New Report on Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Food Insecurity

The Food Action and Research Center reported last month that migrant and seasonal farmworkers tend to be young and have very high rates of food insecurity, especially among those who have children, according to a review in Social Work in Public Health. On average, migrant and seasonal farmworkers are 33 years old. Many have terminated their education by middle school, in part because the legal minimum age for farm work is 12 years compared to 16 years for other sectors of the workforce. The ten studies in the review article found varied rates of household food insecurity among both groups (migrant and seasonal) of workers even though all ten studies used the same USDA 18-question scale. In most studies, food insecurity rates were high and ranged from 50 to 65 percent; however, one study in the Southwest reported a much higher rate of 82 percent and one study in the Northeast found a much lower rate of 8 percent. Seasonal farmworkers tend to be relatively stationary while those who are migrant workers tend to move frequently, and have higher rates of food insecurity than their seasonal counterparts (55 percent versus 43 percent, respectively). Both rates are still dramatically higher than the national average.

Household level risk factors for food insecurity in this population included: lack of access to stoves and refrigerators for food preparation and storage; presence of children; and transportation challenges (reliability as well as distance to work, grocery stores, and assistance, such as food pantries). Individual risks included low maternal education and lack of documentation of legal status. (The latter makes workers vulnerable to abusive worksite practices. Workers on H-2A visas, for example, have certain rights, including the availability of food and food preparation facilities at the worksite.) Strategies to cope with food insecurity included adult reduction of food quantity or quality in order to feed children, seeking help from assistance programs (e.g., WIC, school meals, food pantries and SNAP), and eating wild foods hunted or gathered by the family or workers’ group. To improve food security for this population, the authors suggest that social workers advocate for immigration reform, increases in migrant and seasonal worker wages, inclusion in federal assistance programs, and improved access to healthy foods through alternative emergency food models, such as mobile distribution points.

Read the full report here…

Labor Awards First Federal Apprenticeship Grants

On September 8, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced the department’s award of the American Apprenticeship Initiative grants. In making the announcement, Secretary Perez stressed that the American Apprenticeship Initiative is the department’s first direct investment in this on-the-job training model. [View Full Press Release]

According to Labor, annual federal funding for apprenticeships usually supports only the administrative and regulatory work of the registered apprenticeship system. Apprenticeship sponsors, such as employers, unions and joint committees, typically fund and provide the training. Looking to increase the prevalence of this form of job-linked learning, DOL officials hoped that the grant funding would become an incentive for employers, unions and other stakeholders to increase the number of apprenticeships.

When the Employment and Training Administration solicited applications for these grants back in December, the agency anticipated using $100 million from H-1B visa fees to fund about 25 awards ranging from $2.5 to $5 million. The announced awards totaled $175,799,846 to 46 grantees, 11 of which were made at the $5 million award ceiling. This was made possible because the agency received more H-1B visa fee revenue than anticipated. A list of grantees can be found here.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Meet the United States Department of Labor — Portia Wu

Portia Y. Wu was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training in April 2014. She now leads the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) in its mission to address our nation’s workforce needs through high-quality training and employment programs. Working with States and territories, municipalities, labor management organizations, employers, educational institutions, fellow Federal agencies, and other partners, ETA strives to assist workers in gaining the skills and credentials needed to enter good jobs in promising industries that offer opportunities for advancement. ETA also addresses the needs of workers and businesses through the Unemployment Insurance program, which provides critical support to millions of Americans as they search for work, and through the Office of Foreign Labor Certification programs.

Wu has worked in the public, non-profit, and private sectors on a wide variety of labor issues and policies including job training, wage standards, work and family policy, immigration, pensions and retirement, and worker safety. Most recently, she served at the White House Domestic Policy Council as Special Assistant to the President for Labor and Workforce policy. From 2003 to 2010, Wu held several positions, including Labor Policy Director and General Counsel, advising Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

Wu is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College and holds a Master’s Degree from Cornell University. She is originally from Albany, New York and she and her family live in Washington D.C.

AFOP Signs on Lifeline Internet Access Support Letter to FCC

laptop-768694_1280For many years, the federal government has subsidized low-income people’s access to telephone service through the Lifeline program, offering phone companies a subsidy for providing free or lower-cost mobile or traditional phone service. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency with jurisdiction over the Lifeline program, is now considering whether the program should be modernized to include broadband Internet access.  Recognizing the importance of access to farmworkers, AFOP has signed a letter supporting its inclusion in the program.

According to the letter’s sponsor, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, broadband is as important today as electricity was during the last century, enabling people who use it to perform a full range of online activities, and giving more Americans access to digital education, health care, social services, and job opportunities.  Any national goals would be more easily and inexpensively achieved if millions of low-income people could effectively use broadband service, including accessing program information and performing a variety of functions through online portals instead of in-person visits or telephone calls.  Yet there continues to be a serious gap in broadband adoption among low-income communities and communities of color.  Without Internet access, students of color cannot do their homework, working single mothers cannot earn degrees online at night, and seniors and people with disabilities cannot utilize the most modern and accessible health care.  The list is endless.

