Professor Pahnke: Agricultural Workers Need COVID-19 Relief Now

Thursday, April 30, 2020
Photo of migrant farmworkers picking cucumbers in Virginia
Workers from Mexico pick cucumbers in Blackwater, Virginia, on the farm of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

TRUTHOUT -- Anthony Pahnke is vice president of the Family Farm Defenders and an assistant professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University in San Francisco. He wrote this opinion piece for TruthOut.

“Before the virus hit, the close to three million farmworkers who don’t own land and who labor on some of the larger operations in this country already lived in extreme poverty — earning between $15,000 to $18,000 a year,” Pahnke wrote. “That around 75 percent of farmworkers lack documented status only adds insult to injury, as these farmworkers are in constant fear of deportation.

As the pandemic continues, what have farmworkers been demanding? At a time when it looks like they could leverage their position to request, say, citizenship, farm labor organizations are asking for sick pay, safety gear and basic information about the disease.”