There is sacrifice behind the food we all enjoy. From our vegetables to our fruits, keeping the United States fed has been made possible thanks to the high-skilled talents of farm workers. Let’s keep in mind that a vast majority of farm workers are Latinos/es and, oftentimes, immigrants.
“So many workers who are disproportionately affected by heat are low-wage workers who have jobs outside [and] are often immigrant workers, workers of color,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health at the Labor Department, told NPR.
Yet, as they help us stay alive and well-fed, their own well-being is suffering. Between the heat and laws created to work against them, things aren’t always sunny and perfect on their end. This is particularly true for states in the south as they count with less protections against the heat.
See, what’s happening now is that as the scorching summer temperatures persist, farm workers across the country are facing unprecedented challenges in their quest to ensure food reaches our tables. The intense heat poses a significant risk to their health and safety, prompting a crucial discussion on providing adequate protection for these essential workers.
The Injustice Towards Farm Workers Continues
According to a recent NPR report, farm workers endure grueling conditions in extreme heat, often without access to proper shelter, cooling stations, or sufficient breaks. The lack of protective measures exposes them to the dangers of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and other heat-related illnesses. Tragically, there are recent reports where a farm worker lost their life due to the deadly heat.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lives of 36 workers were taken in 2021. Conversely, in 2020, it climbed up to 56 workers. As per NPR, an average of 43 workers were killed by the heat due to the negligence by their employers each year.
The situation calls for urgent action and attention from both farmers and policymakers to address the risks faced by these workers. Safety protocols must be enhanced, including the provision of shaded rest areas, access to drinking water, and regular breaks to minimize heat-related health hazards.
Farm workers are the backbone of our agricultural system, tirelessly laboring to cultivate and harvest the food we rely on. It is imperative that their well-being is prioritized, and measures are put in place to protect them from extreme heat. The Washington Post emphasizes the need for regulations and enforcement to ensure farmers provide a safe working environment for their employees, such as shade, water, and rest. After all, comprehensive heat stress prevention plans that take into account the unique challenges faced by farm workers, is what will make a difference.
As consumers, we can also play a role in supporting farm workers’ rights by advocating for fair working conditions and supporting initiatives that promote their well-being. By raising awareness and demanding change, we contribute to building a more equitable and sustainable agricultural industry.