Are agricultural workers essential


Are farm workers ‘essential’ workers?

Armando Elenes, secretary-treasurer of the United Farm Workers, said that letters affirming that workers are “essential” do not substitute for “meaningful steps to stem the pandemic by protecting farmworkers with basic actions.”

What are the dangers of agricultural work?

The storage silos, heavy equipment and chemicals that are necessary for agricultural work can also be dangerous, which is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages all agricultural employers and workers to be aware of these potential hazards and how to avoid them.

Why are Agri-agricultural workers at higher risk for exploitation?

Agricultural workers are at higher risk for exploitation for several reasons, such as the migratory and seasonal nature of the work, their reliance on employer-provided housing, the physical demands of the job and typically low wages.

What percentage of agriculture jobs are hand harvested?

Growers and labor contractors estimate that the share is closer to 75 percent. Despite increased mechanization, the agriculture sector has continued to struggle with a dearth of labor because many fruits and vegetables must be harvested by hand to avoid bruising.


Who is considered to be essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Essential (critical infrastructure) workers include health care personnel and employees in other essential workplaces (e.g., first responders and grocery store workers).

What does California define as “essential business” during the coronavirus disease?

Essential businesses are those that provide food, shelter, social services and homeless services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers (including convenience stores); pharmacies; child care facilities; gas stations; banks; laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence.

What if an employee refuses to come to work for fear of infection?

Your policies, that have been clearly communicated, should address this.Educating your workforce is a critical part of your responsibility.Local and state regulations may address what you have to do and you should align with them.

How is the CARES Act supporting small businesses?

The Paycheck Protection Program is providing small businesses with the resources they need to maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead.

Excluded from relief

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed into law March 27, provides $9.5 billion for growers, ranchers and agricultural companies. Yet the legislation blocks many farmworkers themselves from seeking federal help.

Improvising to mitigate risk

With few protections in place, field workers are doing what they can to protect themselves. Claudia Isarraz, 43, lives with her husband and two U.S.-born teenage sons in Greenfield, a small town near Salinas.

How many crop hands are there in the US?

About half of all crop hands in the United States, more than one million, are undocumented immigrants, according to the Agriculture Department. Growers and labor contractors estimate that the share is closer to 75 percent.

Where is a garage converted to house farmworkers?

A garage converted to house farmworkers in Mendota, Calif. Credit… Max Whittaker for The New York Times. Agricultural workers in packing warehouses and poultry plants, who often work in close quarters, are both fearful of getting the virus and worried about recent cutbacks that have threatened their ability to work.

What does it mean when you are notifying undocumented workers that they are essential?

Letters notifying undocumented workers that they are “essential,” when they still officially face potential deportation, are sending the same mixed signals that have long been at the root of American agricultural labor policy, according to many who work closely with the process.

Who Are These Essential Workers?

For the first time in U.S. history farmworkers have been officially declared “essential workers.” Without their labor there would be no fruits, vegetables or dairy products in the stores. Yet the economic situation of farmworkers has never reflected that essential status – nor does it now.

A Union Makes a Difference

While only a tiny percentage of farmworkers have unions, those who do usually have a better relationship with their employers and more secure rights and benefits, which translate into better preparation for the advent of the virus.

Enforcement and Exclusion

Enforcement, however, is the big question. “California is coming up with good new measures to meet this crisis, but we need to be concerned about enforcement,” Zendejas warns. “Some employers are trying to do the right thing but others are not.


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