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Stop the hypocrisy!

Gloria Meneses-Sandoval  |  Issue: July 2020
Women on strike for justice for agricultural workers

Women on strike for justice for agricultural workers.
PHOTO: Edgar Franks

 

An essential worker is a new term that has popped up during the coronavirus pandemic. As executive orders required most people to stay at home took effect, essential workers were recognized as those workers that risked their lives so that others could stay home and be safe from the coronavirus.

It includes many hospital healthcare workers, firefighters, police, farmworkers as well as specific businesses such as gas stations and markets that carried needed items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and food. Many non-essential workers were able to work from home.

The use of the word “essential” has made others feel like its opposite, as if they are expendable and not needed. Some of this sentiment was used to force open the economy as businesses reached a point of no return. This pitted economic survival against public health.

It is interesting that farmworkers are now magically considered “essential” because they are ensuring that food is available at our markets, hospitals and nursing homes. Closure of most restaurants also made it difficult to keep ordering produce and other agriculture and dairy items.

Only now are farmworkers needed when before the pandemic they had been expendable and deportable. The problem with calling farmworkers “essential” is that they had no choice but to work since they were excluded from protection or extra pay. They had their children at home. Who would take care of them and help them with their distance learning schooling? Some lacked the technology or internet connection to even do their schooling. Yet, farmworkers were required to go to work.

It is well documented that perhaps 60 percent of farmworkers are undocumented and have been excluded from the federal stimulus assistance or unemployment insurance benefits. Even in those households where one of the adults was undocumented and the other adult a citizen, the entire family was excluded from receiving a stimulus check! This is hypocrisy! How can we call them heroes when their safety and health are not ensured?

This hypocrisy must stop. It is an injustice. We must demand that all people be protected and receive the financial assistance equally, whether undocumented, employed, or unemployed. Furthermore, we must demand the adjustment of immigration status because not only are they essential, they are also taxpayers and a legitimate part of our country! We are in this together!

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