Target: Senator Jeffery Merkley
Goal: Stop abuse of migrant workers in Oregon and all of America
All across America, people are eating fresh food picked mostly by exploited farm workers–500,000 of which are children. There are 2-3 million farm workers in the United States with Oregon being one of the seven states with highest population of farm workers. According to a 2005 survey, 75% of the farm laborers in the U.S. were born in Mexico and roughly half are undocumented.
Farm work is the second lowest paid job in the nation with an average income of $11,000. Yet farm work is widely acknowledged as the second most dangerous occupation in America because it requires using hazardous equipment, working closely with deadly chemicals, long hours and extremely hard work. Many farm workers are often paid at a piece rate pay rate, which means by the bucket or bushel. Despite being in a marginalized economic profile, the majority of farm workers do not qualify for social benefits, health care or workers compensation. Out of fear of deportation and little awareness of their rights, farm workers remain unable to protest against health and housing violations and their employers.
With dangerous work, low pay, little to no access to health insurance and care, and education and awareness of their rights, farm workers are among the most highly marginalized workers in America. As we choose between local and organic produce in the grocery store, we need to make an educated decision beyond the production process of the food. We need to regard the people responsible for bringing the food to the store in the first place. As the consumer demand for fresh, local produces rises in Portland and the nation, working conditions and rights of farm workers have dropped.
By signing the petition below you will be taking a stand against farm worker exploitation. Tell Senator Merkley that not only do you want local, fresh food, you want fair rights for those who produced your food.
Dear Senator Merkley,
There have been many debates in America lately. Topics of obesity and health have dominated the discussion and have resulted in a majority agreement: people in general need to eat more fresh produce. Whether it is an access issue or a problem with education, the politicians of America are beginning to understand the importance of making sure the marginalized population is getting healthier foods. But people seldom question the methods by which fresh food is getting to our supermarkets and who is behind producing it.
As fresh food demands rise, so does the need for workers in the agriculture sector. Approximately 75% of workers who meet this need are originally from Mexico and roughly half are undocumented. Many do not have a fluent knowledge of English or high education, and thus they are often unaware of their rights. Agriculture is widely recognized as the second most dangerous occupation in America, yet most farm workers do not have access to health care or insurance.
Marginalized farm workers overwhelmingly represent the agriculture sector of America but they lack any political leverage and thus remain a silent oppressed population. America is founded as a nation of immigrants and we continue to grow as such. Farm workers are this generation’s disenfranchised immigrant community and we, as a nation, need to address this issue. So we ask you, Senator Merkley, to please make this issue a priority in your legislative state of Oregon and the nation and be a voice for the silenced farm worker population.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Quest Garden – Creative Immigration: Process