Florida Farmworkers Need More Legal Protections

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Tragic bus accident killed 8 farmworkers, injured dozens more

On  Wed. June 12, 2024, MidPoint hosted Juan Carlos Chavez, reporting for the Tampa Bay Times, on the deadly bus crash that killed 8 farmworkers and injured dozens more in May. The workers were traveling to harvest watermelons in Dunnellon when their bus was hit by a drunk driver and the migrants, who were not provided seatbelts, went flying. Now, several of the injured workers are still in medical treatment and rehabilitation, but their temporary work visas have expired and they have nowhere to live. According to Brent Probinsky of Sarasota, the attorney for several of the injured workers pursuing workers’ compensation claims,  some of these workers will apply for tourist visas to complete their medical treatments in the U.S. Probinsky and Chavez also reported that some of the workers had received funds from a GoFundMe account created for them by a local farmworker non-profit organization to allow them to remain in worker housing until they can finish their medical care because there is no legal requirement that their employer continue to provide them housing under these circumstances. However, several workers sent much of their funds back to Mexico to reimburse family members who had funded their travel to the U.S. for work.

These migrants were in Florida legally and intended to pick watermelons in Florida, then travel to Georgia, then to Texas, over a 3 or 4-month period of farmwork in the U.S. Their Florida employer, Olvera Trucking Corp., hired them on an agricultural visa program known as the H-2A program. But now, many of them are unable to do the work they were hired to do due to their injuries and their future is uncertain. This incident has illuminated the gaps in worker protections for farmworkers under the H-2A program. According to Chavez’ reporting, the program’s rules don’t address whether laborers should be afforded extended time in the U.S. for treatment of work-related injuries, or whether employers should provide housing during that time, even though farmworkers are commonly injured on the job.

Read the Tampa Bay Times reporting on this here and their editorial here, and stream our MidPoint show on demand here, or listen as a WMNF MidPoint podcast wherever you get your podcasts

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