Florida farmworkers want governor to provide coronavirus protections

farmworkers; Florida agriculture; farmworkers, coalition of Immokalee workers, ciw
Farmworkers and allies march for justice. By Lenka Davis / WMNF News. March 2013.

Here is a link to many coronavirus resources

We’ve all been told to keep a safe distance from one another to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, but on MidPoint, we heard from a farmworker with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about what the conditions are like in the fields and about their petition to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Lupe Gonzalo, with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, harvests tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables in southwest Florida. She spoke through an interpreter, Yaissy Solis, the communications coordinator with the Alliance for Fair Food.

Listen to the full show here.

“We’ve partnered with several community agencies and growers here in Immokalee to be able to put out hand washing stations at the pickup locations for farm workers so they can wash their hands after work or before getting on the busses just as an extra measure of precaution.

“We were able to do that by working together.

“And also there are some growers who are buying groceries for workers so they don’t have to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store.
These are all things that are happening right now to try to support the farmworker community.

“But it’s not enough. We’re only talking about a number of workers who are protected under this program, but in terms of the industry as a whole and our community here we need more measures to be in place to be able to equip ourselves against this pandemic.

“We have received about 2,000 hygiene kits that we/ve been able to distribute to different farms and workers on the farms.

“These kits include a mask, a pair of gloves, some hand sanitizer, Kleenex. But this is nothing compared to what is actually needed here in this community to protect workers. So we want to share more about the solution that we’ve been fighting for here as workers.

CIW demonstration outside a St. Petersburg Publix in 2016. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News.

“As farmworkers we’ve launched a campaign directly with the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and we’re calling for several measures to be put in place immediately to help support farmworker communities.

“This includes setting up a temporary or field hospital here in Immokalee where workers could be treated with positive cases of COVID-19 or where workers could isolate themselves.

“Also to provide workers with sufficient personal protective materials and resources whether it’s gloves or disinfectant, but having that readily available for agricultural workers.

“Another demand is providing free and accessible coronavirus testing here in Immokalee so workers know if they’re sick and they’re not continuing to cause spread here in the community.

“Lastly, we are hoping that public funds are allocated to support farmworkers with financial support. As I mentioned before, farmworkers, if they don’t work they’re not getting paid and so they’re going to find other ways to be able to sustain themselves. So providing a type of economic relief to workers during this time is critical.

“Those are the most timely and urgent demands that we have, especially the demand to set up a field hospital here in Immokalee. The nearest hospital from workers here is about an hour away and so having an area where workers could go, be treated, to isolate themselves, where they could walk because they, of course, don’t have access to the transportation, is something we’re seeing as a huge need and a solution that can help curb the catastrophe that could take place here if nothing is done.”

The federal government has declared agricultural workers as an essential industry. How does that square with how farmworkers are compensated and also how they are being forced to work even when they might be sick?

“Nothing has changed for workers here even though they’re designated as essential. They have to keep going to work as they regularly do but without any protection given to them.

“For example, workers if they don’t have a voice in their workplace, if they’re not able to speak up, for example, if they aren’t paid or there aren’t safety measures taking place on the farm, nothing is going to change for workers. They’re not going to be able to speak up about any of those things.

“Local and state governments have completely ignored and failed poor and rural communities like Immokalee.”

Here’s a New York Times op-ed about farmworkers and coronavirus.


A new Florida poll on coronavirus and leadership

A University of North Florida survey of more than 3,000 registered Florida voters released Monday morning shows 45% strongly or somewhat approve of the job President Trump is doing to address the coronavirus pandemic, with 53% disapproving. Governor Ron DeSantis clocks in at 51% approval, with 46% disapproving. 79% of Florida respondents are very or somewhat concerned about personally contracting the virus.

Of all the figures and organizations listed in the survey, Dr. Anthony Fauci received the highest approval ratings at 85% approval among registered voters in Florida. Vice President Mike Pence garnered 48% approval, with 44% disapproving. Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott had 38% and 37% approval, respectively.

Voters in Tampa were also asked about COVID-19 response by Mayor Jane Castor. She had a large 78% approval rate among Tampa voters, with only 8% disapproving.

In response to the pandemic, 27% of respondents say someone in their household has had their hours cut at work, and 23% have someone in their household who has been laid off from work. Additionally, 42%, say someone in their household is working from home.


Unemployment compensation troubles in Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave an update Monday about the state’s unemployment application process. It’s been overwhelmed and many people have not been able to access the phone or website. DeSantis also briefly addressed the controversy around people gathering at church services.

Tampa State Senator Janet Cruz announced Monday that, “In response to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity allowing the use of paper applications for Reemployment Assistance Benefits … Senator Cruz will be providing printed paper applications in both English & Spanish at her office starting today” at 210A S. MacDill Avenue, Tampa, FL 33609.

A caller pointed out this New York Times resource with answers to unemployment compensation questions.

The Tampa Bay Times says, “The state still faces a massive backlog of applications that will likely require Floridians wait weeks before seeing any money.”


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