AFOP Helps Al Jazeera America Investigate U.S. Child Labor in Agriculture

Contact: Robert Crumley

Telephone: (512) 296-1046

Email: Crumley@AFOP.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AFOP Helps Al Jazeera America Investigate U.S. Child Labor in Agriculture

Fault Lines program highlights plight of farmworker children, features Director of Children in the Fields Campaign Norma Flores López

Washington, D.C. – Al Jazeera America’s Fault Lines program is broadcasting a comprehensive news report tonight at 9:30 p.m. EDT on the matter of children working in America’s fields.

“Agriculture is consistently ranked as one of the three most dangerous industries in the United States, in terms of injuries and fatalities recorded on the job—for children, it is the most dangerous,” said AFOP’s director of the Children in the Fields Campaign, Norma Flores López. “Yet, U.S. child labor laws allow boys and girls, as young as 12-years-old, to legally work in agriculture for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school.”

As a result of exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which governs child labor in America, farmworker children are permitted to use dangerous farm equipment and work in an environment that continually exposes them to pesticides, conditions deemed illegal in every other industry and that can lead to serious injury or even death. Farmworker youth are also excluded from the “hazardous work” protections imposed in all other industries, allowing children as young as 16 to operate heavy machinery and perform other dangerous functions that are strictly reserved for adults in every employment field except agriculture.

“Entrenched special interests and racial discrimination make it very difficult for us to be able to update these laws that haven’t been touched in decades,” López states.

AFOP Executive Director Daniel Sheehan added that, because of the difficult conditions in which these children labor and the constrained finances of their families, many the farmworker children are forced to interrupt their schooling to help their families make ends meet.  “Without that schooling, these children too often drop out of school, before learning what they need to break the cycle of poverty that is their existence,” Sheehan said.  “As a nation, we need for these kids to succeed.”

López accompanied the Al Jazeera television crew to Texas as it sought to interview farmworker children and their families, and to document the tremendous difficulties these children face in performing back-breaking work often in extreme heat.  As a former child farmworker herself, López also provided on-camera insights into the life experiences of farmworker children.

About the Children in the Fields Campaign:

The Children in the Fields Campaign is a project of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers. The campaign strives to improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farmworker children by advocating for enhanced educational opportunities and the elimination of discriminatory federal child labor laws in agriculture. For additional comment or interview from an AFOP expert, please contact Robert Crumley at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Crumley@AFOP.org.

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Winners – Children in the Fields Essay & Art Contest

Migrant/seasonal farmworking children, ages 10-18, win essay and art contest.

Working children encouraged to use art and literature to reflect on the impact of work and life goals.

Washington D.C. September 05, 2013 –Twelve migrant and seasonal farmworker children, ages 10-18, are recognized for expressions of their lives spent working the agricultural fields of America.

Children across our nation submitted descriptive essays and powerful posters about how working in the fields, and migrating with the seasons, affected their future goals. The theme, Cultivating Brighter Futures, encourages youth to look at the world through a lense of endless possibilities. Instead of focusing on the cultivation of food, we want youth to focus on themselves – to help plant thought-seeds of their own success, and cultivate them toward victory.

Top winners in each of the four categories will be flown to Washington DC for our national conference in September. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners for each category will be printed on a calendar, and appear in AFOP’s September issue of the Washington Newsline which is distributed to each of our 52 member agencies. Additionally, each winner receives a cash prize to be used for school related needs.

Winning essays

Ages 10-13:

1st Prize – Maria Enerida Patiño, 13, Homestead, FL

2nd Prize – Lesly Zamudio, 12, San Luis, AZ

3rd Prize –Dulce Melany Chavarra, 12, Immokalee, FL

Ages 14-18:

1st Prize – Maribel Corona, 15, Homestead, FL

2nd Prize – Stephanie Herrera-Gonzalez, 17, Bakersfield, CA

3rd Prize – Maria de Jesus Gonzalez, 16, Eau Claire, MI

Winning art

Ages 10-13:

1st Prize – Jaqueline Vargas, 13, San Luis, AZ

2nd Prize – Maria Enerida Patiño, 13, Homestead, FL

3rd Prize – Dulce Melany Chavarra, 12, Machipongo, VA

Ages 14-18:

