a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.  Mónica serves as the Director of Gender Equity and Advocacy at National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and the Director of Gender Equality for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).

 

 

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

In November 2015, the EPA finalized important revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, (WPS), which provides protections from pesticide poisoning and injury for farmworkers, pesticide handlers, and their families. Those highly overdue changes took effect January 2nd of this year. The last major revisions to the WPS occurred in 1992, lagging far behind changes in pesticide research and development, technological advancement, farmworker demographics, and workplace safety standards in other industries. Some of the changes include annual pesticide safety trainings for workers and (for the first time) a minimum age requirement (18) for all pesticide handlers.

Farmworkers come into contact with pesticides on a daily basis. The pesticide residues that remain on their work clothes and skin can expose their families and inadvertently put their health at risk.  If a worker experiences health problems caused or exacerbated by pesticide contact, application information, Safety Data Sheets, and accompanying application records are of vital importance. Under the WPS, workers have the right to access this information, and like workers in all other industries, they may designate a representative – such as a family member or lawyer – to seek the information in their stead. There are many reasons why a farmworker would need assistance in seeking this information, including language and other communication barriers, geographic distance and fear of reprisals from an employer.  Recent accounts of the new administration’s immigration enforcement actions in agricultural communities in Vermont, New York and other areas of the country have only increased workers’ reluctance to assert their workplace rights. By offering alternative channels for farmworkers – and potentially their family members – to assert their rights, the new WPS could improve and potentially save the lives of workers and their families.

by Madeline Ramey
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