The Syracuse Post-Standard recently published an op-ed on the coronavirus outbreak among greenhouse workers in Central New York which was co-written by WJCNY Advocacy Director Emma Kreyche.
The latest testing showed 169 of Green Empire Farms’ 250 workers tested positive for COVID-19. When those workers arrived to work in the company’s greenhouses in December, the housing which was planned onsite had not been built, so they were crammed into local hotels.
When workers living in the hotels contracted the disease, it spread rapidly in the overcrowded, communal spaces.
The fast infection rate highlighted the state’s failure to protect these and other vulnerable workers from the coronavirus, as well as abusive and negligent employers.
The state Public Health Law requires employers secure a permit for operating migrant housing facilities. However, they often use hotels for housing workers instead.
We at WJCNY, along with local farmworkers, have for months been warning state officials that the often unsanitary conditions migrant and seasonal workers are pushed into by employers could provide the perfect conditions for COVID-19 to spread.
We are asking Governor Cuomo for immediate emergency health and safety regulations for agricultural operations, and to ensure farmworkers can access proper quarantine housing if they are infected or have been exposed to the virus.
Photo: N. Scott Trimble, Syracuse.com