1st Prize –Javier Alejandro Soto-Gonzalez, 15, Bakersfield, CA

2nd Prize – Jovani Pacheco-Ramirez, 16, Russellville, KY

3rd Prize – Isabel Bautista Martinez, 16, Frankfort, IN

Winning essays and artwork will also be compiled into a booklet and presented to key members of Congress. The goal is to raise awareness of the discriminatory agricultural exemption in the current federal child labor law. As the law currently allows, children as young as 12 are legally allowed to work for an unlimited number of hours outside of school in our nation’s fields and orchards. Despite agriculture being consistently ranked the most dangerous occupation in America for children, there are an estimated 300,000-500,000 children working to harvest the fruits and vegetables that end up on our tables.

Burdened with balancing school and work responsibilities, experiencing health injuries related to pesticide exposure, musculoskeletal problems from working too hard while bones are still forming, and the prevalence of accidents with farm machinery, their futures are too frquently no different from their present.

About Children in the Fields Campaign:

The campaign strives to improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farmworker children by advocating for enhanced educational opportunities and the elimination of discriminatory federal child labor laws in agriculture. Children in the Fields Campaign is a project of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers. For additional inquiry please contact Robert Crumley, Director of Communications. (202) 828-6006 x 140 or crumley@afop.org.

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The Hidden Faces of Farmworker Women

AFOP Report Documents Sexual Abuse and Health Issues Plaguing Women in the Fields

April 17, 2013 Washington, D.C.—Today, in the midst of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) released a report on the state of farmworker women’s health in the United States, detailing the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence against women working in the fields. The report, “The Hidden Faces of Farmworker Women,” authored by AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs, is the second volume of The Fields, a publication series centered on farmworker health and safety issues.

“Farmwoker women ‘have it all,’ but not in the good kind of way,” says Levy Schroeder, director of Health & Safety Programs at AFOP. “They work in one of the most dangerous and lowest paid jobs—earning even less than their poorly paid male colleagues. They are also responsible for the care of their families and households, often rising first to prepare breakfasts and lunches, followed by 10- to 12-hour days in the field, and then dinner preparation, laundry, and seeing to any other needs of their families.”

The report cites the many studies documenting the dangerous nature of farm work. Those studies link agricultural work and pesticide exposure to higher occurrences of certain types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, an increased level of stress and depression, among other diseases and maladies. “The Hidden Faces of Farmworker Women” combines that data with information AFOP staff gathered during focus groups and interviews with farmworker women from around the country to create a clear, comprehensive picture of the problems afflicting farmworker women.

Staff found that scant financial resources, immigration status, language and cultural barriers, and isolation create significant barriers to accessing health care. Interviews with female workers indicate that the unbalanced power dynamic in the fields also contributes to the extraordinarily high incidence of sexual assault. Those factors often result in farmworker women not seeking medical screening or care until a problem has progressed to an advanced or critical stage.

The report also includes a case study documenting the serious consequences that can result from daily exposure to pesticides. Staff spoke with several women from Kettleman City, California, documenting the stories of birth defects, learning disabilities, and illnesses plaguing the small, low-income, agricultural community.

“In general, farmworkers in the United States suffer poor and even abusive conditions to harvest the many fruits and vegetables Americans eat every day,” Schroder states. “The women within this group suffer disproportionately as a result of their gender. We need to fix that.”

The report concludes with ideas to improve farmworkers’ lives provided by the women who were interviewed. AFOP also presents several recommendations on how to eliminate health disparities and improve the health of farmworker women and their families.

At the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers, the Health & Safety Programs division develops trainings and coordinates health promotion activities to protect farmworkers from pesticide poisoning, heat-related illness, and other life-threatening occupational hazards. Our national network of trainers reaches thousands of farmworkers each year in 26 states and Puerto Rico. For additional comment or interview from an AFOP expert, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks@AFOP.org.

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Bills Take Very Different Approaches on Job Training

Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs Cautions on Efforts to Update the Workforce Investment Act

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee will formally introduce the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The Republican bill seeks to eliminate many of the current funding streams aimed at providing tailored federal job training and education opportunities to America’s diverse pool of jobseekers, including migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

“About 12 million Americans are without a job, but there is a shortage of workers who have the skills needed for the positions that are out there,” remarks Daniel Sheehan, executive director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP). “The Republican bill offers jobseekers a one-size-fits-all approach and effectively eliminates competition by essentially doling out funds to states, rather than allowing private, non-profit, and public agencies to compete for the resources.”

