Give Them A Voice; Farmworkers’ Rights

                                                                                                     

                                       Give Them A Voice

                                                     

 By Cali Triantis, Antarah Chopra, Shilpa Sajja, and Molly Glickman

 Many farm workers all over America work in unhealthy conditions and are unable or afraid to speak up about changing their unsafe working conditions. While reading a website that shared stories of various farm workers, we learned that many farm workers are not provided restrooms and water. And the rare water that is provided is unsanitary. One of the workers stated that they were given the same water used to irrigate the fields. Farm workers should be allowed breaks and shade to cool off in after working but many are not provided with shade or even the opportunity to take breaks. One farmer said that he was afraid to ask for a break because he did not want to be fired. Farmers also work in unsafe conditions because of the pesticides used. One farmer said that while she was working, the smell of the pesticides made her so sick that she had to go home. Some bosses fire these workers on unfair grounds. For example, one worker was fired just because he asked if he could be payed in check instead of cash. Workers that have not joined the union or are not able to, do not have stability and are unable to support their families. The union is the Unit Farm Workers Association and is basically an organization that provides privileges like unemployment insurances, paid vacations and healthy working conditions if you are under their contract but many farm workers are not because their bosses won’t let them.

                                                                                            

Many causes of problems come from unfair treatment of the farm workers. About 35 percent of farm workers said they could not speak English “at all”, 30 percent said they could speak English “well”, 27 percent said they could speak English “a little”, and 8 percent said they could speak English “somewhat”, which leads the workers to get scammed and misled. This is a cruel thing to do, but many of the bosses take advantage of this lack of education and use it against them. For example, they could cheat them by not paying their full wages, or getting them to sign a contract they cannot read. When an employer breaks the law, which he often does, by treating a worker unfairly, it goes unnoticed, which adds a great deal to the problem at hand. Seeing as though over 70% of farm workers are foreign born, many of the farm workers are illegal immigrants. Not only does this lead to a life of fear and hiding in the fields, farm workers also don’t want to speak out about their unfair treatment because they would most likely be caught and deported.  For almost all of the workers, this is the only job that they can get. Without a job, they wouldn’t be able to provide for themselves, much less their families. Because of this, few farm workers leave this backbreaking job for the sake of themselves and their family. The final, and in a way,the  biggest problem, is that the workers get paid for each piece of food they pick, rather than how long they work. This rule results in workers not taking any breaks, and slaving for hours upon hours. Add this endless work to the dangerous and harmful conditions at the farm and you can understand how many workers can get very sick, yet continue to work through it. These farm workers are being treated cruelly and unfairly and we are the ones that can speak out for them.

                                    

Money is a valuable resource in the modern world. Prices have been rising and some people are not as fortunate as others to have enough money to bring a meal to the table every day, send their children to school, and pay for health care. Farm workers work hard everyday, but most only earn about $20,000 every year. Workers can get paid by the amount or weight of the food they pick, but sometimes the head farmer will change that rate to dollars per hour without telling them.  The farmer can keep more of his money because workers will work for a shorter amount of time, but pick lots of crops. The workers do not take breaks because they need to keep picking their crops so they can support their families. Workers are dedicated and work all day in the blazing heat of the day with little to no breaks. The unsanitary water and little food they get is already enough to give them sicknesses that can kill their body. With no breaks during the day, the workers suffer and sometimes this can result in death. It is a price they choose to pay, but it does not have to be this way.

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Some attempts at solutions have been made to solve this problem. Many organizations support farm workers’ rights, and organize different ways to help them, such as having a union that farm workers can join so they can demand to be payed the right amount and report problems without being fired. This helps workers gain more rights in general, but does not specifically require farm workers to be payed by the hour, and many employers don’t allow their workers to join a union. Also, the MSPA law gives Wage and Hour investigators the right to inspect where farmworkers work to insure it is sanitary and respects farm workers’ rights, and also the right to interview workers or their employers.This is partially effective in making sure the workers are happy, have safe water, and take breaks, but it is not particularly targeted towards their wages. You can also buy products with “Fair Trades” labels or that are certified by the FWA to support companies that treat their farm workers fairly. There are many solutions that can help improve the working and living conditions of farm workers, but none are explicitly fixing how farm workers are paid. Our suggested solution is to encourage several unions to include choice of payment to their list of coverages for their members. That way, when workers join a union, they can choose how they want to be paid by their employers, a right they deserve. You can help by spreading awareness about how unfairly farm workers are treated, or by buying the certified foods we mentioned above. Farmworkers have the right to choose their method of payment, and you have the right to choose how your food got to your plate.

                                                                                               Link To National Farm Workers Video

Citations:

“United Farm Workers”, Workers voices

http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?b_code=org_key

This was a helpful site because it showed us the perspective of the farmers and how

they were treated at work. It gave us a look at the lives that these workers live and what conditions they live in.

 

“Who We Serve”, Farmworker Justice, 2014

http://www.farmworkerjustice.org/about-farmworker-justice/who-we-serve

This was helpful because it gave us general facts that gave us an idea of the life farmworkers live.

 

“US Labor Law for Farmworkers”, Farmworker Justice, 2014, https://www.farmworkerjustice.org/advocacy-and-programs/us-labor-law-farmworkers

This article was helpful because it showed us the laws that help to protect the workers.

 

Food Programs: Workers, Grace Communications Foundation http://www.sustainabletable.org/273/workers

(No author available)

This was very helpful because it provided very detailed information; for example, it gave names of all the diseases the farm workers are at risk of being exposed to, and all of the toxins in the air. It left no confusion, or need for further researching on some topics.

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