‘Uniquely vulnerable’ farm workers on frontline of COVID-19 deserve protections of FARM Laborers Protection Act

‘Uniquely vulnerable’ farm workers on frontline of COVID-19 deserve protections of FARM Laborers Protection Act


United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero and UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres issued the following statement following introduction of the Frontline At-Risk Manual Laborers Protection Act, known as the FARM Laborers Protection Act, by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.):

Farm workers go to work each day while they are uniquely vulnerable to the novel coronavirus because they often must live, commute and work in cramped, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Given the perils of the pandemic, the essential women and men who are required to labor in agriculture need and deserve the protections of the FARM Laborers Protection Act:

• Ten days of paid sick leave to ensure workers who are infected or exposed can stay home and also be able to feed themselves and their families.

• Pandemic premium pay of $13 per hour (in addition to their regular wages) recognizing the additional health risks and economic stress that farm worker families are facing as they work to feed the nation.

  • Job security via protections from furloughs.

• The implementation of CDC recommendations for agriculture workers and employers on job sites and in employer-supplied housing and transportation.

The UFW and UFW Foundation convinced California Governor Gavin Newsom to sign an executive order mandating paid sick leave for farm workers in May, but no paid sick leave exists at the federal level yet for employers with more than 500 workers or less than 50. The UFW also negotiated with some unionized growers to provide pay raises or bonuses amounting to up to $2 an hour or more as hazard pay.


The FARM Laborers Protection Act comes at an urgent time when farm workers have been at the frontlines of the pandemic and months after Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the agricultural industry with $19 billion in direct support and $3 billion via USDA purchases of produce, dairy, and meat.   These generous allocations lacked any requirements to protect farm workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in agricultural communities.  Up until this day, farm and meat processing workers have not received hazard or comprehensive paid sick leave although they risk their lives to keep America fed. More than 10,000 meatpacking workers have been infected with COVID-19 and every day more farm workers are also becoming ill from the virus.



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