Happy Farmworker Awareness Week! Each year we celebrate this nationwide event by encouraging the PAN community to join us in a variety of actions, from lifting up stories from the field to supporting actions to protect the health of farmworkers and their families. Among the urgent challenge these workers face every day is exposure to harmful pesticides on the job.
Our food system depends on the labor of these more than two million workers, and they depend on our support! This year there’s a lot happening. Topping our list of action opportunities is the fact that EPA has finally proposed much-needed improvements in the national worker safety rules for farmworkers. It's about time!
EPA's draft rules are an important step in the right direction, but don't do nearly enough to create a healthy workplace for farmworkers. Their proposal is open for public comment right now, and we need to press the agency to make it stronger.
Time for better protections
Since 2000, we’ve worked with farmworkers and farmworker advocates around the country to urge EPA to make much needed changes to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). They've finally taken action, and we need to pull out the stops to be sure they get it right.
The more people they hear from, the better. You can rest assured that the voices calling for ‘deregulation’ to trump worker protections will be loud and strong. Please sign on to our citizen petition — and look for opportunities in the coming weeks to submit your individual comments as well. The comment period is open for 90 days.
There are many ways the rule needs to be improved. Two of our main messages are:
- Protect farmworker youth: The rules must be changed so that children under 18 are not allowed to mix or apply pesticides – two of the most hazardous on-farm jobs, especially for teens whose developing bodies are notably more susceptible to pesticide hazards than those of full-grown adults.
- Don't weaken farmworkers' right to know: The draft rules eliminate the current requirement to post, in a central on-farm location, basic information about what pesticides are applied where and when, when it’s safe to re-enter treated fields, and medical emergency information.
An estimated 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops annually in the U.S. The nation’s 2–2.4 million farmworkers face the greatest threat from the health impacts of these chemicals.
Say "thank you" to farmworkers
Throughout the country, from college campuses to rural communities, from laptops to the big screen, people are pitching in this week to say "Thank You" to farmworkers.
We stand together with this hard-working, skilled workforce that produces much of the food we eat. We invite you to join us in acknowledging and supporting the importance of this work, as well as the organizations and individuals who have struggled for decades to achieve workplace justice for farmworkers across the country.
Here are some actions you can take this week to show your support!
- View the new Cesar Chavez film showing in theaters around the country starting this Friday, March 28.
- Organize a meet-up and discussion of the movie using this toolkit.
- Take the pledge to Stand up for Food that is Responsibly Grown through the exciting new Equitable Food Initiative.
- Sign the petition — Ask President Obama to proclaim a National Day of Service on Cesar Chavez's Birthday, March 31. Let's honor his legacy by engaging in meaningful public service in communities across the country.
- Are you part of a college or university community? Check out the work of Student Action with Farmworkers for many more ways to get involved.
Step up & be creative!
So pick one or more of the activities listed above — or create your own — and join us in celebrating and supporting U.S. farmworkers.
Are you feeling creative? Join this online action by contributing your 25-word comment to Toxic Free North Carolina’s online "comment contest." I did it and this is what I said, addressing the need for better protections for children:
"Our children are precious. It’s immoral to send them into the most hazardous jobs. Ms./Mr. regulator, wouldn't you protect your own children?"
Photo credit: dmaroscar/iStock