Farmworkers Rights’

In the United States there are over 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The majority (72%) of all farmworkers were not born in the United States. The farmworkers have an average age of 36 and the average level of education is until 8th grade. 48% of farmworkers do not have legal authorization to work the in United States and only 33% are U.S. citizens. Because of their residency and/or mobile status, many farmworkers report experiencing prejudice and hostility in the communities in which they live and work. 23% of the farm workers families had total family income levels below the national poverty guidelines. The farmers tend to earn between $2,500 and $5,000. Though the farm workers are protected by law the workers feel reluctant to assert their rights because of the fear that their bosses will fire them. For undocumented workers the fear of reporting bad working circumstances is even larger. Their bosses may threaten to call immigration if a complaint is filed. This has led many to remain silent. Many farmworkers are becoming ill or injured because of poor working standards. The law states that the workers are allowed to take breaks to try and prevent those ailments but because some are paid by piece they are reluctant to stop working for fear they may lose money. By not stopping to take breaks the awful circumstances are taking a great toll on their health.

Some causes of the awful circumstances at farms are death, illness, or injury towards the farm workers. Some injuries include Farm_Workers--25overheating or pesticide exposure. When farmers work for too long in high temperatures their body overheats and they become weaker. Weather can be an issue for farm workers because it can cause conditions that do not allow them to do their job as effectively. As a result, they won’t get as much money for their families. Many farmers use pesticides or dangerous chemicals on their plants that hurt the farm workers and the other people living on the farm including children or infants. The farm workers can become tremendously ill and unable to work due to chemicals put onto the growing plants. Some other causes of illness, death or injury are not many breaks or lack of water. When farm workers don’t get as many breaks or water, their body loses water and they dehydrate. If their body becomes weaker, then they stop working at their same pace and become slower, it becomes an issue because they might not get as much money.

The problem that many farm workers are becoming ill and injured due to poor farm working impacts not only the workers life but also their families’ immensely by taking away their job, which in many cases is the family’s only income. This sometimes put


s them at a high risk of homelessness or starvation. Some problems that farm workers develop from heat and pesticide exposure, as well as lack of restand water breaks are various skin diseases, cancers, illnesses, injuries and sometimes even death. Too much exposure to heat can cause dangerous skin diseases or other skin cancers. Pesticide and chemical exposure also puts the workers at high risk of dangerous diseases, breathing problems or if severe, death. Since many farm workers do not have worker compensation, they do not have insurance to help them during rough times. Many times, farm workers and their families cannot cure the illness or injury and the workers run the risk of getting fired and losing most of their earnings.

Though the poor work circumstances for farmers still remains a big problem, there have been many attempts to try and help out the farm workers. A big attempt to help out this problem was a law suit that happened in 2012. The legal representation of the farm workers tried to pass a law that enforced heat regulations in California. One of the regulations states that if the temperature surpasses 85 degrees fahrenheit, the workers must be provided with shade. The lawsuit failed but the Californian government said that if a worker needs a break because they are hurt, tired, hot, or need water they are allowed to take a break. This law is ineffective because many workers choose to skip their breaks in fear of getting fired. Also because a lot of workers are paid by piece and they don’t want to take breaks so they can earn more money. Another way the farm owners tried

Farm_Workers--21to help solve the problem was by putting tarps over some of the lanes to provide shade. This law was also ineffective because the air wasn’t circulating under the tarp, and was trapping in the heat. This caused it to be a lot hotter under the tarp than with no tarp at all. We think the most effective solution is to get all farms to pay by hour not by piece. In doing this it may encourage workers to take breaks when they need to, lowering the rate of injuries and illnesses. To help support our idea we would need an organization to bring awareness amongst people and provide support for our cause. We could also go to farms and provide water and hats hopefully convincing farmers as well as farm workers of our idea and convincing them to follow through with the cause. The organization could also fundraise money and buy items to help provide a comfortable living environment for the workers. A way you can help is by buying food with the united farm workers label or buying fair trade certified products. Farm workers are regular people and deserve to be treated as equals with a voice.

Taylor, Kim, Niki, Juliana


Photos by Michael Schneider

Helped us learn about the heat that farm workers deal with

“UFW: The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America.” UFW: The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America. N.p., 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.

Helped us learn facts and basics about farm workers

“Fact Sheets About Farmworkers.” National Center for Farmworker Health: Fact Sheets about Farmworkers. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.

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  • Meg Turnbull

    I found that all the poor circumstances really affected me because we go to school and sit on the circle while complaining that its hot, where they work all day without complaint in fear of being fired. I was really surprised that there isn’t much being done about it, and even laws that are passed don’t go much into action because the farmers are fearful. It could be improved by indenting, just that small detail. Otherwise, it looks great, and it sounds really professional. Good job!

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