‘Put the food on our table every day’: Labor icon Dolores Huerta urges passage of farmworker bill

‘Put the food on our table every day’: Labor icon Dolores Huerta urges passage of farmworker bill

The U.S. House under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year passed a historic bill that would put undocumented farmworkers onto a path to legal status. That legislation passed the chamber with support from 30 Republicans, surpassing the bipartisan support for the bill legalizing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries. 

But more than a year after House passage, the U.S. Senate has failed to take up and pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (along with the Dream and Promise Act). On Wednesday, labor icon and United Farm Workers (UFW) Co-founder Dolores Huerta was among the voices reminding lawmakers that farmworkers are still feeding America, and still need relief.

RELATED STORY: House passes path to citizenship for DACA recipients, temporary status holders, and farmworkers

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“Farmworkers throughout the United States need to be granted the same labor protections as other industrial and public workers,” Huerta said during a press conference hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). “They are, after all, the essential workers that put the food on our table every day. There can no longer be any excuses or delays to deny them the basic human benefits that other workers enjoy.” It’s estimated that at least half of the nation’s farmworkers lack legal status.

While there may have been 30 Republicans who joined Democrats in the House to pass the bill, no Senate Republicans have stepped forward to help overcome the Jim Crow filibuster, despite the fact that they benefit from the labor of these very same workers. Two senators, both of them Democrats, have gone above and behind in recognizing this labor by accepting invitations from farmworkers, UFW, and the UFW Foundation to work side by side with them for one day.

“Earlier this month, I experienced a small taste of the demanding work that farm workers do to keep millions of families across the country fed,” said California’s Alex Padilla, who accepted the invite alongside New Jersey’s Cory Booker. “Whether it’s in the middle of a pandemic, during extreme heat, or under smoke-filled skied near wildfires, farm workers often risk their own health to ensure that we have food on our tables and on grocery store shelves. These workers are essential.”

Booker joined farmworkers this week, saying he left the day “with a renewed appreciation of the incredible job that farm workers do each day in the face of immense challenges and struggle.”

Immigrant farmworkers plant, pick, package and ship the food we put on our tables every single day. They deserve protection and a pathway to citizenship. It’s time to make the Farm Workforce Modernization Act the law of the land. pic.twitter.com/E73ZWSDKR1

— Rep. Tony Cárdenas (@RepCardenas) June 22, 2022

Growing up the son of farmworkers, I understand the hardships & how critical farmworkers are to keeping our country running. It is an honor today for the @HispanicCaucus to discuss with national and local advocacy organizations how we can continue to help our farmworkers. pic.twitter.com/R4fIAqVc4M

— Raul Ruiz (@RepRaulRuizMD) June 22, 2022

“The passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act hits remarkably close to home. Farm workers expose themselves daily to extreme conditions to harvest the food we enjoy on our table. It is crucial they obtain a path to citizenship. – Anissa Perez, daughter of farm workers pic.twitter.com/9z46lbWhM7

— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) June 22, 2022

Did I ever think I would organize a press conference with @DoloresHuerta to advocate for farmworkers? Blessed. #SiSePuede pic.twitter.com/74W2UIxam9

— Sebastian Roa (@roajs2) June 22, 2022

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act advances fair wages and protections for farm workers, offers a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers and improves access to quality housing. @HouseDemocrats call upon Republican to join us in honoring our farm workers. pic.twitter.com/R7D2TLSfQt

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 23, 2022

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“The passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act hits remarkably close to home,” said Anissa Perez, who comes from a farmworking family. “Farm workers expose themselves daily to extreme conditions to harvest the food we enjoy on our table. It is crucial  they obtain a path to citizenship.” The CHC’s chair, Rep. Raul Ruiz, is also a child of farmworkers. “Our farmworkers face incredible hardships,” he said. “Already underserved, they experience abuse, family separation, and violation of their workplace rights.”

Farmworkers continue to feed America as rising summer temperatures yet again pose great risks to their health. Alejandra, a farmworker from Texas, said during a press call last year that she works “under the hot sun, in the rain. We don’t have another option but to work to survive.” They now say it’s only getting hotter. “Before I didn’t notice it, and now it’s unbearable,” Josue told Prism this month. He works “picking produce like grapes, tomatoes, yams, and tobacco,” the report said.

“At today’s CHC roundtable, Congressional leaders heard a clear message: Farmworkers are essential for our nation’s food security, and policymakers are not doing enough to support them,” said Farmworker Justice CEO Ron Estrada. “Farmworker Justice urges the Senate to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will provide a path to citizenship for the long-serving undocumented workers who make up nearly half of the American farm labor force and will allow these essential workers to live and work with dignity.”

RELATED STORIES:  

Padilla: ‘Fundamentally wrong’ to deem undocumented workers essential yet deny them protections

‘At no point do we stop working,’ farmworkers say amid historic heat wave

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