The House Democrats on the Education and Workforce Committee have introduced their own bill, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (H.R. 798), to update the federal job training legislation. The bill was introduced on February 15, 2013 by Ranking Member George Miller, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, and Congressman John Tierney. The Democratic bill continues to maintain funding for targeted federal job training programs, such as the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP), recognizing the diversity of barriers faced by various groups within America’s workforce.

“Due to the nature of farm work, it is crucial that bills seeking to reauthorize or update the Workforce Investment Act preserve the NFJP as a national program,” said Jesús Gamboa, president of AFOP and chief operations officer of Proteus Inc. in California. “Farmworkers are an extremely mobile population, following the different harvests from state to state in search of work. It is unrealistic for Congress to expect governors to serve people who may only work briefly in their state and then move elsewhere.”

The NFJP is a proven-effective federal job training program operated by 52 non-profit and public agencies that specialize in providing education and training to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Farmworkers are an exceptionally hard-to-serve population with unique barriers that the traditional universal access model would not be able to effectively serve. Typically, farmworkers face language barriers, severe poverty, and very low math and literacy rates, with an average education level of just seventh to eighth grade. Despite these significant barriers, AFOP’s member agencies awarded the competitive grants provided by the U.S. Department of Labor consistently place over 80 percent of job-training farmworker customers throughout the United States into self- and family-sustaining jobs with benefits.

“The Republican and Democratic bills take very different approaches in updating this important legislation, which is key to addressing our country’s staggering unemployment situation and, consequently, our economic problems,” Sheehan said. “In order for U.S. businesses to succeed, they need to be able to find workers with the skills they require to compete in a global market. A one-size-fits-all approach will likely fit the needs of very few, leaving our nation’s most vulnerable workers without the training they need to secure employment and earn an income.”

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is the national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. For additional comment or interview, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks@AFOP.org

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Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis Resigns

Longtime Farmworker Champion and First Latina to Head a Federal Agency Announces Her Resignation

Washington, D.C.—The White House confirmed U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is resigning. Solis offered her letter of resignation to President Obama today.

In a written statement, Solis shared:

“Over the Christmas and New Year holidays with my family in California, I enjoyed my first opportunity in years to reflect on the past and my future, with an open mind and an open heart. After much discussion with family and close friends, I have decided to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life.”

Secretary Solis, a Mexican-American, is the first Latina to serve as the head of a federal agency. Ever since her Senate confirmation, Secretary Solis has made it clear all workers have a right to be paid for the work they do and to expect safe working environments. Particularly notable of her time as U.S. Secretary of Labor is the approach the Department of Labor has taken toward our nation’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers and the organizations that provide them with services. In just her second public appearance after her confirmation, the Secretary attended the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) President’s reception in March 2009, marking the first time a Secretary of Labor had addressed an audience at an AFOP event.

“As Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis has led the agency to greater enforcement of U.S. labor laws and protections,” said Daniel Sheehan, executive director at AFOP. “She made farmworkers a priority in everything she did, resulting in more resources and opportunities to assist the workers who help put food on our county’s dinner tables.”

Secretary Solis’s attendance at the AFOP function was just the beginning of many firsts for the farmworker advocacy community. Months after enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Secretary and her staff worked diligently to distribute the ARRA funds effectively. Her department’s Training and Employment Guidance Letters for the grants mentioned farmworkers in particular, noting funds could be awarded directly to states and non-profits. This is a significant detail, as farmworkers who are laid off are generally not considered to be dislocated workers, with the exception of agricultural laborers in California. The shift to include laid-off farmworkers as dislocated workers allows for the possibility of future funding opportunities to serve those in need. PathStone Corporation was one of the recipients of this funding.

