An Unprecedented Alliance Emerges to Protect California Farmworkers Amid COVID-19 Spike
Advocates have warned since the beginning of the pandemic that the 2.4 million farmworkers who plant and harvest the nation’s food live and labor under conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.
As the situation in Monterey illustrates, cramped living quarters, mistrust of government, a failure to enforce social distancing in fields and packing sheds, misinformation, and the fear of deportation are all driving the spread of the virus among these workers the nation has deemed essential.
“Usually we work at odds with a lot of the ag employer community because we’re alleging they violated the law and are asking them to do better by their workers,” said Aaron Voit, who runs a medical-legal partnership for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) to improve farmworkers’ living and working conditions. “But we’ve been able to collaborate through this coalition.”
The alliance began to coalesce in early April, about a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to prepare for the pandemic. It has picked up members and momentum ever since.