We are calling on Governor Cuomo and New York State lawmakers to take immediate action to protect farmworkers from COVID-19 and support those who have already been impacted. The agricultural workforce is essential to New York’s economy and to the security of our food supply, yet farmworkers remain unprotected and vulnerable to both infection and extreme economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus.
For the past two months, urgent pleas by farm laborers and worker advocates alike have been ignored by lawmakers. New York State has failed to establish health and safety regulations or provide clear protocols for how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on farms or in farmworker housing facilities. There are no directives for local health departments on how to handle outbreaks on farms or resources to ensure the availability of quarantine housing for infected workers. Meanwhile, there are more and more reports of COVID-19 infections among farmworkers. This crisis will only worsen as migrant and seasonal workers arrive to New York during in the coming weeks and month, many traveling here internationally on guestworker visas.
Farmworkers are unnecessarily risking their lives in order to feed their families and put food on everyone’s table. What’s worse, New York is has failed to provide desperately needed aid to those who are undocumented, including the majority of our state’s farm labor force. When farmworkers lose their jobs—whether due to COVID infection, reduced production, or because they don’t have childcare—most are excluded from unemployment benefits or federal assistance. We cannot treat essential workers as expendable. New York needs to do better.
We demand immediate steps to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19 among New York farmworkers, financial relief for farmworkers and all undocumented workers, and enforceable health and safety regulations for farmworkers and all essential workers.