Without them, everything ceases to exist.
The people who put food on our table don’t get to work from home.
As the majority of Americans “shelter in place,” farmworkers head out to the fields, rain or shine, for 12 hour days, making sure we can restock our grocery shelves and put food on the table.
Like healthcare and grocery store workers, the United States’ 2.5 million farmworkers, most of them Mexican, many of them undocumented, have been designated “essential workers.”
Agriculture is the backbone of the U.S. economy, and Mexican and Latino migrant laborers make up 80 percent of the industry’s workforce.
They are the definition of “essential.” Without their labor, crops rot, we starve, and the country crumbles.
According to a statement by the United Farmworkers Union, “The people who put food on our table do not get to telecommute.”
Unfortunately, farmworkers work under brutal conditions, with few protections that are often ignored. They have no health insurance, criminally low wages, and are afraid to speak up for fear of deportation.
“The people we expect to feed our families too often cannot feed their own,” writes Antonio de Loera for the SacBee, especially with panic-buyers clearing the shelves.
And as COVID-19 runs rampant across the country and the world, farmworkers are especially vulnerable. They don’t have the option to quarantine, no one to educate them about safety precautions as they pick, and nowhere to turn if they get sick.
“As we honor first responders, health care workers, and others on the front-lines of the current crisis, let’s not forget farmworkers. They are both among the most essential and vulnerable populations in this crisis…it’s only right to honor their work with fair pay and equal rights.”
“If America stays fed in our moment of need, it will be thanks to immigrant farmworkers.”