In September 2009, the Secretary also moderated a panel discussion with farmworker children. With an audience of approximately 200, this marked the first time the Department of Labor had showcased the issue of child labor in U.S. agricultural fields. The following year, Secretary Solis met with Children in the Fields Campaign youth council members who were in Washington, D.C. attending the Bert Corona Leadership Institute. The farmworker youth who met with the Secretary left the nation’s capital inspired to help make the changes they want to see in their communities. Then in August 2011, the Department of Labor took a historic step in proposing the first updates in more than 40 years to the hazardous orders for children employed in agriculture. The proposed rules were strongly opposed by the agribusiness community, with the Republic Report noting in one article that National Milk Producers Federation, just one segment of the farm lobby, spent $130,502 lobbying Congress against the child safety rules in the first three months of 2012. In April of 2012, the Obama Administration withdrew the rules to protect child farmworkers.

“It was an admirable effort to better protect the hundreds of thousands of migrant and seasonal farmworker children laboring in America’s agriculture industry,” said Norma Flores Lopez, director of the Children in the Fields Campaign at AFOP. “The fact that these rules were even proposed is a testament to the dedication of Secretary Solis. We’re hopeful that her steps, which helped bring greater awareness to the plight of these children, will help with future efforts.”

Secretary Solis also visited AFOP member HELP-New Mexico in August of 2011 to observe a Proyecto Sol training aimed at providing information to migrant and seasonal farmworkers about the dangers of heat stress and other heat-related illnesses.  AFOP Health & Safety Programs created and administers this heat stress prevention curriculum with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) through a Susan B. Harwood Training Grant. Using this curriculum, trainers provide free training to farmworkers and their employers on how to prevent heat-related illness or death. During the event, she commended the training efforts, saying “The work that you all are doing, the training that you are going through, and the assistance we are able to give, as small as it might be, to me, these are the shining stars. These are the shining moments when I feel that government is doing its best—that it’s really touching people’s lives and that’s what I’m about.”

The Secretary also took other opportunities to highlight farmworkers in the United States. In May 2010, she spent a full day with farmworkers in Immokalee Florida and visited the Immokalee Techinical Center, a sub-grantee of the Florida Department of Education’s Adult Migrant Programs, the National Farmworker Jobs Program provider in that state. Then in August of that year, she held a press conference to announce the awards for the National Farmworker Jobs Program in California, yet another first for the AFOP community.  In July 2012, Secretary Solis once again visited an NFJP grantee, observing Center for Employment Training in San Jose, California to view federal job-training investments at work. The Department of Labor under the Secretary saw 1.7 million people complete federally funded job training programs across the country, including the thousands of migrant and seasonal farmworkers served by AFOP members through the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

“During her term as U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis has continued to make farmworkers, some of the most vulnerable workers in America, a priority,” said Jesús Gamboa, president of AFOP and the Chief Operations Officer of Proteus, Inc. in California. “As a former farmworker, I have been happy to see this shift to include the people who harvest the crops and put food on our tables, an often under-appreciated, yet essential, group of workers. We thank the Secretary for her service and work to better protect all workers.”

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is the national federation of nonprofit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. For additional comment or interview, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks(at)AFOP(dot)org.

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SAFE AmeriCorps Volunteers Train 25,000 Farmworkers on Health and Safety

16 SAFE AmeriCorps Volunteers Will Receive Recognition of Their Service to America’s Farmworkers During Their Graduation Ceremony in the Nation’s Capital

Washington, D.C.– Tomorrow, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs’ (AFOP) SAFE AmeriCorps members from around the country will be honored for their accomplishments during the end of service and graduation ceremony in Washington D.C. During their year of service, the 16 SAFE AmeriCorps volunteers trained more than 25,000 farmworkers and their families in pesticide safety, heat stress prevention, and other health trainings.

“The pesticide safety and heat stress prevention trainings they provided will have a lasting impact on those farmworkers’ lives,” says Levy Schroeder, Director of Health & Safety Programs at AFOP. “Farm work is one of the most dangerous industries in America. In fact, we estimate that every 17 hours a farmworker dies because of dangerous equipment, pesticide poisoning, and heat stress.”

The ceremony will take place at the Beacon Hotel in Washington, D.C. at 6:00 PM. Kevin Keany, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Worker Safety Program at the Office of Pesticide Programs, will address the volunteers during their graduation ceremony. Ashley Nelson, Program Officer and Environmental Protection Specialist at EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program, will also participate in the graduation ceremony and offer words of thanks to the SAFE AmeriCorps volunteers for their contributions.

