farm workers

Madi Bolanos / Valley Public Radio

State agencies are partnering with community organizations across the San Joaquin Valley to inform farm workers of their rights at work. They’re taking their message straight to the fields, through a three-day caravan through the Valley. 

On Friday afternoon,  a truck parked along Road 60 in Visalia blared information about workers’ rights in English, Spanish, Punjabi, Mixteco, Triqui and Zapoteco. It told people working in the fields about their right to paid sick leave for COVID-19or following the vaccine, and protection from retaliation. 

Library of Congress

While teaching a history course at Fresno State, professor Ethan Kytle stumbled upon the forgotten history of a farm labor crisis in 1942 that inspired Fresno residents to leave their jobs, and classrooms, in order to work in the fields. Kytle, along with co-author Blain Roberts, wrote about the crisis for the online magazine Boom California. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with them about the conditions that led to this labor shortage.

Community Medical Centers

 

Like in so many places across the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic crept up on the San Joaquin Valley. Some of the region’s first official cases were linked to outbreaks on cruise ships that came into port in March, but as we later learned, the virus was already circulating long beforehand.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Armando Celestino walks between rows of grapevines in a Madera County vineyard. He’s handing out small zip lock bags to farm workers filled with hand sanitizer, masks and information on the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Celestino works with Centro Binancional, a community organization that assists those who speak, indigenous languages like Mixtec and Zapotec.

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Farm workers across the San Joaquin Valley are showing high levels of interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine but they say information about where to go is scarce. 

 

But there is plenty of medical mistrust within communities of color and the reasons are complex. We talk about why.

 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

During a visit to Fresno on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said vaccinating the Central Valley against COVID-19 is a “top priority.”

 

Though Newsom was widely expected to announce a new federal government-partnered mass vaccination clinic in the city during his stop at the Fresno Fairgrounds, he instead shared that the state had selected a COVID-19 testing site at Reedley College to be converted into a community vaccination clinic.

 

Joel Martinez

Since the start of the pandemic, 43,000 Californians have officially died due to COVID-19. But a new research paper by a team of epidemiologists at the University of California, San Francisco suggests that the true death toll due to the virus is likely much higher, after studying deaths in California over an 8-month period from March to October.

 

A COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Fresno County Fairgrounds is now equipped to administer 1,500 shots per day, according to county officials during a press conference on Tuesday.

The clinic, which began operating at reduced capacity on January 6, is open to healthcare workers in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination schedule, as well as individuals 75 years or older. Appointments are required.

 

On this week's Valley Edition:  Why a state program that provides free COVID-19 hotel rooms to farmworkers is going largely unutilized.  

Plus Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Branch tells us how wildfires and climate change are endangering California’s most iconic trees.

And a cornerstone of the Armenian community, Hye Quality Bakery, has closed its doors.

On this week's Valley Edition: We look at what will happen to the Fresno nonprofits providing COVID assistance to the community if CARES Act funding disappears at the end of the year.

Plus, a new UC Merced photo exhibition documents the lives and struggles of Central Valley farmworkers in the 1960s. 

And StoryCorps San Joaquin is back with a look at how Fresno’s CMAC got started.

UC Merced, Library and Special Collections: Ernest Lowe Photography Collection

Images captured by photographer Ernest Lowe tell the story of Central Valley farmworkers and the activists who fought for improved conditions in the 1960s. Last year UC Merced hosted an exhibition of some of those photographs, and now has acquired the complete collection - which the university has made available free to the public online.

On this week's Valley Edition: We take a look at the COVID-19 Equity Project aimed at preventing the spread of the virus in some of Fresno’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Plus, he lost his quesadilla stand to the pandemic. Now this LA cook is using his skills to feed communities including farm workers near Selma.

And we look at strategies to find permanent homes for people experiencing homelessness.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Before the pandemic hit, Heleo Leyva owned a quesadilla stand in East Hollywood, where he offered a special: buy one quesadilla, share the other for a discounted price.

But when he lost customers due to the pandemic and had to close his stand, he started a GoFundMe site to help pay his bills. That’s when he realized he could also use social media to feed others. His first step was creating a community fridge, where people could donate food.

As fires continue to ravage Northern California, farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley now have to protect themselves from poor air quality on top of COVID-19. One farm worker says it’s made working in the fields even harder.

 

Oralia Bautista is 34 years old. Six days a week she commutes with her husband from Fresno to pick tomatoes in Firebaugh. While working, she always wears a mask.

 

“It helps filter out the bad air we’re breathing, but it's also hard because well, it’s hard to breathe with the mask on to begin with,” she said.

 

As COVID-19 outbreaks in food production plants continue to make workers sick in the San Joaquin Valley, employees at one plant outside Bakersfield are calling on the State Attorney General to step in.

Primex Farms in Wasco employs around 400 people. As of last Wednesday, 150 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and over 70 had gone back to work, a company spokesman said. 

 

But Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer for the United Farm Workers, said workers did not find out about the outbreak through their employer.

 

Joel Martinez

As COVID-19 cases in the San Joaquin Valley continue to climb, the Fresno County Department of Agriculture recently secured nearly one million masks to help protect the county’s agricultural workers.  

 

Melissa Cregan, the agricultural commissioner for the county, said the masks came from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and the Office of Emergency Services.

 

“We’ve probably received over 800,000 of the face coverings and we’ve distributed probably over 700,000 of those,” said Cregan.  

 

© 1978 George Ballis/Take Stock

Adios Amor tells the story of one woman who should have made it into the history books but didn't. Maria Moreno was the first female farm worker to be hired as a union organizer.

 

Originally from Texas, Moreno lived with her husband and 12 children working in the fields. She was an indigenous woman with only a second-grade education but used her voice to rally support for farm workers' rights. 

 

UCLA

The San Joaquin Valley’s farm workers are some of the hardest working people in the world. They toil for long hours in the fields to pick the food that feeds the world. While we all eat their produce, for many Americans farm workers don’t inspire admiration, but instead resentment and hostility. Anti-immigrant sentiment often revolves around the notion that undocumented workers are taking jobs that legal residents would otherwise be happy to do.

California Citrus Mutual

The law enforcement agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, may be ramping up its inspections of worksites—and a Valley grower is one of the first to feel the consequences.

Fowler-based Bee Sweet Citrus says it may have lost a fifth of its workforce in anticipation of an inspection by ICE. The federal agency notified Bee Sweet that later this month, it would conduct an I-9 inspection. Meaning the company will need to hand over the forms that verify the identity and employment authorization of each of its employees.

Amanda Monaco / Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

 

A new ride share program is bringing the convenience of services like Uber and Lyft to rural valley communities. The service known “Van y Vienen” is aiming to help residents who lack easy transportation options.

The program launched Wednesday in Cantua Creek and El Porvenir, two unincorporated communities in western Fresno County. Both lack grocery stores and medical clinics and have little cell phone service. Until recently, locals without cars have relied on neighbors to get around.

 

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