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Giving Compass' Take:
• A podcast at Food Tank calls attention to the lack of support for farm workers, as they face disproportionate health efffects from wildfires and COVID-19.
• How does the lack of attention towards agricultural workers' health impact minority communities even more? What are you doing to support these essential workers as they deal with dual human-caused disasters?
• Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on agricultural workers even before wildfires struck.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country, wildfires in the western United States are compounding problems for the region’s farmworkers.
“Whether it’s climate change, whether it’s farm worker poverty, whether it’s this pandemic – who’s suffering the most? It’s Blacks and Latinos,” Baldemar Velásquez, Founder and President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) tells Food Tank.
Mid-August saw an increase in fire activity and since then, the air quality index in many areas along the West coast has hovered at levels that range from unhealthy to hazardous.
In California, employers are required by law to supply masks to outdoor workers when air quality exceeds a certain threshold. But a recent poll conducted by United Farm Workers (UFW) found that 84 percent of the state’s farm workers did not receive a mask.
Already, farm workers are in a vulnerable position. A Politico analysis finds that agricultural counties have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country.
And farm workers lack health care access, experience fear using medical services, and are excluded from state-wide and federal safety net programs, according to preliminary data from a study led by the California Institute of Rural Studies.
“[Farm workers] say ‘how is it possible that we are considered essential, but we’re not treated as such?’” Teresa Romero, President of the UFW tells Food Tank.
On the latest episode of the podcast, hear from Velásquez, Romero, as well as co-directors of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Sonia Singh and Suzanne Adely. They discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change on farm workers and the lack of protections for essential workers.
Listen to the full podcast about farm workers facing crises at Food Tank.