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August 19, 2014

Farmworkers, public health advocates, labor organizations, and public officials, were among the more than 175,000 who submitted comments to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling on the agency to strengthen its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS). The WPS is the only federal standard designed to protect the nation’s more than 2 million farmworkers from one of their greatest occupational hazards: pesticide exposure.

“Farmworkers face dangerous exposure to poisons over the course of their working life,” said Eve Gartner, attorney for Earthjustice, a public interest law firm. “While most Americans benefit from broad workplace protections, farmworkers are not protected by the same health and safety standards.”

“The nation’s 2 million farmworkers deserve the level of workplace protections provided to other workers,” said Margaret Reeves, PhD, a senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network. “Protections for workers from pesticide exposure also mean protections for farmworker children and families.”

“Each year pesticide exposure poisons tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families,” said Virginia Ruiz, Director of Occupational and Environmental Health at Farmworker Justice. “We hope EPA responds to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who submitted comments in support of stronger protections and acts quickly to implement a Worker Protection Standard that prevents needless illness, injury, and death in farmworker communities.”

The groups are calling on EPA to change the proposed standard to include:
● Parity with safety rules provided to workers in non-agricultural industries
● Improved safety training annually and starting before workers enter treated fields
● Easily accessible information about pesticides used on the farm and in nurseries
● No children under 18 years of age allowed to handle hazardous pesticides
● Strict adherence to no-entry rules for areas recently treated with pesticides
● Improved protections and safety monitoring for pesticide handlers

Elvia Vasquez of Oxnard, California worked in the fields of Southern California picking strawberries, lettuce and broccoli for nearly a decade. "I would get rashes and headaches when forced to enter the strawberry fields that had been sprayed with pesticides only hours before," said Vasquez, who now works with Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Inc. to educate farmworkers on the dangers of pesticide exposure.

“We know the EPA has all the information they need to finalize a stronger, better WPS that actually provides real protections for the people who feed our nation,” said Tirso Moreno, General Coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida . “The administration has heard the stories from farmworkers and they know what is needed to do the right thing.”

"Millions of farmworkers are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals without adequate safeguards to protect their health," said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO. "The least the EPA can do is take basic steps to protect farmworkers from being exposed to these toxic chemicals."

Indeed the administration has been hearing from workers and advocates for over a decade now - the WPS was first adopted in 1995 and has been awaiting revision since 2000. EPA is finally expected to issue the finalized rule by early 2015, after closing its public comment period on their proposal for a revised WPS at midnight on Monday, Aug 18.

More than 175,000 petition signatures were collected by Earthjustice, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Migrant Clinicians Network, Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers, and CREDO.
 

August 11, 2014

About 2.5 million men and women work on our nation’s farms and ranches; nobody knows how many of them are laboring on Monroe County’s more than 450 farms. It is hard work, made worse by our inhumane national immigration system which Congress seems determined not to fix.

Today the system serves neither our economic interests nor does it protect farmers and their workers, a majority of whom are undocumented immigrants. In the Rochester area, many work picking apples, which is particularly dangerous given the risks of pesticide exposure. Their wages are low and fringe benefits are rare. Housing, when available, is often decrepit and crowded. Undocumented status inhibits workers’ ability to speak up against wage violations, sexual harassment and other abuses.

Agriculture contributes $5.7 billion annually to New York’s economy, yet farmworkers do not have the right to join a union free from retaliation or to overtime pay, and they aren’t guaranteed a day of rest. Bills to address these basic needs stalled in New York’s State Senate. Both of us have first-hand experience with these issues. After entering the United States at age 15 as an undocumented immigrant, Librada joined her brothers picking apples in New York. A single apple tree might be sprayed three times a week or more with a dangerous mix of pesticides, exposing workers to serious long and short-term health risks. In college years later, Librada learned what her rights were and what workplace standards apply to the farms where she had worked. As a public interest lawyer and policy advocate, Bruce and his colleagues help farmworkers remedy their problems.

Our broken immigration system remains a barrier to progress for farmworkers.After months of negotiations between farmworker and agricultural stakeholders, a bipartisan group of senators in Washington produced a tough-but-fair compromise that is included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill. But obstruction in the House of Representatives has led to demands for President Obama to alleviate the harm unfairly inflicted on law-abiding,undocumented immigrants. The President should act, but only Congress can grant aspiring Americans the opportunity to earn legal residency and citizenship.

Goldstein is president of Farmworker Justice, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C. Paz, a former farmworker, is the Robert F. Kennedy human rights laureate for 2012 and a Brockport resident.

August 11, 2014

About 2.5 million men and women work on our nation’s farms and ranches; nobody knows how many of them are laboring on Monroe County’s more than 450 farms. It is hard work, made worse by our inhumane national immigration system which Congress seems determined not to fix.

