Standing with the ‘essentially disposable’

Virtual discussion to focus on Black and brown farmworkers

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The plight of Black and brown farmworkers during the global pandemic will be the focus of an Aug. 27 webinar by the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.

The Facebook Live program, “Farmworkers in the Pandemic: Essentially Disposable,” is the latest installment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discussion series “COVID at the Margins,” which explores the impact of the coronavirus on minority communities.

The virtual discussion will be broadcast during the PC(USA) Week of Action, a racial justice effort affirming that Black lives matter and that no one should be marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or sexuality.

“The Week of Action is about highlighting and standing with people who are marginalized, and certainly, farmworkers and immigrants are one of the most marginalized people in our society and in most countries,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, PHP’s associate for national hunger concerns.

Andrew Kang Bartlett is Presbyterian Hunger Program’s associate for national hunger concerns.

“They’re called and treated as essential workers except when it comes to the conditions that they work under,” he said. “The conditions send the message to them that they are in fact expendable when we know, of course, that they are critical to the whole food system and to our society.”

PHP and SDOP’s program will explore that and related issues with Antonio Tovar, executive director of the Farmworker Association of Florida; Kathia Ramirez, an organizer and Food Justice Coordinator at Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA) or the Farmworkers Support Committee; and Erik Nicholson, national vice president of United Farm Workers.

“There will be a call to action, and each of the presenters will have a different take on that and we’ll just take our lead from what they’re feeling are the most urgent and effective things  Presbyterians and others can act on,” Kang Bartlett said.

This installment of “COVID at the Margins” takes place as the coronavirus continues to rage in the United States. Nationwide, there have been more than 5 million cases and more than 165,000 deaths.

Comprehensive data on cases among farmworkers is lacking, but the National Center for Farmworker Health has collected media reports of clusters of coronavirus cases among farmworkers in more than 15 states around the country, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas.

Working conditions that put farmworkers at risk of getting COVID-19 include prolonged close contact with coworkers on the job, shared transportation, and crowded, multigenerational housing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, farmworkers may come in contact with contaminated surfaces by sharing such things as tools, equipment and toilet facilities. They sometimes lack access to clean water for hygiene use during the day.

Another hurdle: brutally hot weather “makes wearing proper protective equipment much harder to deal with,” Kang Bartlett said. “Every year, farmworkers die of heat exhaustion.”

Watch the program at noon Thursday, August 27, at www.facebook.com/presbyhunger.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People are supported by One Great Hour of Sharing. Both are part of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.


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