The SAFE AmeriCorps program was established by AFOP in 1995. In addition to health trainings, SAFE AmeriCorps volunteers also provide farmworkers and their families with direct assistance, including help with transportation, clothing, and food. They also create meaningful and lasting partnerships with agricultural employers, service providers, and faith-based organizations. Since 1995, volunteers have trained over half a million farmworkers in pesticide safety at no cost to agricultural employers or farmworkers.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) is a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provides job training and services for America’s farmworkers. The Health & Safety Programs division develops trainings and coordinates health promotion activities to protect farmworkers from pesticide poisoning, heat-related illness, and other life-threatening occupational hazards. Our national network of trainers reaches thousands of farmworkers each year in 26 states and Puerto Rico. For additional comment from or interview with from an AFOP expert, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks@AFOP.org.

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Eliminating Exemptions to Safety and Encouraging Academic Excellence

The Poder Juvenil Campesino Youth Council and NC FIELD Hold Youth Speak Event to Highlight the Occupational Dangers and Education Challenges Faced by Farmworker Children in America

Kinston, North Carolina—Today, farmworker youth, educators, and community advocates gathered in Kinston, North Carolina for Youth Speak, an event designed to discuss the occupational hazards and educational barriers farmworker children face in America. The aptly named event was organized by the Poder Juvenil Campesino youth council and NC FIELD. The format, which included a series of panel discussion, provided the opportunity for migrant and seasonal farmworker youth, who ranged in age from 12 to 22, to share their experiences.

“Youth Speak is important, because it symbolizes and represents an opportunity for youth to speak out about challenges they have faced within their community involving work, obtaining their education, being exposed in at-risk situations, and how ‘we,’ as youth, have managed to turn our lives around for the better through organizing and support from our mentors,” noted outgoing PJC youth council president and incoming NC FIELD board member, Yesenia Cuello, during her remarks.

Farmworker youth panelists, including Kemberly Cuello, Tabitha Taylor, José Montes, José Godinez, Eleazar Molina, Samantha Elkins, Jonathon Mendez, Noe Lazo, and Neftali Cuello, shared their personal experiences and the many challenges they are confronted with as a result of their work in the fields. They also discussed changes that should be made on federal and local levels to protect children like themselves.

AFOP’s director of the Children in the Fields Campaign, Norma Flores López, also spoke to the Youth Speak audience about the issue of child labor in U.S. agriculture.

“Agriculture is consistently ranked as one of the three most dangerous industries in the United States, in terms of injuries and fatalities recorded on the job—for children, it is the most dangerous,” said López, who also chairs of the Domestic Issues Committee for the Child Labor Coalition and is a former migrant farmworker child. “Yet, U.S. child labor laws allow boys and girls, as young as 12-years-old, to legally work in agriculture for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school.”

As a result of exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which governs child labor in America, farmworker children are permitted to use dangerous farm equipment and work in an environment that continually exposes them to pesticides, conditions deemed illegal in every other industry and that can lead to serious injury or even death. Farmworker youth are also excluded from the “hazardous work” protections imposed in all other industries, allowing children as young as 16 to operate heavy machinery and perform other dangerous functions that are strictly reserved for adults in every employment field except agriculture.

“While the health and safety dangers are a huge concern, those are not the only risks these young farmworkers face,” says Melissa Bailey, who previously worked with Migrant Education in North Carolina and is now the executive director of NC FIELD. “As Yesenia and the other panelists shared, farmworker youth regularly work long days in the fields and frequently see their educational opportunities cut short as a result.”

The migratory nature of farm work means that parts of the school curriculum often have to be repeated or skipped. There is evidence that more than half of these children will not finish high school, and fewer still will go on to college; this limits their options, often forcing farmworker children to continue the generational cycle of poverty, in which so many migrant and seasonal farmworkers are trapped.

Bailey notes, “We are hopeful this Youth Speak event will inspire those who attended to make a difference, both locally and nationally, by sharing these panelists’ experiences and challenging our community and leaders to protect the futures of farmworker youth.”

