In 2021, Vicente Gomez Hernandez and Humberto Feliciano Gomez, cousins from a poor village in Oaxaca, joined the hundreds of thousands of men and women from Mexico who come to the U.S. each year on an H-2A seasonal visa to work on farms around the country. The visa is meant to be a safe and efficient alternative to illegal border crossings, a win for farmers, who need the labor, and for workers, who get much higher wages than they can earn at home. It did not turn out that way for the two cousins.
In the last few weeks, academics and labor advocates have released a flurry of studies and surveys with the same urgent finding: Climate disasters are wreaking havoc on the health, safety, and economic stability of farmworkers, and well-funded government programs are the best way to provide workers with relief. (No paywall)
Researchers looking at health records and blood, urine and saliva samples found "an association between early-life exposure to glyphosate and liver inflammation and metabolic disease in young adults" in California's Salinas Valley, according to the lead scientist Brenda Eskanazi. Glyphosate is the most widely used weedkiller in the world.
Two managers of a Florida farm-labor contracting company are going to federal prison for their role in a multi-state racketeering and human trafficking scheme. Between 2015 and 2017, federal prosecutors say, the company forced more than a dozen workers on H-2A visas to harvest crops against their will, while paying them less than they were owed. (No paywall)
In a remarkable reversal, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Wednesday that will make it easier for farmworkers to vote in union elections, after indicating that he would veto the bill only weeks before. The governor changed course after facing mounting pressure from union leaders, workers, and political allies, including President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (No paywall)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he “cannot support” a bill that many farmworkers say would prevent their employers from intimidating them during union elections, disappointing the United Farm Workers union, which had launched a weeks-long march to the state capitol in support of the legislation.(No paywall)
In much of the country, as climate change drives increasingly brutal heat waves, farmworkers lack protection. How they fare will largely depend on whether their employers voluntarily decide to provide the access to water, shade, and rest breaks that are critical when working in extreme heat. (No paywall)
By disregarding the health and safety of their employees, some of the most prominent companies in the food industry have created situations that led to workers being injured or killed on the job, according to a new report by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), an advocacy group.(No paywall)
Blaine Larsen Inc.—one of the largest potato growers in the country—must pay hundreds of farmworkers more than $1.3 million in back wages, after a Department of Labor investigation found it had systematically underpaid employees. It is at least the third time the DOL has investigated the company for labor violations in as many years.
The pandemic “simply became another life-threatening hazard” among many facing Indigenous farmworkers in California, said a report released on Monday. Based on surveys and interviews of more than 300 workers, the report called for the creation of a state agency dedicated to enforcing …
Following what the White House called "a dangerously hot summer," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh announced on Monday the first step toward a federal standard to protect workers from exposure to excessive heat on the job. The work on a heat safety rule would be part of a government-wide initiative to lessen the impact of hotter weather, a feature of climate change.
The rate of Covid-19 infection among farmworkers in California’s Salinas Valley was four times higher than in the rest of the local population, according to a new study published by JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. Based on a survey of more than a thousand workers done between July and November 2020, the study described a strong correlation between high rates of infection and the conditions that farmworkers face in their day-to-day lives, including overcrowded housing and a lack of workplace benefits like paid medical leave.(No paywall)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $700 million grant program to provide direct financial relief to U.S. farm and meatpacking workers hit hard by Covid-19. But it was unclear whether undocumented immigrants, who make up roughly half of all farmworkers and nearly a quarter of meatpacking workers, would be eligible.
In the wake of a heat wave blamed for the death of a farmworker, Oregon adopted an emergency rule on Thursday that guarantees workers rest breaks in the shade and plenty of cool water to drink during hot weather. Farmworker advocates called for the passage of federal protections against heat stress on the job.
It’s 1 a.m. and the stars are out as hundreds of people shuffle slowly along the wall that forms the border with the U.S. in the small Mexican city of San Luis Río Colorado, Esther Honig reports in FERN's latest story produced with the Nation magazine. In heavy boots and wide-brimmed straw hats, almost everyone here is headed to work in the vegetable fields of Yuma County, Arizona. Bundled against the frigid November air in puffy coats and fleece blankets, they carry thermoses of hot coffee and mini coolers packed with breakfast and lunch, often small, tightly rolled meat burritos. The wait to get through the small port of entry averages two hours but on some days can take as many as four. (No paywall)
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she will work with fellow senators to give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A visa system for agricultural guestworkers. "It's time to give farmers the help they need and protect the essential workers who work hard to put food on our tables," said Feinstein, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Farmworker advocates fear the USDA’s decision last month to cancel the Farm Labor Survey is a step toward dismantling the already modest protections for agricultural guestworkers under the H-2A visa program in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.(No paywall)
Few farmworkers in Oregon report getting tested for the coronavirus despite knowing infected people or being directly exposed to Covid-19, according to a survey of 200 workers across the state. And unprecedented wildfires are only make things worse.
An outbreak of the novel coronavirus among farmworkers in California's Salinas Valley spawned a coalition of former adversaries that is racing to safeguard both the workers and the farms where they work, as Liza Gross reports in FERN's latest story, published with Univision.(No paywall)