Yazmin Garcia Rico of Student Action with Farmworkers in Durham, NC, read the below statement aloud at last Friday's solemn yet powerful press event in front of the state's Department of Labor building. Join with FAN in recognizing International Workers' Day by remembering agricultural workers among us and perhaps even taking an action step for the campaign for a Harvest of Dignity.
"As the Bible mentions, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 23:22.
Each year thousands of immigrants leave their home countries seeking a better life for their families. They harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat everyday while they risk their lives by doing some of the most dangerous work in our society. Farmworkers make an average income of just $11,000 a year, making them the 2nd lowest paid workforce in the nation. It is time to lift them up and honor their everyday contributions. We believe that every worker, including field and poultry workers, deserves to have safe working and living conditions. We demand a fair and sustainable agricultural system!
We need to stop and think about the real cost of food. Each year, 5 out of 10 farmworkers in NC cannot afford to feed their families. Each year over 150,000 farmworkers labor in the fields of NC and face inadequate health and safety standards, poor housing conditions, exposure to pesticides and high temperatures, long working hours, heat stroke, nicotine exposure, and exposure to dangerous machinery. Children as young as 12 years old are allowed to work in the fields and most farmworkers are exempt from the right to organize a union, work overtime, take sick leave, or receive workers compensation.
We cannot continue jeopardizing the lives of the people who put food on our table.
We envision a world where students and community members actively work together with farmworkers for justice in the agricultural system.
We envision communities where there is greater interaction, communication, and understanding among people of different backgrounds.
We envision a world in which farmworkers are empowered to take leadership in the farmworker justice movement and their local communities.
We envision a world where consumers will be more aware of where their food comes from, who grows it, harvests it, and packages it, and the conditions of its production.
One day, all farmworkers will have dignity in their work and livelihood."
--Yazmin Garcia Rico, April 26, 2013