This piece was made possible as part of a grant from the Julia Child Foundation
Farm worker advocacy groups including Alianza Nacional de Campesinas are collaborating with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) to help secure protections for farm workers impacted by COVID-19.
María De Luna, National Policy and Advocacy Coordinator at Alianza de Campesinas tells Food Tank, “what we have right now is farm workers with the title of essentiality, without any protections or safeguards that come with that title.” According to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, more than 12,000 farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since April, 2020.
Recently, in collaboration with other farmers and farm worker groups, NYFC was able to successfully advocate for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2), which provides financial assistance to farmers. But, the coalition says, CFAP2 does not address the needs of farm workers.
Many farm workers have limited access to health care and live below the poverty line. According to De Luna, this presents barriers to accessing COVID-19 testing and treatment. And when farm workers do test positive for COVID-19, many risk uncompensated time-off and fear of lay-offs.
De Luna tells Food Tank, COVID-19 is also exacerbating other issues that farm workers face. She explains that as a result of the pandemic, women in particular “have seen an increase in domestic violence, family and childcare responsibilities, increased financial and job insecurity, and abuse in the workplace.”
Katherine Un, Organizing and Advocacy Director at NYFC, tells Food Tank, “reacting to challenges that COVID-19 exacerbated took the place of other advocacy work that we had planned.”
Working alongside Alianza Nacional de Campesinas and other farm worker groups, the Coalition is now fighting to include farm workers in pandemic relief bills and other policy recommendations.
Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Federal Policy Associate at NYFC, explains to Food Tank that farm workers know what they need to be protected. Groups like Alianza Nacional de Campesinas are helping to convey farm workers’ requests. And, Polanco explains, NYFC then helps get these groups the support they need by using “organizational power to amplify… allies’ work.”
To keep up the momentum, Alianza de Campesinas is also ringing the alarm at the federal level to ensure that there are “oversight mechanisms in place, so farm workers are not operating in an incredibly precarious state,” De Luna tells Food Tank.
In a letter to congress, Alianza de Campesinas, along with other allies, requested the attention and direct action of three critical issues: the exclusion of food system workers from relief, addressing food supply disruptions, and the lack of healthcare and economic assistance for marginalized communities.
“If you’re going to label a workforce essential, they need essential protections, access to information and resources about how they can best protect themselves, and how they can access essential services if needed,” De Luna Tells Food Tank.
Photo courtesy of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas.