farmworkers

Margaret Reeves's picture

Earlier this month, a group of farmworkers traveled from Florida and North Carolina to bring their very real-world concerns about pesticides to decisionmakers in DC. On the heels of their visits, we now hear that a long-awaited update of the rules designed to protect workers in the field is actually, finally moving forward.

The Worker Protection Standard — or WPS — is the one rule intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure on the job. It first went into effect back in 1995 and has never been strengthened or updated, despite clear evidence that workers across the country are suffering health harms from exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job. Now it looks like improvements are finally in the works. And it's about time.

Margaret Reeves's picture

EPA recently fined Bayer CropSciences $53,000 for endangering the lives of farmworkers with pesticide exposure in their Puerto Rican research and nursery operations. While this is a tiny drop in Bayer's multi-million dollar budget, we do take it as an encouraging sign.

The good news: When rules are enforced — in this case, the federal Worker Protection Standards (WPS) — employers are held accountable for protecting workers from exposure to hazardous pesticides. The less good news: Enforcement actions like this one are all too rare, and the WPS itself is old, inadequate and in serious need of an upgrade.

Margaret Reeves's picture

A bountiful table surrounded by friends and family — that's how many of us celebrate Thanksgiving. So it makes sense that this week we pause and give thanks to the many people who make the celebration possible.

From the farmers who grow the food, to the workers who package and process it, to the millions of farmworkers who work extraordinarily hard to cultivate and harvest the crops that sustain us all, those all along the food chain deserve our thanks — and our support.

Margaret Reeves's picture

Far too many of the United State's 80 million workers still don't receive fair wages or adequate workplace protections. This Labor Day, people across the country — in the streets and in Washington D.C. — are joining the call for better labor practices.

In his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this week, President Obama noted: "For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate." Workplace protection policies for many, including farmworkers, have also remained stagnate — and wholly insufficient. Change is long overdue.

Margaret Reeves's picture

Today farmworkers from across the country are showing up on Capitol Hill to demand rules that protect them and their families from harmful pesticides. We urge leaders in Washington to listen carefully — and then do the right thing.

EPA has been promising to strengthen existing rules for the past 13 years, but the reality in the fields remains the same: farmworkers regularly face harmful exposures to pesticides. An estimated 10,000-20,000 are poisoned each year, and countless more suffer long term health harms. With today's fly-in, more than a dozen farmworkers from several states will put faces and stories to these numbers for lawmakers, and deliver a simple message: Enough is enough.