For thousands of farmworkers, a dangerous — and now potentially deadly — commute

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. 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)

Feinstein to push farmworker bill in Senate

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.

Advocates fear canceling Farm Labor Survey is first step in gutting guest farmworker protections

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)

Farmworkers on the front lines of coronavirus and wildfires

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.

Few states release data about Covid-19 in the food system

Over the past six months, Covid-19 has spread rapidly through the workforces of farms, food processing facilities, and meatpacking plants in nearly every state, infecting tens of thousands. Yet determining the exact number of workers who have contracted or died from the virus is virtually impossible, because few states are publicly reporting case and death data in the food and farm sectors.(No paywall)

As Covid-19 cases spike, an unprecedented alliance races to protect California farmworkers

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)

Farmworkers win rate hike from Driscoll’s supplier after walkout, petition

Farmworkers at a supplier for Driscoll’s, the largest berry distributor in the world, won a raise earlier this month — as well as some Covid-19 safety measures — following a series of actions demanding better pay and working conditions.(No paywall)

Fruit-packing workers strike, and Washington State strengthens Covid-19 protections

After several weeks of strikes by workers at six fruit-packing facilities in Yakima, Washington, and a number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in food production and processing plants, the state will require stronger protections for agricultural workers. The new protections, which Gov. Jay Inslee announced on May 28 and which take effect June 3, require agricultural employers to provide all workers with personal protective equipment at no cost, ensure physical distancing or barriers between workers when distancing is not possible, place hand-washing stations at regular intervals among workers, and implement sanitation and distancing on employer-provided transportation.(No paywall)

Farmworkers at Driscoll’s supplier demand fair pay, safe conditions amid pandemic

In a rare organized action, more than 100 nonunion workers joined a work stoppage at Rancho Laguna Farms, a California grower that supplies Driscoll’s, the largest berry producer in the world. The workers were protesting a demand that they pick only the best fruit for the same pay, even though quality was spotty, making it hard to earn more than minimum wage at their piece-work rate of $1.90 a box.(No paywall)

Protect farmworkers to assure food supply, say advocacy groups

Farmworkers are "especially at risk of falling ill from Covid-19" because they often work without protective equipment, are exposed to pesticides, and live in crowded quarters, said the advocacy groups Environmental Working Group and Farmworker Justice on Wednesday. (No paywall)