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April 30, 2018

Earlier this month, Unidos community partner Campesinos Sin Fronteras hosted their first screening event at their offices in San Luis, Arizona. With dermatological services generously donated by American Academy of Dermatology member Dr. Shane Hamman and his bilingual assistant, CSF screened 25 farmworker patients for skin cancer. The event marks both the culmination of many months of labor, outreach, and planning for CSF, as well as the start of a series of screenings CSF plans to carry out this year.

CSF is a grassroots community organization serving farmworker with strong ties to a variety of organizations in the Yuma, Somerton, and San Luis communities. CSF faces a number of unique challenges within the framework of the Unidos project: the dearth of specialty care (specifically, dermatological care) services in their community; the binational living and working situations of many farmworkers in the area, which can complicate follow-up; and the fact that CSF is not itself a clinic (which can be both a challenge and a resource at times).

Since joining the Unidos project last May, CSF has made significant strides in identifying potential skin cancer resources and connections within its community by conducting a rigorous situational analysis and needs assessment. Promotores from CSF interviewed farmworkers, skin cancer survivors, and potential local stakeholders, conducted focus groups with farmworkers, and engaged in a community mapping that allowed them to physically plot out where skin cancer resources existed in their community. Among the many connections made are the Yuma Cancer Center, three dermatologists all willing to donate care, and the University of Arizona.

CSF is already planning its next two events. Their extensive media connections and binational radio station, KYMZ 99.9 FM, play a crucial role in their marketing and dissemination of information related to their screening events. For more information on CSF and their Unidos activities, follow them on Facebook or visit their website.

April 27, 2018

Farmworker Justice Update: 04/26/18

H-2A Program Statistics for Second Quarter of FY 2018 Show Continued Expansion

The Office of Foreign Labor Certification recently published statistics on the H-2A program for the second quarter of FY 2018.  Over 80,000 positions were certified during this quarter, bringing the total number of H-2A positions certified to 112,214, an approximately 15% increase over the same period last year. This latest data shows the continuing trend of increased use of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program, in spite of employers’ complaints that the program is unworkable. Last year (FY 2017), over 200,000 positions were certified under the program.

Tobacco Workers: FLOC Expands Boycott of Reynolds

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), which represents thousands of farmworkers in North Carolina, announced expansion of its boycott of Reynolds American Inc. (now owned by British American Tobacco)’s VUSE e-cigarette brand.  Seeking Reynolds’ signature on an agreement to ensure farmworkers’ rights to organize and improve their working conditions, FLOC and supporters held over 40 demonstrations around the country this month. For more information, visit the FLOC website.

Farmworker Women Call for Improvement of Protections against Sexual Harassment

In the wake of the #MeToo movement to combat sexual harassment, farmworker women from the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Alliance of Farmworker Women) are calling for the improvement of Title VII protections against discrimination, including sexual harassment. The issue of sexual harassment and gender based violence was one of the main topics discussed at Alianza’s recent national convening held in Washington, D.C. Some of the other priority topics discussed included immigration, labor conditions and pesticides. For more information on Alianza and its work, please visit their website.

Workplace Raid on Tennessee Meat Processing Plant Results in Nearly 100 Arrests

On April 5, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the Southeastern Provision meat-processing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee. During the raid, ICE arrested nearly 100 people, making this the largest workplace raid in a decade. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is representing approximately 50 of those arrested, working alongside the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). Many of those detained are parents, and the raid has had a significant impact on this small rural community. The day after the raid, hundreds of children were absent from school. A vigil was held shortly after the raid to show support to the families of those detained, and the community has also raised over sixty thousand dollars for the families. The raid has shown the terrible human impact of immigration enforcement and has caused some conservative voters in this rural area to re-assess their views on immigration policy.

ICE Arrests New York Dairy Worker, NY Governor and Senators Calling for Investigation of Incident

On April 18, ICE agents forcibly arrested a dairy worker in upstate New York in front of his wife and children. The dairy farmer who owns the property witnessed the arrest and demanded that the agents provide a warrant, asking them to leave when they did not. The agents did not leave, however, and when the farmer tried to record what was happening on his mobile phone, an ICE agent smashed his phone and briefly handcuffed him. The Workers’ Center of Central New York is aiding the family of the detained dairy worker. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has called for an investigation into the incident and asked the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to look into what occurred. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also denounced the incident. On April 25, Gov. Cuomo sent ICE a “cease and desist” letter threatening to sue the agency for its disregard of the rule of law.

