“We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packing houses that are out of site and out of mind for most people in this country…We share the common experience of being preyed on by individuals that have the power to hire, fire and blacklist us…To report or complain seems unthinkable because the risk is too great. We know deep in our hearts that it is not our fault.”
-Excerpt from Alizana’s letter to Hollywood, 12 November 2017*
“When religious groups come to the fields and they learn to engage us as farm workers, it gives farm workers support, and it gives us faith that there are people outside that do care.”
– Leticia Zavala, Organizer, Farm Labor Organizing Committee*
*From NFWM’s video, Maricela’s Story: Standing with Farm Workers Against Gender Based Violence
Of the more than 800,000 farm worker women who plant, pick and pack our food, many are isolated and vulnerable to abuse. Harassment can involve everything from inappropriate comments to sexual assault and rape. Many women have to decide between reporting sexual violence and potentially facing deportation, or letting sexual violence go unchecked. Some women must trade sex to keep their jobs. Change begins by creating and expanding legal protections for farmer worker women’s safety.
Faith communities can support three current legislative proposals that will impact farm worker women. The Agricultural Worker Program Act (“Blue Card” bill – HR 641/S 175) would provide undocumented farm workers and their families with a path to earning legal permanent residence and lawful citizenship, removing or diminishing the power of perpetrators to threaten workers with deportation if they resist or report harassment. The Fairness for Farm Worker Act (HR 1080/S 385), would remedy the discriminatory denial of overtime pay and the minimum wage to farm workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) and can be an important way to build economic strength and independence for farm worker women. The BE HEARD in the Workplace Act (HR 2148) would provide civil rights protections to everyone in the workplace since current law only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. The act lays out a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and would extend civil rights protections to undocumented farm workers who are currently not protected under law. Contact your Congressional representatives to encourage their co-sponsorship and support of these important bills.
When farm workers organize, they build power; power to achieve safer and more dignified working and living conditions and to change unjust laws.
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