Farmworker Justice Statement in Support of Senate Bill on COVID-19 & Farmworkers: Sen. Merkley’s Frontline At-Risk Manual (FARM) Laborers Protection Act

“Farmworker Justice strongly supports Sen. Jeff Merkley’s introduction of the Frontline
At-Risk Manual (FARM) Laborers Protection Act to help protect farmworkers and their
family members from COVID-19. As essential workers in the food sector, farmworkers
are expected to go to work every day during the pandemic, but their low wages and
difficult working conditions and inadequate action by many of their employers place
them at great risk of illness and death. As harvest seasons have begun to ramp up,
outbreaks of COVID-19 in farmworker communities have occurred and are likely to
increase. The bill should be passed to help ensure the safety, health and economic
security of farmworkers and their family members as well as avoid potential
disruptions of our nation’s food supply,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker

As Sen. Merkley’s summary states: “This bill requires agricultural producers (regardless
of the number of employees) who receive future direct agriculture-specific funding related to COVID-19 to
do the following:

– Provide sick pay for 10 paid days of sick leave.
– Provide pandemic premium pay at an additional $13 per hour for agriculture
workers, acknowledging the personal risk of maintaining the nation’s food
supply during the pandemic.
– Make efforts to maintain payrolls and limit agriculture worker layoffs and
– Implement CDC recommendations on sanitation and social distancing in work
sites, employerprovided housing, and transportation.
– The bill also provides grants to agricultural producers to support in providing
premium pay and purchasing of handwashing stations, portable restrooms and
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Farmworker Justice is a national advocacy organization for farmworkers. FJ founded in
1981 is based in Washington, D.C. and collaborates with organizations throughout the
country to empower farmworkers to improve their wages, working conditions,
occupational safety, health immigration status and access to justice.

Farmworker Justice has been monitoring outbreaks of COVID-19 in farmworker
communities. It has also been advocating for occupational safety standards to reduce
the risk of illness and death among farmworkers and for economic support during the
pandemic for farmworker families. Information about COVID-19 and farmworkers is
on our website’s COVID-19 page.