DOJ Reverses Decision to Halt Legal Orientation Program

On April 25, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is reversing course on its previous decision to halt the Legal Orientation Program (LOP). The program, which was launched in 2003, provides funding to a number of organizations across the country to educate immigrants about their rights. Last year, the program helped approximately 53,000 immigrants in over a dozen states. A 2012 DOJ study found that immigrants who participated in LOP completed their court proceedings more quickly and spent less time in detainment. The decision to halt the program had been criticized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as a way of eviscerating due process rights and eliminating transparency in the immigration system and various senators sent a letter to the DOJ last week asking the agency to restart the program. Sessions stated that the decision to resume the program was made in deference to Congress.

Data Shows Sanctuary Policies Encourage People to Report Crime

A recent article in the Washington Post notes that contrary to the Trump administration’s narrative, sanctuary policies can actually increase public safety by making undocumented residents feel secure enough to cooperate with law enforcement. Research indicates that sanctuary counties have either similar or lower rates of crime than counties without sanctuary policies. A recent study by the article’s author helps to explain why this is the case. When told that local law enforcement might be working together with ICE, participants’ responses showed that they were 60% less likely to a report a crime, 42% less likely to report being a victim of a crime, and 68% percent less likely to participate in public events with a police presence. 42% also said they were less likely to place their children in an after school or day care program.

Recent DACA Court Decision Could Eventually Lead to New Applications

On April 24, a D.C. federal judge was the latest to find the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program unlawful. The decision resulted from a lawsuit brought by Princeton University (including a Princeton student who is a DACA recipient), the NAACP and Microsoft. The judge has given the government 90 days to provide better reasoning for its decision to end the program. If the government fails to do so, it must begin to accept and process new and existing DACA applications. Although two previous cases had already ordered DHS to accept renewal applications for current DACA recipients, this recent decision is the only one that may allow new applicants to participate in the program, which could benefit tens of thousands of young Dreamers who are currently unprotected.

Update on Farmworker Health and Safety

Farmworker Justice Sues EPA for Information about Agency’s Decision on Worker Rules

On April 17, Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to turn over information pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. FJ and Earthjustice submitted a FOIA request in December 2017 asking for information on the EPA’s meetings with industry representatives and other materials relevant to the agency’s decision to revise and potentially weaken crucial protections in the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rules. The EPA did not comply with the deadline for responding to the FOIA request and has not provided any of this information. The lawsuit asks that the court order the EPA to provide the documents within 20 business days.

Global Warming Already Having an Impact on Texas Farmworkers

A recent article in Scientific American explores the impacts of global warming on farmworkers’ living and working conditions. Focusing on the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, the article notes that the increasing heat caused by global warming has already cut into farmworkers’ work hours, resulting in less income. It also exacerbates farmworkers’ already difficult working conditions, making them more susceptible to heat stress and dehydration. This problem is not just prevalent in the fields – workers in packing sheds can also suffer from these effects, especially if the sheds are not air-conditioned, which they rarely are. Furthermore, as detailed by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s director of farmworker programs, Daniela Dwyer, farmworkers’ housing conditions also make them vulnerable to global warming’s impact, as they often live in crowded conditions, without air conditioning. Farmworkers may also have limited access to clean running water. These challenges are likely to worsen as global warming increases, making this an important topic for farmworker health.

Remembering Cesar E. Chavez (1927-1993)

April 23 marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Cesar Chavez, who co-founded the United Farm Workers and forever changed the nation.  For more information about him, visit the Cesar Chavez Foundation.
 

April 11, 2018

Below is a copy of a letter to the editor by Farmworker Justice president Bruce Goldstein, published in the Washington Post. A link to the letter can be found here

The article “Dairy farm meets tech revolution” [Economy & Business, April 6] did not address the reality for farmworkers. In recent years, dairy farms have consolidated into large operations. About one-half of dairies have 1,000 or more milking cows. These larger farms, even when using robots and artificial intelligence, need labor, and they increasingly hire immigrants.

Conditions for workers on many dairy farms are poor and often dangerous. In 2014 there were 49 reported fatalities in dairy cattle and milk production. Occupational death and injury rates in agriculture, livestock production and dairies are disproportionately high compared with other sectors. Yet federal employment laws often don’t apply to dairy farms. Even large farms are exempt from paying overtime and thus have little downside to requiring 70, 80 or 90 hours in a workweek, which can be dangerous and interfere with family life. Most federal occupational safety standards don’t apply to farms, and the few that do cannot be enforced in agriculture unless a farm operates a labor housing camp or employs at least 11 workers.

