Bringing Awareness to the Injustices Faced by Farmworkers
A healthy lifestyle, including a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, is a priority for many people. But how many of us give a thought to how those delicious tomatoes or strawberries were harvested? In the United States approximately three million farmworkers are responsible for the tasty bounty, but they pay a hefty price physically because agricultural work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States.
In addition to suffering from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries and skin disorders of any workers in the country, farmworkers also experience more heat stress, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections and tuberculosis than other workers. Plus, overtime and unemployment insurance are not guaranteed for them under federal law. The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers on large farms only, and it still doesn’t include provisions for overtime.
In an effort to bring awareness to the dangers and inequities faced by farmworkers, National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) (March 25-31, 2020) was initiated in 1999 to coincide with the week of Cesar Chavez’s birthday (March 31). It is an inspirational way to honor the legacy of the leader of the farmworker movement.
“Because I attend many of the United Farmworkers’ events, including trainings and workshops, I have heard first-hand about the grueling conditions under which these men, women and children work,” says Monica Fairwell, an associate at the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). “Often, they live apart from their families, are paid wages that can hardly sustain them—even in the barest bones of living conditions—and are constantly worried about their immigration status. It’s not only physically but also emotionally taxing work.
“It is my hope that many of those with whom we work, will join GEK in donating to the cause through the Student Action with Farmworkers organization or participating in the National Long-Sleeve Shirt Drive. Together, we can make a difference.”