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Farmworkers Face Higher Job Loss Rates And Risk of Contracting COVID-19, Study Shows

Ezra David Ramero / KVPR

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are more likely to get COVID-19 than in other service industries. They’re also facing job losses, according to a new study released Tuesday. 

The COVID-19 Farmworkers Study surveyed 900 farmworkers about their work conditions, health care access, and pay during the pandemic. Nayamin Martinez, executive director for the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said 43% of the farmworkers surveyed reported not receiving face masks from their employers. 

 “We know that was a recommendation but that didn’t happen,” Martinez said. “Many of them were left on their own to acquire and procure face masks.” 

Martinez said when one farmworker asked her employer to enforce social distancing, she was no longer called back to work. And now farmworkers in the valley are competing for work with people who lost their jobs in the service industry, according to Martinez. 

“A Tulare County farmworker that I talked to told me ‘my crew size was the normal size before the pandemic, was 30 to 40 people. During the pandemic we were a hundred or more people working in the field,” Martinez said. 

That means their day is cut in half, Martinez said, so they’re making less. As a result of this and other factors laid out in the study, many farmworkers are struggling to meet their basic needs and protect themselves from the virus. 

Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.
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