About the Children in the Fields Campaign:

The Children in the Fields Campaign is a project of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers. The campaign strives to improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farmworker children by advocating for enhanced educational opportunities and the elimination of discriminatory federal child labor laws in agriculture. For additional comment or interview from an AFOP expert, please contact Ayrianne Parks at  (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks@AFOP.org.

About NC FIELD

NC FIELD, Inc. is a community-based nonprofit created by the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) to advocate on behalf of migrant and seasonal farmworker youth in North Carolina. NC FIELD is dedicated to the social, economic, academic and labor justice of workers in agriculture. We seek balance in the fields and integrity for the hands that feed us. For additional comments, please contact Melissa Bailey at (919) 749-3629 or executivedirector@ncfield.org.

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Chávez Monument Offers Inspiration for Farmworker Advocates

AFOP Commends the Dedication of the César E. Chávez National Monument and Reflects on the Path Forward

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday afternoon, President Barack Obama established the César E. Chávez National Monument recognizing the legacy of the workers’ rights champion. The dedication of the monument honoring the farmworker advocate and civil rights leader marks the first time in living memory that a Mexican American has been officially honored.

“As a former farmworker, I found it to be an inspirational event honoring a great civil rights leader and his hard work to protect the farmworkers who harvest our nation’s food,” said Jesús Gamboa, president of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) and Proteus, Inc. Chief Operations Officer.

The historic occasion took place at La Paz in Keene, California, where the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) is headquartered and Chávez lived. It was attended by President Obama; Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, an ardent defender of farmworkers; Paul Chávez, the son of the César Chávez; and thousands more, including many notable Latino advocates, farmworkers, and school children, who came to pay homage to the man who made so many sacrifices to ensure safer and more humane working conditions for workers.

Some in the advocacy community have questioned the administration’s actions yesterday, however, given its withdrawal earlier this year of updates Secretary Solis proposed to the safety rules for children employed in agriculture.

“We commend the Obama Administration for establishing this monument, but are still profoundly disappointed in its action in April to pull the updates to the Hazardous Orders for children employed in agriculture. Without those updates, farmworker children’s lives continue to be put in jeopardy harvesting America’s food,” said Norma Flores López, director of AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign and chair of the domestic issues committee for the Child Labor Coalition. “It was a missed opportunity to follow in the footsteps of César Chávez who advocated so persuasively for the protection of the nation’s farmworkers.”

Those rules, which have not been updated in more than 40 years, came after changes were made to the Hazardous Orders for children employed in non-agricultural occupations; those proposed changes were implemented with little fanfare or difficulty.

“While some things have improved for farmworkers over the years, AFOP knows much remains to be done, and I was encouraged to hear the President underscore that point during his speech yesterday,” said Gamboa. “This historic step provides us with motivation for the path forward. In the words of César Chávez, ‘¡Si se puede!’”

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is the national federation of nonprofit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. For additional comment or interview, please contact Ayrianne Parks at  (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks@AFOP.org

AFOP SAFE AmeriCorps Members Shine on 9/11 National Service Day

Multiple service events help rural communities nationally to commemorate 9/11

September 12, 2012—Washington, D.C.—On Tuesday, Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs’ SAFE AmeriCorps members observed the anniversary of September 11th by holding community service events all around the country. SAFE AmeriCorps members, who work in rural communities to train farmworkers on pesticide safety and heat stress prevention, took part in 10 events that ranged from organizing toiletry and clothing drives for farmworkers, to volunteering at a soup kitchen in a rural community.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of our SAFE AmeriCorps members. To commemorate this day, they organized a variety of community service events that benefit the rural communities that they work in,” said Levy Schroeder, Director of Health & Safety Programs at AFOP. “From blood drives, to health trainings for farmworkers, our SAFE AmeriCorps members participated in this annual service day in full force.”

Originally called Patriot Day, September 11th was changed to National Day of Service and Remembrance in 2009. On this day Americans, and people around the world, are encouraged to support charitable causes, perform good deeds, or engage in other service activities. AmeriCorps commemorates this date each year by seeking to “inspire everyone to carry forward every day in their lives, through their actions toward others, the remarkable spirit of unity, understanding, and service that brought America and the world together in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.”