Lifeline is the only federal program that addresses the cost of broadband.  Sponsors are asking anti-poverty and other organizations to sign on to the letter urging the FCC to take the necessary steps to modernize Lifeline within the year.

The deadline for electronic signatures is September 25.

To read the letter:

To sign the letter:

Millennials Unemployment Down, But…

The advocacy group Young Invincibles is reporting that the unemployment rate for young adults ages 18 to 34 fell from 7.5 percent in July to 7.0 percent in August (seasonally adjusted), while the national unemployment rate also improved, from 5.3 percent in July to 5.1 percent in August.


While it is encouraging to see this slight improvement for Millennials, racial disparities persist. Young black adults and young Hispanic adults saw little change and still disproportionately struggle to find work. The unemployment rate for each of these groups fell by only one-tenth of a percentage point. The unemployment rate for young black adults (not seasonally adjusted) fell from 13.9 percent in July to 13.8 percent in August, while the unemployment rate for young Hispanic adults (not seasonally adjusted) fell from 8.3 percent in July to 8.2 percent in August.

In comparison, the unemployment rate for young white adults (not seasonally adjusted) fell by nearly an entire percentage point, the greatest margin among all racial groups of young adults. The unemployment rate for young white adults fell from 6.6 percent in July to 5.7 percent in August.

Here are more details on how different populations of young people fared in August 2015:

  • The unemployment rate for black/African American young adults ages 18 to 34 is 13.8 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 13.9 percent in July.
  • The unemployment rate for Hispanic/Latino young adults ages 18 to 34 is 8.2 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 8.3 percent in July.
  • The unemployment rate for Asian-Pacific Islander young adults ages 18 to 34 is 4.6 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 5.2 percent in July.
  • The unemployment rate for white young adults ages 18 to 34 is 5.7 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 6.6 percent in July.

Read the full Young Invincibles article…

Success Story: Nilsa Rodriguez

A former Proteus client, Nilsa Rodriguez, is having great success with her new business: “Fiesta Super Movil” or “Party on Wheels”. The event planning and recreation business started with the assistance of Proteus partner, the Nebraska Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP) Program. Anna Santos, case manager in Columbus, Nebraska, tells this story:


Nilsa lives in Schuyler and spent many years working as a seasonal farmworker for Monsanto. She had dreams for herself that started with becoming a Proteus client. Nilsa began taking English as a second language (ESL) classes and was conversant enough to move onto the next step. She explored occupations and was thinking about becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA), but eventually she realized that she was an entrepreneur at heart.

As her case manager, I helped Nilsa make the connection with the REAP Program. REAP provides the business education and financing needed by budding business people. It is a “mini-incubator of rural entrepreneurs.”

After completing her REAP classes, Nilsa was able to take her idea of becoming a party planner and turn it into a real business. Armed with a business plan, insurance knowledge, accounting and tax systems information, and a support system to be there for questions going forward, Nilsa was ready!

With a grant from REAP, Nilsa was able to purchase bouncy houses, tables and chairs. She was also able to put a building on her property to store supplies and decorations. She even purchased a trailer so that she could move her equipment from place to place. Currently “Fiesta Super Movil” – “Party on Wheels” is doing well enough that Nilsa can support her family, including a new baby born in 2015.

With the services provided by Proteus and REAP, Nilsa no longer has to spend her time laboring in the cornfields of Nebraska. She has the flexibility to be at home with her children while she operates a successful business in her community. And because of her determination to become bi-lingual with the help of Proteus and her ESL classes, Nilsa is not limited to doing business only with Spanish-speaking customers!

– See more at:

Washington Update – September

With summer ending and Congress back in session, lawmakers only have a handful of legislative days to avert a potential government shutdown. It’s unlikely that a shutdown will be allowed to happen, but it is possible. More likely, Congress and the president will agree on a series of short-term funding measures that maintain current spending levels and a continuing resolution (or “CR”) that could last through the end of President Obama‘s term in office. Republicans in Congress are divided, however, over how to defund Planned Parenthood after videos were made public apparently showing potentially criminal behavior. Some Republicans lawmakers want to force a showdown with the Democrats and the White House over this issue.

