By Zeenab Aneez, Communications Manager, HEAL Food Alliance
We’re coming to the end of National Farmworker Awareness Week 2022 but cultivating food is a year round practice. Farm workers were out in the fields through the pandemic, and will continue to grow and harvest the food we all eat through extreme weather events and political upheavals.
The history of agricultural labor in our country is a history of people power, solidarity and a fight for justice and equity. From the early revolts by enslaved people in plantations, to immigrant workers who are striking for better pay and working conditions today, a widespread movement of farmworkers is coming together to advocate for better working conditions and fair wages.
Today, on March 31st, we honor #CesarChavez whose work and life provided critical scaffolding for the farmworker-led movement to thrive. Let’s pledge to support farmworkers’ fight for safer working conditions, living wages, food sovereignty, pathways to citizenship, and opportunities for economic growth. Want to get engaged? Here’s a list of HEAL member and ally organizations that center the leadership and well-being of farm workers. Keep reading to learn how you can support them all year round!
Project Milpa, Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance (IORC), Idaho
IORC’s Project Milpa is aimed at fostering food sovereignty among the Idaho Farmworker and immigrant community. The initiative involves sourcing and growing non genetically modified, organic, and culturally relevant food to feed Idaho’s Latinx community, most of whom are of Mexican descent and have been significantly burdened by the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic the farmworkers in our community have been keeping conventional agriculture working and our communities fed at the expense of their health and well being. A way to honor their sacrifices and to provide aid we wanted to provide nutritious food that would not further harm them and their families or contribute to the same companies exploiting them.”
Read their full blog post about how the community came together to make Project Milpa work.
Pesticide Action Network
The industrial agricultural system is dependent on a host of toxic chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers, and current regulations fail to protect farm workers from health risks associated with exposure.
“Farmworkers and their families can also be exposed when living in or near treated fields. And studies show that pesticides carried from field to home on parents’ clothing and skin put farmworker children at risk. Our regulatory system has failed to protect farmworkers from these on-the-job harms. Farmworkers are some of the only workers in the country not provided protections under the federal health and safety agency, OSHA.”
Pesticide Action Network works with farm workers across the country and organizations such as California’s for Pesticide Reform to fight for stronger protections on the job. They have had many wins, but they are up against a handful of greedy corporations and powerful lobbies and must continue to organize against these forces. Learn more and support their campaign.
Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), Florida
The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) is building power among farmworkers, in particular those from Latinx, Indigenous and Haitian communities, and rural low-income communities in Florida. Their programs include advocacy against pesticide use, immigrant rights, worker justice, and disaster response, and they also build power among farmworker communities through training and organizing support.
“Our guiding vision is a social environment where farmworkers’ contribution, dignity, and worth are acknowledged, appreciated, and respected through economic, social, and environmental justice. This vision includes farmworkers being treated as equals, and not exploited and discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, gender, or immigrant or socioeconomic status. …FWAF’s core strategy is to help farmworkers realize and build upon their power to be effective agents of social and personal change”
Keep track of FWAF’s work on their Facebook page, and learn more about their history and current work through this conversation with organizer Jeannie Economos on the HEAL Blog.
Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA)
The Food Chain Workers Alliance brings together workers from all across the food chain to advocate for fair working conditions, living wages, and the right to organize. Here’s a list of FCWA members whose work centers the leadership and power of farmworkers.
Community to Community Development, Washington
Based in Washington State, Community to Community Development is a farmworker led organization that works with farmworker unions to negotiate better working conditions and living wages for themselves. For stories from the frontlines of the struggle for farmworker justice, listen to their podcast Community Voz!
Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Washington
Familias Unidas por la Justicia is a local farmworker union that represents over 500 Indigenous workers and their families to support tulip workers as they striked for better working conditions and fair pay. Follow them on facebook for latest news and updates. Recently, Community to Community Development, and Familias Unidas por la Justicia worked together to support tulip workers as they went on strike for better working conditions and fair pay.
Rural and Migrant Ministry, New York
This New York State – based organization, has been building power among workers, especially farmworkers in rural New York. Rural and Migrant Ministry’s Justice for Farmworkers Legislative Campaign seeks to ensure that farmworker voices are heard at the policy-making tables that impact their lives. Follow their efforts here.
Migrant Justice, Vermont
Migrant Justice is a worker-led organization that seeks to build the voice, capacity, and power of the local farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights. Their victories include the ‘Milk with Dignity’ agreement with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream which established the first of its kind worker-driven human rights program in the dairy industry.
CATA: The Farmworker Support Committee, New Jersey
Founded by migrant farmworkers in 1935, CATA focuses on empowering farmworkers and the immigrant community in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland as they fight for justice for themselves, their families and their communities. Immigrant workers, especially undocumented immigrant workers, are particularly vulnerable to workplace abuses in the form of wage theft, poor working conditions, unfair firings and lack of healthcare. CATA works with them to advocate for raising the minimum wage, paid time off and collective bargaining protections. Their website has more information on how you can learn more and join their fight.