Today the system serves neither our economic interests nor does it protect farmers and their workers, a majority of whom are undocumented immigrants. In the Rochester area, many work picking apples, which is particularly dangerous given the risks of pesticide exposure. Their wages are low and fringe benefits are rare. Housing, when available, is often decrepit and crowded. Undocumented status inhibits workers’ ability to speak up against wage violations, sexual harassment and other abuses.

Agriculture contributes $5.7 billion annually to New York’s economy, yet farmworkers do not have the right to join a union free from retaliation or to overtime pay, and they aren’t guaranteed a day of rest. Bills to address these basic needs stalled in New York’s State Senate. Both of us have first-hand experience with these issues. After entering the United States at age 15 as an undocumented immigrant, Librada joined her brothers picking apples in New York. A single apple tree might be sprayed three times a week or more with a dangerous mix of pesticides, exposing workers to serious long and short-term health risks. In college years later, Librada learned what her rights were and what workplace standards apply to the farms where she had worked. As a public interest lawyer and policy advocate, Bruce and his colleagues help farmworkers remedy their problems.

Our broken immigration system remains a barrier to progress for farmworkers.After months of negotiations between farmworker and agricultural stakeholders, a bipartisan group of senators in Washington produced a tough-but-fair compromise that is included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill. But obstruction in the House of Representatives has led to demands for President Obama to alleviate the harm unfairly inflicted on law-abiding,undocumented immigrants. The President should act, but only Congress can grant aspiring Americans the opportunity to earn legal residency and citizenship.

Goldstein is president of Farmworker Justice, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C. Paz, a former farmworker, is the Robert F. Kennedy human rights laureate for 2012 and a Brockport resident.

Featured Blog

September 05, 2014

As the summer comes to an end, President Obama has yet to announce his executive action to reform the broken immigration system. Instead, reports indicate that President Obama may delay the announcement of his executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections. In June, the President said that he would announce executive action by the end of the summer. Although the White House has not said what the action will entail, it is expected that part of his action will involve granting millions of undocumented immigrants with strong ties to the U.S. protection against deportation and work authorization. The White House has suggested that action could be delayed by the unaccompanied minor crisis at the border but the real reason that they are considering the delay appears to be political. Several red-state Democratic Senators are running in close races and there is a good chance that Democrats could lose control of the Senate. This has caused some Democratic Senators and Democratic political advisors to caution the President to hold off on executive action.

Democrats fear that if the President makes a big announcement before the election it could turn off some moderates and swing voters in Southern states and would encourage angry conservatives to turn out to vote for Republicans. On the other hand, inaction by the President could result in Latinos staying home. However, the only Senate race with a large Latino population is Colorado’s.
There has also been some speculation that if the President acts, Republicans will try to defund the program through the budget process and end up shutting down the government. Republicans were blamed for shutting down the government last year and they would likely be blamed again, which could be a boon for Democrats. Of course, in this scenario cooler heads could prevail and Republicans could avoid a shut down.

Adding a further complication, Speaker Boehner has suggested that the House could take up immigration reform next year if the President does not take executive action. Of course, the House Republican Leadership is responsible for the failure of immigration reform to move forward this year and there has been no indication that the situation may be different next year. 

Among those Senators urging delay is Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who thinks the President should wait until after the election to announce any action. Other Senators have expressed concern about executive action. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) who is up for reelection said he has concerns about executive action and that immigration is a job for Congress. Angus King (I-ME), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, opposes executive action. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has not taken a position as to whether the President should act before or after the election. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) opposes any delay by the President. ef

Farmworker Justice and other advocates for immigration reform are urging the President not to wait to take executive action. Last week, 145 protesters were arrested in a civil disobedience in front of the White House organized by CASA de Maryland. The protestors were demanding an end to the massive numbers of deportations. Advocates argue that thousands of immigrants are deported each week, some of whom could be eligible for Obama’s administrative relief program. While the President continues to promise action, how big that action will be and when it will take place – before or after the elections – are the salient issues. President Obama will be interviewed on “Meet the Press” on Sunday where he is sure to be asked about his plans for administrative relief for undocumented immigrants.
The Migration Policy Institute issued a brief this week, “Executive Action for Unauthorized Immigrants: Estimates of the Populations that Could Receive Relief,” which provides estimates of the numbers of undocumented immigrants who would be affected by various proposals for affirmative administrative relief.
 

Immigration

September 05, 2014

Stay in the know by reading our briefs on the latest happenings in immigration reform and the impacts on farmworkers. 

Immigration reform updates

9/05/2014 Farmworker Justice Immigration Update

8/22/2014 Farmworker Justice Immigration Update

June 04, 2013

Immigration is a critically important issue for farmworkers. Learn about current legislation proposals impacting farmworkers.

June 04, 2013

Learn about the history of guestworker programs, H-2A program for temporary agricultural work, and the H-2B visa program.