The Harvest Isn’t Bountiful for Many Farmworkers


Being a farmworker in America is no easy task. Pay is low, the work is back-breaking, hours are irregular and moving from place to place just goes with the territory. But while they help fill the tables across the country with produce, many of these same workers can’t afford what they pick themselves.

The fertile soil of California’s Central Valley is home to many such workers. They get by eating low-cost food that isn’t good for them. So while many aren’t going hungry on a daily basis, many are suffering from malnutrition or diabetes because they can’t afford sustenance that actually will keep them healthy.

A report by the California Institute of Rural Studies (CIRS) earlier this year about farmworkers in Yolo County sums up the problem. “Ironically, the same agricultural workers who are responsible for producing an abundance of food find themselves at serious risk of hunger, diet-related chronic diseases, unsafe living and working conditions and inadequate access to health care,” it noted.

A Mother Jones article on the CIRS document explains the depth of the problem, noting that farmworkers nationwide make an average salary of just $13,000. Additionally, because many are undocumented, they don’t apply for food assistance programs, the study found, because they are afraid of getting detained or deported.

Of course, the plight of the working poor is not limited to California or the fields that provide food to everyday Americans across this country. Increasingly there is a deep divide in income that affects millions of workers no matter what they do.

That’s why many are standing up and challenging corporations who continue to rake in big profits but won’t pay a living wage to their employees. Thousands of them will be doing so as part of a Fight for $15 protest nationwide tomorrow.

People who work for living should be able to afford life’s basics. It’s a challenge that the public and private sector must confront together.