AFOP SAFE AmeriCorps member, Gabriela Gonzalez, who is placed with North Carolina Farm Worker Health Program, assisted Dr. Iliana Neumann from the University of North Carolina at a mobile health clinic for farmworkers in the Chapel Hill area. At the event, farmworkers had their blood pressure taken and blood sugar levels measured. Attendees were also invited to take part in activities, including singing, eating, and playing soccer. Gonzalez organized a clothing drive so participating farmworkers could pick up a few items of clothes as well.

Farmworkers have their blood pressure checked by Dr. Iliana Neumann at event on September 11, in Chapel Hill.

“They were very thankful for the time we spent together, so that they could forget about work for at least an evening,” said Gonzalez. “We should have events like this more often.  We don’t always have to bring food or clothes for them, the important thing is simply to spend time together and share important, life-saving health information.”

The SAFE AmeriCorps members not only volunteered to benefit the farmworker community, but also the rural community at large. On the other side of the country, at HELP-New Mexico, Ruth Piña worked with a local organization called Helping Hand. There, she served food to over 400 senior citizens.

Crop production is the most dangerous occupation in America with 32.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This makes it almost three times as dangerous as construction with 11.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the beginning of the program in 1995, AFOP’s SAFE AmeriCorps members have reached over 500,000 farmworkers nationally.

At the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers, the Health & Safety Programs division develops trainings and coordinates health promotion activities to protect farmworkers from pesticide poisoning, heat-related illness, and other life-threatening occupational hazards. Our national network of trainers reaches thousands of farmworkers each year in 26 states and Puerto Rico. For additional comment or interview from an AFOP expert, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks@AFOP.org.

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Labor Day Celebration Highlights Inequality in U.S. Labor Law

AFOP Notes An Estimated 2.5 Million Farmworkers Don’t Receive Many of the Protections Provided to Other Workers

August 30, 2012—Washington, D.C.—On Monday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the beginning of Labor Rights Week, a time when the United States and many of its allies recognize the rights and needs of the workforce. Governments around the world, as well as many organizations also recognize this week, which culminates in the celebration of Labor Day.

“On Monday, people across the nation will be lighting up the barbeque, celebrating having the day off, but how many people will actually be reflecting upon the achievements we have made on labor rights and where we are today? The answer, sadly, is not very many,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP). “Here in the U.S., if you do have to work on Monday, you will likely get holiday pay, unless you are one of the unlucky few who are exempt from that part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, where some unfinished business remains.”

By federal law, agricultural employers are not required to pay time and a half for overtime work. They are the only industry exempt from this requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Farmworkers earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour may work 80 hours during a heavy part of the harvest season, but those workers’ pay remains at $7.25 per hour, even on Saturday, Sunday and/or on holidays.

Moreover, farmworkers typically do not receive job-related benefits most American workers have come to expect. Health insurance, paid sick days, family leave, holidays and vacation time are almost unknown to farmworkers unless they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, most of who are not.

Farmworkers have no federal right to unemployment insurance. It is available on a state by state basis. While most states have some UI coverage for agricultural workers, some do not. States that do have coverage often have restrictions that keep farmworkers from receiving UI, which has served as an economic safety net for nearly all of this country’s workers for over 70 years. Farmworkers are also not generally paid if weather conditions keep them out of the fields.

“Can you imagine if the internet went down and your boss told you that, as a result, you wouldn’t be paid for the day?” remarks Strauss.

Children working in agriculture also do not receive the same protections as other youth working in nearly every other industry under the current labor law. Children as young as 12-years-old are legally allowed to labor in agriculture for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school, using dangerous farm equipment and working in an environment that continually exposes them to pesticides—conditions deemed illegal in every other industry and that can lead to serious injury or even death. Farmworker youth are also excluded from the “hazardous work” protections imposed in all other industries, allowing children as young as 16 to operate heavy machinery and perform other dangerous functions that are strictly reserved for adults in every employment field except in agriculture.

“It is good to celebrate many of the labor successes that have occurred in America over the years since the New Deal—the era that established so many of the rights our nation’s workers enjoy,” said Strauss. “But we need to recognize there is unfinished business. It will be a true celebration when we bring farmworkers into parity with the rest of America’s workforce.”

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is the national federation of nonprofit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. For additional comment or interview, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks(at)AFOP(dot)org.

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