Deep in the Rio Grande Valley, the onion harvest is in full swing, even as the state fights COVID-19 with restrictions and lockdowns elsewhere.
Each year an estimated 300,000 migratory and seasonal agricultural workers pass through Texas around Pharr, San Juan and Alamo, according to the National Center for Farmworker Health. But advocates for those workers say most don’t have access to personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Juanita Valdez Cox is executive director of LUPE – La Union del Pueblo Entero – a community union and advocacy organization. She told Texas Standard host David Brown that she recently distributed 500 masks to farmworkers in the Rio Grande Valley.
“The majority did not have masks,” Valdez Cox said. “So as soon as we passed out the masks, they put them on to wear them.”
Agricultural workers have been forgotten during the pandemic, Valdez Cox said, resulting in a lack of protective equipment.
“As essential as they are, this government refuses to acknowledge how important they are,” Valdez Cox said. “I also believe [there is] a total lack of respect for those that risk their lives so that we can have the food that they need.”
What you’ll hear in this segment:
– What obligation employers have to provide protective equipment
– How LUPE communicates the needs of farmworkers to government
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.
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