Farm Worker Conditions Still Lag Today
March 31, 2011
As crews of farm workers were out working in the hot, sunny fields of the Salinas Valley on Cesar Chavez Day, a state holiday for which many workers statewide had a day off, the Central Coast Health Network released a status report Thursday on the status of farm worker conditions. The findings are grim.
"Farm workers continue to lag well behind the rest of society in terms of income, health, housing, education, and other socioeconomic conditions," according to the policy brief, which is to be submitted to the governor's office.
While growers in California have undergone a "transformation" in how they view workers, the prevailing scarcity of housing--with less availability today than in the 1990s--coupled with persistently low wages (three quarters of farm workers report earning less than $15,000 annually) make for poor health and overall quality of life, the brief says. From tooth decay to obesity to anemia, farm workers were found to generally be suffering disproportionately poor health.
"In general, farm workers continue to live in poverty or near poverty, suffer from chronic health conditions at higher rates than the general public, have little access to health insurance, and are undereducated and speak little English," says the report.
The bright side, there is some evidence of the noted "transformation" among growers: More employers are offering running water and toilets, more workers received training on pesticide use, and fewer workers report handling pesticides at all, according to survey results from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Central Coast Health Network recommends creating a statewide task force to map out a long term vision for farm workers, and also offering incentives to county health centers to expand services to farm workers.