Today is National Working Parents Day: a day for paying tribute to those parents who work to provide for their family (whether that work is paid or unpaid!!).
To us, farmworker moms and dads are the epitome of the working parent. They labor SO hard to provide for their family – from sun-up to sundown, pinching pennies to make ends meet, never having the option to call in sick. And even in these coronavirus times when work looks different than it used to for many folks, for farmworker parents, the workday itself has not changed that much. Farmworkers still get up and go to work every day, even while other Americans may have the option to stay at home and work from a safe distance.
In terms of COVID-19, there are more threats to their physical and emotional health on top of the ones that were already there: additional worries adding furrows to already-wrinkled brows; more pressures weighing down backs already bowed low with care; more colleagues and family members getting sick and dying all around them. Since undocumented workers have been intentionally excluded from any federal relief packages, most farmworkers continue to have little to no safety net they can depend on even in these incredible stressful and dangerous times. Nothing has changed the fact that they still have to go to work.
Farmworkers are proud of what they do, as they should be. They are responsible for feeding America, and they know it. But even though there is meant to be a sense of honor with the label of “essential worker,” it can feel like just another excuse to be mistreated and taken for granted. “Essential not Disposable” has been the rallying cry in many farmworker communities. Some farmworkers even outright reject the label of “frontline hero.” “There is nothing heroic about what we do,” one farmworker named Erick told the United Farmworkers Union. “We work out of necessity.”
With all due respect to Erick, there is everything heroic about what they do – but it’s frustrating that farmwork has to be as heroic as it is, that farmworkers must endanger their lives in order to provide for their families. Farmworkers need support, they want their basic rights, and they deserve respect and acceptance at all levels of government. Enough with the disparagement, the ICE raids, the lack of protections that workers in all other industries receive.
America says it is grateful for its #essentialworkers… It’s time to put money where its mouth is.