Who's Picking Your Food
by frances delgado-chavez
Farmworkers face multiple issues: income inequality, hazardous work conditions, and racism. We must advocate for farmworkers to have a living wage, have protective equipment gear, and citizenship paths. All of these social justice issues have come to the forefront due to the global pandemic and wildfires. The first issue is income inequality. It is a known fact that farmworkers do not get paid what they deserve for their arduous labor. The average salary of a farmworker is $12.60 an hour, estimated $26,200 a year.(1) Farmworkers need three to four incomes to afford rent, meaning there are multi-family households. Rent and home prices keep rising due to employees moving from Silicon Valley/Bay Area to Santa Cruz County, causing people to get pushed out or squeeze in. Living in a multi-family household can cause health issues, which has been highlighted by the Covid-19 epidemic. When living in a multi-family household where those that are of working age are essential workers, it is already impossible to limit the exposure to Covid-19. Most work in the field or other jobs that are classified as ‘essential.’ Latinxs make up 51% of the COVID cases in Santa Cruz County, but only account for one-third of the population. This is also a statewide trend and shows that Latinxs account for 55% of the COVID cases. However, they only represent 39% of the population.(2) Now it’s not just COVID-19, but also the hazardous air quality from both wildfires in Monterey and Santa Cruz County that have created an ongoing threat to the health and livelihood of farmworkers.
There is a photograph circulating on social media showing farmworkers working while a wildfire is ablaze. This has started a discussion on hazard pay and PPE. Community members have rallied to make sure farmworkers have the right KN95 masks to protect themselves from Covid-19 and bad air quality. Why are farmworkers not protected as essential workers? If it wasn’t for farmworkers, there wouldn’t be food on our tables. One reason for this lack of protection is the current administration and its hateful rhetoric against ‘Mexicans.’ They ignore the fact that immigrants come from different countries and use the blanketed statements that all ‘illegal aliens’ come from Mexico. President Donald Trump has stated, ”They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”(3) This creates hateful rhetoric that people use against those that are Latinx and face daily. It ‘justifies’ the low wages, deportations, and hazardous work conditions since they are seen as these negative stereotypes. Therefore, not deserving of fundamental human rights. Farmworkers who are undocumented have the added layer of stress, which is deportation. Families are being separated and put in abhorrent conditions in detention centers when detained. In reality, immigrants create a positive impact on the economy, and it is time that their contribution is recognized. In multiple ways, we are failing farmworkers. However, there are a multitude of actions you can make to create a difference. There are short term solutions such as donating to local organizations for PPE, diapers, food, etc. Long term solutions are emailing/calling your local city council members/state senators and advocating for living wages and protections against hazardous environments.
Disclaimer: I am speaking as an outsider who has not worked in the fields. I have talked with farmworkers, and these are their experiences. We all have privileges, and how will you use your privilege?
- Hansen, Louis. ‘California’s farmworker housing crisis has people sleeping in dining rooms.’ Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2019 December 24.
Guzman, Meyberg. ‘Covid hammers Santa Cruz Latinos.’ Santa Cruz Locals, 2020 July 15.
Simon, Darram. ‘President Trump’s other insensitive comments on race, ethnicity.’ CNN, 2018 January 18.
How can YOU make a difference?
Make a monetary donation or volunteer your time.
Santa Cruz County
Center for Farmworkers Families
Community Action Board
Santa Cruz Immigration Project
Helping immigrants acquire legal status, reuniting immigrant families, and making U.S. citizenship more accessible to eligible immigrants.
Thriving Immigration Project
An alliance of organizations in Santa Cruz County that provide direct services to and advocate for a community where immigrants are truly welcomed and supported to thrive.
Womb care kits for farmworkers women in Watsonville, CA.
Autonomous collective providing mutual aid to farm workers in Watsonville. This collective works with farmworkers and gives N95 masks, hand sanitizers, and other necessary resources.
A coalition of current and former PVUSD students who are committed to youth and community. This coalition is demanding the City of Watsonville to create safety measures for farmworkers. Also, collecting funds for groceries.
A womxn of color collective committed to the healing of womxn, youth, QTPOC through spirituality, creative, expression, community building, and education. Revolunas is having a backpack drive for farmworkers in Watsonville.
This is a community organization that appreciates farmworkers by providing resources, food, and what is needed.
Currently, have a fundraiser for backpacks and school supplies for farmworkers in Monterey County. Also, have a resource document of who to email to protect farmworkers and email templates.