From WCJB.com, 20 ABC WCJB-TV North Central Florida, “National Farm Worker Awareness Week” by Corrie Lovette, 28 Mar 2011.
In the United States, between 2 and 3 million men, women and children are farm workers. And they are facing serious issues in the fields.
This is National Farm Workers Awareness Week. A time to remember that farm workers are literally putting food on our tables. Beyond that, farm workers do not always have the same labor conditions that other professions require, leaving room for exploitation and abuse.
Case in point, the ongoing investigation into the alleged abuse of 34 Haitian workers at the Steven Davis Farm in Lacrosse.
Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice Community Organizer and Co-Founder Vickie Mena said, “80 percent of the food we eat is hand picked. somebody’s out there working in the field, working in the hot sun, in Florida conditions to put food on our table.”
In a play off of the popular “Got milk?” advertisements, Mena and others in North Central Florida are asking the question: Got Food?
Mena said, “It’s about as a consumer, knowing where your products are coming from, how it’s harvested and ultimately that the workers that are doing the harvesting, that they are being paid fair wages and that they’re being respected as individuals.”
According to a 2001 US Department of Labor survey, the average salary of an agricultural worker is between $10 and $12 thousand dollars a year. With 30% of farm worker families below the poverty line.
Mena said, “For every pound of tomatoes that are picked, only 1.4 cents translates down to the actual worker… that’s what they get. And yet we’re paying $2.99 a pound for tomatoes.”
Federal law doesn’t guarantee overtime or collective bargaining rights for farm workers. Also, many are immigrants … here illegally or on temporary work visas … often making them targets for exploitation.
DCF Human Trafficking Coordinator Tyson Elliott said, “The fear of being deported. The fear of law enforcement, of immigration officials…they can use that to their advantage to manipulate these people into working in these kind of conditions.”
With these challenges in mind, the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice was created to help advocate for a segment of society that often can’t speak for themselves. They’ll be using this week to educate our community about the issues that affect farm workers. For more information visit the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice Facebook page or http://gainesvilleiaij.blogspot.com/