Dairy workers have been pressing for changes in labor practices and employment laws, as well as seeking collaborations with the dairy industry to improve wages and working conditions. Robots and artificial intelligence can reduce the need for labor and improve efficiency on dairy farms, but there is still a need for improvements when it comes to dairy farmworkers.

Bruce Goldstein, Washington

The writer is president of Farmworker Justice.

Latest News

April 27, 2018

For Immediate Release— April 9, 2018          

Contact:

Virginia Ruiz, Farmworker Justice director of occupational and environmental health, 202-800-2520 [email protected]

Carrie Apfel, Earthjustice staff attorney, 202-667-4500 ext.4310

Washington, D.C.— Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit today to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to turn over communications between EPA and interest groups related to the anticipated gutting of pesticide safeguards that protect farmworkers, families, and communities from toxic chemicals.

The lawsuit demands the release of documents reflecting communications between EPA and representatives of the agricultural and chemical industries that occurred after the Trump Administration took office, as well as notes from a meeting of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program’s Federal Advisory Committee that preceded EPA’s decision to revisit crucial protections in the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule (CPA Rule).

“Scott Pruitt’s EPA has shown time and time again a complete disregard for rules and regulations that we know protect farmworkers and their families. These documents may be key to understanding why EPA suddenly decided to reject safeguards that it took decades to study and approve,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice. “The fact is, there is no justification for delaying common-sense measures to prevent pesticide poisonings and deaths.”

Last December, Trump’s EPA signaled it would review recent improvements to the WPS and CPA Rule, particularly updates that prohibit employers from requiring children to work with pesticides, provide farmworkers with better access to information about the pesticides to which they are exposed, and protect untrained workers from direct exposure to pesticides. Farmworker and public health organizations expect EPA to officially propose gutting these safeguards later this year.

Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to EPA for the records in late December, days after EPA announced its intention to revisit these protections. The request went unanswered. Now, these groups are asking the court to order EPA to provide the documents within 20 business days.

“The WPS and CPA Rule are tremendously important safeguards that will protect 2.5 million farmworkers, nearly 1 million pesticide applicators, and countless families from pesticide exposure. Yet EPA is planning to gut them,” said Carrie Apfel, staff attorney for Sustainable Food & Farming Program at Earthjustice. “Farmworkers and their families have a right to know who EPA met with and what was discussed leading up to this terrible decision.”

The updated WPS establishes a minimum age of 18 for most workers who mix, load, and apply pesticides, provides farmworkers the right to request pesticide information via a designated representative, and mandates that pesticide application stops if an untrained worker is likely to be hit by pesticide spray or drift. The revised CPA Rule improves the quality of training materials, and says unless exempted, certified pesticide applicators must be at least 18 years old.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes less than a month after the same district court ruled EPA had illegally delayed implementation of the CPA Rule last summer.

 

April 27, 2018

Farmworker Justice  March 22, 2018

In a major win for farmworker and health groups, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Wednesday, March 21, 2018 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Scott Pruitt illegally delayed implementation of key pesticide safety rules regarding “restricted-use pesticides” (RUP’s) – the most toxic class of pesticides -- applied by certified pesticide applicators.

Virginia Ruiz of FJ is co-counsel with Earthjustice attorneys.  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Pesticide Action Network North America.  The case is PCUN v. Pruitt, 17-cv-03434.

The revision by the Obama Administration of the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) Rule prevents minors from applying restricted-use pesticides and also improves the quality of training materials, and says certified pesticide applicators must be able to read and write. The main purpose of the CPA rule is to protect workers and the public from poisonings, by ensuring that those who handle the most dangerous pesticides are properly trained and certified.

After years of reviews, EPA published the revised CPA Rule in the last days of the Obama Administration.

But the then-incoming Trump Administration quickly delayed the rule, as it placed a mandatory freeze on all regulations coming out of federal agencies. The move prompted health-promotion and farmworker organizations represented by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice to file suit.

The federal judge, Jeffrey S. White, agreed that there was no valid justification for delaying common sense measures to prevent pesticide poisonings and deaths and that the agency and Pruitt violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which concerns federal regulatory actions, including by failing to engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking.

