As pandemic rages, farmworkers say employers are ‘prioritizing production over … lives’

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As pandemic rages, farmworkers say employers are ‘prioritizing production over … lives’

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As of early July, 87 workers and 58 family members, 23 of them children, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to data compiled by United Farm Workers, a labor union. Many more are awaiting results.

“I don’t want to go back,” Bertha said. She feels she has only two options: Accept the working conditions, or quit.

The pandemic has forced agricultural workers throughout the Southwest to make a similar choice between their health and their incomes. Though industry representatives say farms are doing everything they can do to protect their employees, worker advocates argue a lack of industry protections – and the “invisibility” of much of the work done by day laborers – have made farmworkers especially vulnerable to exploitation.

“It just shows the contradiction in calling somebody an ‘essential worker’ but only for what you need them for, not to care for them as human beings that also are afraid of getting sick,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox, a migrant-rights advocate in Texas.
By Jessica Myers/Luce Foundation: Southwest Stories Fellowship

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Cronkite News

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Southwest Stories>Jessica Myers

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