Farm Labor: The Forgotten “Essential Workers”

The COVID pandemic has raised public awareness of the essential role that undocumented workers play in the U.S. agricultural industry. Photo credit: David A. Litman / Shutterstock.com, licensed.

NEW YORK — Undocumented New York farm workers may be risking their lives and livelihoods during the COVID pandemic, but they get few federal or state protections.

On April 8, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala became the first New York farm worker known to die from COVID-19. Emma Kreyche, director of advocacy, outreach and education for the Worker Justice Center of New York, said that although farm laborers are recognized as essential workers, because they are undocumented they have little job security, often live in group settings in rural areas with limited access to health care — and when they do get sick, they are fearful of seeking medical care.

“The COVID pandemic is really underscoring and highlighting the various systems failures that have played upon this community for many, many years,” she said.

While the agricultural industry is getting billions of dollars in federal grants and loans under the stimulus bills, she said, no rules have been created to protect the health of farm workers.


FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION: GET ONLY 'FEATURED' STORIES BY EMAIL

Big Tech is using a content filtering system for online censorship. Watch our short video about NewsGuard to learn how they control the narrative for the Lamestream Media and help keep you in the dark. NewsGuard works with Big-Tech to make it harder for you to find certain content they feel is 'missing context' or stories their editors deem "not in your best interest" - regardless of whether they are true and/or factually accurate. They also work with payment processors and ad-networks to cut off revenue streams to publications they rate poorly by their same bias standards. This should be criminal in America. You can bypass this third-world nonsense by signing up for featured stories by email and get the good stuff delivered right to your inbox.
 

In January, New York’s Farm Laborers’ Fair Labor Practices Act went into effect, extending some basic labor rights to farm workers in the state. However, Kreyche noted, the law contains few, if any, protections for farm workers’ health or safety.

“We still don’t have any clear directives from the state about how employers should be handling issues around isolating workers, ensuring there is a setup for quarantine to be maintained,” she said.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, she said, farm work already was among the most hazardous occupations.

Efforts are under way to include undocumented workers in the next federal stimulus package. Kreyche said she believes there’s little hope that will happen, but added that the state can take steps to help ensure that vulnerable farm workers receive some of the protections given to others, “having enforceable health and safety regulations pertaining to agricultural operations and farm labor camps where workers are housed.”

She said it’s also imperative that state lawmakers create a source of support for those who cannot apply for or qualify for unemployment insurance.

More information is online at wjcny.org.

Comment via Facebook

Corrections: If you are aware of an inaccuracy or would like to report a correction, we would like to know about it. Please consider sending an email to corrections@publishedreporter.com and cite any sources if available. Thank you. (Policy)