A grand budget compromise is highly unlikely, although pressure is mounting on all sides to break the Budget Control Act spending caps put in place a few years ago. According to Washington insiders, we can expect the status quo to prevail this year and next for the following four reasons:

  • Congressional Republicans want to keep a lid on federal spending. Although congressional defense hawks, like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), are screaming about the damage the caps are doing to national defense, most Republicans are content to keep downward pressure on the discretionary budget. The caps, and the deficit reduction they generate, is probably Republican lawmakers’ most notable achievement. To change course now would be very risky for the entire Republican conference, whose base expects them to limit federal spending.
  • Neither the president nor congressional leaders have the power to push through an agreement. Gone, seemingly, is the ability to keep their rank-and-file in line. This is occurring in both parties, but perhaps most openly in the House of Representatives, where certain Republican members are considering actions to force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from his role atop leadership. No matter who the leader is these days, the followers are not following. This is not the kind of atmosphere in which budget agreements are made.
  • Greater federal spending might come at too great a political cost for the Obama Administration. Yes, Democrats want to increase federal spending, but legislation providing those funds would likely come with policy riders on issues such as Planned Parenthood, immigration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. President Obama may decide that he is unwilling to cut deals on these issues to get more dollars.
  • Lastly, whether we like it or not, we are heading into what is known in Washington, D.C. as the silly season: a presidential election year. Presidential election politics are already affecting congressional debate and actions (or lack thereof). With media attention already fixed on the many candidates for the highest office, little focus is trained on the need to fund the government. Unfortunately, budget agreements usually do not happen in a vacuum, nor are they generally crafted without a spotlight on the budgeteers. In this election season, that sort of undivided attention does not appear to be very likely. Nor does any new budget agreement.

Still we hope. As this is being written, Congress has just eight business days to get something done. And that does not take into account the day-long recess in observance of Yom Kippur. Unless congressional leaders move decisively and soon, we could be looking at a repeat of the October 2013 shutdown. Let’s hope not.

On a Related Note: A Glimpse under The Capitol Dome

On the topic of impending budget battle, the entire 46-person-strong Senate Democratic caucus sent a letter earlier this summer to the Republican leadership asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) to schedule “immediate” budget negotiations “to avoid a manufactured crisis in the fall.” From the letter: “There are less than two months left in the fiscal year, and we are deeply concerned by the fact that negotiations to craft a bipartisan budget agreement have not yet begun. With the end of the fiscal year looming, we urge you to immediately schedule bipartisan budget negotiations so that we can work together over the coming weeks to avoid another manufactured crisis…. We are ready and willing to work with you to produce a fair and balanced Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Therefore, we respectfully request you schedule the first round of these important negotiations as soon as possible.”

In response, the majority leader’s spokesman blasted Democrats for holding spending bills up from floor consideration: “We wrote back to the staffers who sent the letter and got ‘out of office’ replies from both. But it’s important to note that Congress is already engaged in negotiations: Under new leadership, the Appropriations Committee for the first time in nine years passed all appropriations bills-most with Democrat support. But Democrats are refusing to allow a floor debate on the spending bills-going so far as to filibuster a pay raise for the troops.”

AFOP Wins OSHA Grant Renewal


AFOP has won renewal of its Susan B. Harwood grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). AFOP’s grant is one of $10.5 million in one-year federal safety and health training grants OSHA has made to 80 nonprofit organizations across the nation for education and training programs to help high-risk workers and their employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand their rights and responsibilities. View Full Press Release

The department’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. AFOP will use this $165,000 to provide agricultural safety training and 15-hour train-the-trainer training to peer trainers in the agricultural industry. Target audience includes low-literacy and non-English speaking seasonal and migrant farmworkers and their employers. Training topics will include the heat stress, pesticide safety, and tractor safety. AFOP also plans to use existing training materials on heat stress and pesticide safety, and develop new materials for tractor safety. Training will be offered in Spanish.

Children Essay & Art Contest Deadline Extended (8/21)

Announcement of 2015 ContestAFOP’s 2015 Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay & Art Contest deadline has been extended to August 21, 2015. This contest allows us to showcase the talent and powerful stories present among farmworker children. Click here to apply!

Students ages 10-18, from farmworker families, are eligible to participate and can win cash awards and a trip to Las Vegas to show their work at the AFOP National Conference.

AFOP Member PathStone Wins DOL “Training to Work” Grant

PathStone Wins DOL Grant to Improve Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Adults and Youth

DOL announced June 25 that it has awarded AFOP member PathStone-Pennsylvania a $1.3 million grant through its “Training to Work” program which assists men and women enrolled in state or local work release programs in gaining the job skills necessary for in-demand occupations as they reintegrate back into society. Training to Work incorporates the comprehensive career pathways model that align education and training services to enable workers to attain industry-recognized credentials and find jobs.

According to DOL, with access to good jobs and stable employment, adults and youth involved in criminal justice system are less likely to become repeat offenders, which strengthens local economies and boosts public safety. However, rehabilitation becomes more difficult when a criminal record impedes the search for employment. To overcome this dilemma, DOL is awarding a total of $59 million to non-profit organizations to develop or expand programs to improve the employment opportunities for adults and youth involved in the criminal justice system. The funds will support programs that offer a range of services that include case management, mentoring, education and training that leads to industry-recognized credentials.