Protect Washington Farmworkers from COVID-19

Workers at over 6 farms and packing sites went on strike in Yakima, Washington as of May 17, 2020. Among the unions deeply organizing are Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ / “Families United for Justice”).

Recent workplace guidelines sided with bosses to continue using cramped, bunkbed housing at many farms and processing plants. Isolation during COVID-19 is not possible in bunk housing.

At work, protections ranging from PPE, social distancing, paid sick time off are scarcely enforced (if available at all) by state regulatory bodies (Department of Health, Labor & Industries, and Gov. Inslee’s office). With H2-A workers, the potential to lose their job while recovering from COVID-19 means bosses can exploit them to work despite being sick as there’s the constant thread of deportation.

From the state legislature, we need a response matching the severity of the pandemic. It's not altruism or to feel good: the dignity and survival of farmworkers directly relates to our own survival as workers primarily in King County.

The demands are as follows:

  • Cramped, bunkhousing is a disaster waiting to happen. We can't afford to wait-and-see on this issue. Emergency housing is needed, whether shelters and/or use of hotels to ensure social distancing on and off site.
  • Farmworkers need masks. Personal protective equipment, including properly fitting masks, face shields, and gloves aren't reliably available or in the sizes needed.
  • Scale up monitoring and enforcement against bosses. Monitoring and enforcement of the housing rules have not been scaled up during the crisis.
  • Protect pay and employment status. Paid time off protections to prevent disruption to employment status and pay.
  • Hazard pay to ensure those willing to take on this needed work have the resources they need to care for their families.
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