Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

A valentine for farmworkers

Before you head off to celebrate Valentine’s Day dinner with your loved one, take a moment to send some of that love to the hardworking men and women who put all that good, fresh food on your table.

If you're reading this before 11am pacific time on February 13th, you can send a "Thunderclap" valentine to EPA's Gina McCarthy, asking her to take a stand to protect farmworker health. All of the resulting tweets and Facebook posts will appear en masse Friday morning.

If you've missed the Friday morning window, you can still participate by signing our petition, urging EPA to strengthen the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to better protect the country’s two million farmworkers and their families from the harms of pesticides. We’re setting a hard deadline for the agency, letting them know we expect to see final rules by next summer at the latest.

Worker-led movements offer real solutions

Public concern about "fair food" is definitely growing. Last year brought us two feature films showing how the power of tenacious farmworker organizing can right many of the wrongs this community has faced for decades. In March, Michael Peña stared in the film Cesar Chavez, a hollywood production telling the story of the United Farmworkers grape boycott of the 1960s. In November, the star-studded documentary Food Chains showed Florida farmworkers taking on major fast food companies (and hopefully major food retailers) to demand better working conditions on the farms.

2014 was also a year of exposés. Farmworker abuses in Mexico were highlighted in a 4-part investigative report, and the news that several workers were poisoned by pesticides in Washington state also gained attention. In that case, government analysis highlighted workplace problems with off-target pesticide drift, high toxicity of the pesticides applied, and a gap in worker notification — all issues that will be addressed by a new and improved WPS.

And after 15 years of organizing among farmworkers and farmworker advocate groups, we're on the threshold of winning these more protective rules. These past two years our broad coalition has done some great work, including:

  • Pressing members of Congress to demand quick action on the WPS.
  • Delivering more than 200,000 comments to EPA with the same message.
  • Enabling farmworkers to travel to Washington, D.C. to personally deliver their message to government officials.

So, as you show appreciation to your sweetheart with a gift of flowers, chocolate or a wonderful fresh meal, take a moment to pause in appreciation of the farmworkers whose tireless work helped bring you these fruits of their labor. And then take another moment to sign our petition, to help ensure that farmworkers are well-compensated and treated with dignity.

Photo: WILPF | Gary Coronado.

Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves is a PAN Senior Scientist with expertise in agroecology and soil ecology. As a long-time farmworker advocate, Margaret serves on the Board of the Equitable Food Initiative and works with partners around the country to ensure worker-protective federal and state policy. Follow @MargaretatPAN

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