Essentially Disposable: Farmworkers in the Pandemic

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Farmworkers are essential to the feeding of our nation. More personally, they ensure that you and I have food on our plates each day.

Called “essential” during this pandemic, they are being treated no differently than ever – with disrespect, abuse and endangerment. Farmworkers are risking their lives to grow and harvest our food, yet as the current case at Primex farm in CA illustrates, where one out of four workers tested positive for COVID, they are often not protected nor even properly warned about the dangers they face.

farmworkers with masksAgainst all odds, in a climate of scapegoating and racism, partners of PHP and SDOP are responding with emergency support, education, organizing, and policy change advocacy.

“Farmworkers in the Pandemic: Essentially Disposable” will update us on the latest, provide first-hand accounts of how farmworker organizations are responding, and show ways you can help.

Join us on Thursday, August 27 at noon (ET), 11 am (CT), 10 am (MT) and 9 am (PT) for the webinar. Presenters include Kathia Ramirez from the Farmworker Support Committee-CATA, Antonio Tovar of the Farmworkers Association of Florida, and Erik Nicholson from the United Farm Workers. Email to receive the link for the zoom (for the first 100 people) or you can view it on Facebook Live at

This webinar – hosted by the Presbyterian Committee on Self-Development of People and the Presbyterian Hunger Program – is part of the PC(USA) discussion series, COVID at the Margins. A recent Covid at the Margins episode explored the racial issues and injustices impacting Latinx communities.


Antonio Tovar is Executive director of the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), a statewide grassroots organization. Before moving to Florida, he was a journalist for United Press International covering Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Antonio was born in Mexico City. He studied Rural Development and Community Health at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Chiapas, Mexico and Anthropology at the University of Florida. Dr. Tovar’s activism started in High School. In the labor movement he has been the Secretary and Treasurer of the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA); he is Board member of Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), and the Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI). He coordinates the Climate Justice collective at La Via Campesina North America, and the South Region at the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. Antonio’s activism is complemented with his academic work; he has over 30 academic publications on workers’ health and safety with multiple academic partners. He is a Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, and Board member of the Community-Campus Partnership for Health (CCPH). Farmworker Association of Florida was previously awarded grants from Presbyterian Committee on Self-Development of People and Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Kathia Ramirez is an organizer and Food Justice Coordinator at CATA- Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas or the Farmworkers Support Committee. She has served the immigrant and farmworker community in Southern NJ, Kennett Square PA and Salisbury MD for the past 41 years. CATA works around Immigration, Worker’s Rights and Food Justice. Kathia was born and raised in Aztlan land, Los Angeles CA, but very proud of her Zapotec Indigenous Roots from Oaxaca Mexico. She has been part of the CATA team for 6 years. In her role, she works closely with community members who are interested in bettering our current food system and she manages our community gardens in each state we work in. Kathia represents CATA and our members in Alliances at the national level working in solidarity with social movements and at the global level to advance Food Sovereignty and Agroecology as an alternative to our Food System. Prior to working at CATA, she was pursuing her Bachelor’s in Spanish and Latino Studies at Mount Holyoke College in Western MA. She has served as one of the USFSA- US Food Sovereignty Alliance Northeast Region Co-Coordinators since 2017 and on the board of the DFTA- Domestic Fair Trade Association.

headshot of antonioErik Nicholson is National Vice President of United Farm Workers (UFW) where he has worked since 2002. The UFW is the largest and oldest US trade union for agricultural workers. He directs the UFW’s efforts to develop strategies that improve the lives of farmworkers who produce food for US consumers, wherever these workers may be in the world. He is Chair Emeritus of the Board and one of the founding members of the EFI. All three major US farmworker unions serve on the board. Erik is the Chair of the Board of CIERTO, a UFW created non-profit dedicated to the identification, training and dispatch of agricultural workers in a clean and transparent manner. In addition to this work, Erik directs the UFW’s national campaign to address conditions on dairy farms, an industry that has some of the highest injury and fatality rates in the US. Erik’s work involved convening a nascent group of national and international retailers, along with dairy producers to develop a multi-stakeholder effort to improve working conditions at dairies across the US. He has overseen a number of regulatory and legislative efforts directed at improving the lives of farmworkers, including leading negotiations in Washington State on a binding set of rules to protect farmworkers from the COVID 19 virus. He participated in the national negotiations of the Farmworker Modernization Act which passed the House of Representatives late last year. Nicholson has a B.A. from Duke University and has been a featured presenter at several national and international conferences concerned with immigration and guest workers.

3 Responses to “Essentially Disposable: Farmworkers in the Pandemic”

  1. Dorothy Dickson

    I am on the steering committee of The Immigration Task Force of Monterey. We are in the heart of the produce growing area of CA. We work to make sure all immigrants know their rights, and currently are working to make sure that they all know where to get low cost or no cost health care as well as COVID testing sites. Previously we did that with a lot of in person communication, but now mainly making sure that our literature gets distributed to farm workers camps etc. We are also working closely with Salinas medical workers who do go out into the communities, and supply them with kits (washable masks, Hand sanitizers, and hand soap plus our literature).
    My apologies that I can’t personally attend the webinar, but have given your information to others on the committee. Please let me know if it will be recorded and how to access that. Thank you for recognizing the importance of this!


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