The court declared the original March 6, 2017 effective date of the CPA rule as the effective date, making its ruling effective immediately.  The ruling comes three months after the EPA said it wants to revise crucial parts of the CPA rule (to weaken it) It’s still unclear when the EPA will open the proposed changes for public comments.

According to the EPA, there are about one million certified applicators nationwide. Before delaying implementation, the agency said the revised rule could prevent some 1,000 acute poisonings every year.

Now the EPA must work with state agencies to revise the certification processes for applicators of restricted use pesticides to implement the new safety standards.  The defendants have the right to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

We continue our advocacy and litigation on other actions by the Trump EPA and Pruitt to weaken pesticide safety standards that prevent pesticide exposure to farmworkers and their children.

January 25, 2018

Leading farmworker organizations and advocates for farmworkers in the United States and Mexico today are submitting a petition under the NAFTA labor side agreement challenging the failure of the United States government to comply with its obligations to protect international migrant workers who are hired under the H-2A agricultural guestworker program.  

The petition was submitted to the National Administrative Office in Mexico City for the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), requesting action by the North American Commission on Labor Cooperation (“Commission”), which the U.S., Mexico and Canada established.

The petition was submitted by Farmworker Justice; the United Farm Workers (UFW); the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC); and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, Oregon’s farmworker union), which are based in the United States, and Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, A.C (ProDESC), which is based in Mexico.

Principle 11 of the NAALC, on Protection of Migrant Workers, states the parties’ goal of providing migrant workers in one nation’s territory with the same labor law protection that apply to its own nationals.  The Agreement also imposes enforceable obligations on the three nations to provide high labor standards; effective, impartial tribunals; effective remedies to achieve compliance with labor laws; and effective action by each government to enforce workers’ rights.

The principal federal employment law for farmworkers in the United States excludes H-2A agricultural workers from its protections and remedies.  That law is the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983 (referred to as “AWPA” or “MSPA”).  It was passed to address persistent problems faced by farmworkers and strengthened an earlier law.

The petitioners seek to reduce abuses in the H-2A program, which recently has been expanding rapidly, to over 200,000 agricultural guestworkers in 2017, mostly from Mexico.  Abuses in the H-2A program have been reported by many sources over many years, including in the Farmworker Justice report, “No Way to Treat a Guest,” and a series of articles in Buzzfeed.   

The AWPA establishes obligations on farm operators and other agricultural businesses, including farm labor contractors. The AWPA contains significant protections regarding recruitment, hiring, employment, payment of wages, transportation, and housing of migrant farmworkers.  Importantly, the AWPA authorizes victimized workers to file a lawsuit in U.S. federal courts to enforce its protections.  It creates several remedies to compensate workers, stop ongoing violations, and deter future violations, including monetary damages, special “statutory damages” and injunctive relief.  

The exclusion of H-2A visa workers from the AWPA deprives them of labor protections, remedies, and access to federal courts, all of which have been deemed important and effective to protect migrant workers in the United States. Although the law and regulations of the H-2A program require certain protections for U.S. and foreign workers at H-2A program employers, the AWPA provides different and additional protections and remedies for U.S. migrant workers.  H-2A guestworkers seeking to enforce their employment contracts are relegated to state courts and often to inferior remedies under state contract laws.

H-2A guestworkers, arguably among the migrant workers most in need of protection due to their vulnerability, should not be excluded from AWPA’s protections and remedies.    

The petition, formally known as a “public communication,” requests commencement of proceedings under the Labor Side Agreement, formally known as the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), to address the violations of the NAALC and obtain all appropriate remedies.  The petition seeks agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada, that the protections and remedies in the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, or their equivalent, will be extended to migrant workers employed in the United States under the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program.

Contact information:

 

Bruce Goldstein

President, Farmworker Justice

Washington, D.C. 20036

202-800-2521

[email protected]

www.farmworkerjustice.org

 

Leydy Rangel

Communications Specialist

United Farm Workers Foundation

California

[email protected] / (760) 899-4604

(bilingual)

 

Elena Villafuerte

Responsable del Programa de Análisis e Incidencia

Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC)

(5255) 52122229/ 52122230- 758608840/ 75860885

[email protected]

Calle Zamora 169-A Condesa, México D.F.

Facebook /ProDESC.AC

Twitter: @ProDESC

www.prodesc.org.mx

(bilingual)