As farmworkers prepare for their second pandemic-era harvest, it is time the state does everything it can to ensure their safety.
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By Casey Creamer
Casey Creamer is the president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, ccm@cacitrusmutual.
Ian LeMay, Special to CalMatters
Ian LeMay is the president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, one of the state’s oldest agricultural trade associations, email@example.com.
With the vaccine rollout underway, new vaccines coming online and kids returning to schools, there finally appears to be a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, at least for some.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced California would reserve 10% of its vaccine allotment specifically for teachers and school employees. President Joe Biden directed every state to prioritize educators for vaccination. These commitments represent a value statement that recognizes the vital role teachers and school employees serve in our society and the urgency we must move with to protect this precious workforce.
We applaud these moves and say that now is the time we extend that same recognition to the men and women who have protected the integrity of our food supply and made sure we can all have a meal on our kitchen tables. That is why we are calling for the state of California to set aside at least 10% of vaccines for farm employees.
The perils of the virus have had a disproportionate impact on farmworker communities. A recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, highlighted the pandemic has caused a nearly 60% increase in deaths among Latino food and agricultural employees. This is the highest risk factor for any industry or demographic in the state, including health care workers.
Despite the challenges tied to the pandemic, farmworkers have been there for all of us. They cannot work from home or harvest crops via Zoom. They know there are risks, they have seen the impact of COVID-19 on their peers, and they are still going to work. The food shortages people feared have not materialized because of the silent bravery of thousands of unseen heroes who define what it means to be an essential worker every day. Now it is our turn to fight for them.
As farmworkers prepare to deploy for their second pandemic-era harvest, recognizing all of the associated risks, it is time the state does everything it can to protect and ensure their safety. This means ensuring a stable and readily accessible supply of vaccines for this essential workforce.
Now is our chance to step up and show agricultural employees we value them too. With vaccines in hand and the state prioritizing other essential workforces, we owe it to farmworkers to afford them this protection. We submit that a 10% minimum allocation is the least that we can do.
Join us in the fight for #FarmworkerEquity.