Advocates are drawing attention to systemic racism in farming across North Carolina and the nation.
The National Farm Worker Ministry is hosting its annual Harvest of Justice program to shed light on the adverse effects faced by farmworkers because of the absence of protective policies for their wages, land and safety.
Julie Taylor, executive director of the National Farm Worker Ministry, emphasized the issues stem from outdated labor laws dating back to the 1930s, which unjustly exempted farm and domestic workers.
“Those groups were excluded, and to think in terms of the fact that even today they’re on the books,” Taylor explained. “If they are organizing, they are not protected from retaliation, the way in which other workers in this country are.”
Taylor pointed out the lack of protection has led to other negative consequences. She highlighted the historical loss of land experienced by BIPOC farmers, the increased exposure to pesticides in Black and brown neighborhoods, and the ongoing fight against labor exploitation and modern-day slavery.
North Carolina is home to more than 50,000 farms, and farmworkers are facing challenges such as nicotine exposure, a lack of housing, and poor field conditions.
Rose Green-Flores, director of communications for the National Farm Worker Ministry, said to combat mistreatment, the ministry uses a proactive approach, starting with raising awareness in communities. She emphasized their goal is to empower people, regardless of their location, by helping them understand they have the power to make a difference.
“One of the big ones would be legislation,” Green-Flores stressed. “One of those pieces would be supporting telling Congress to pass the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide overtime and additional minimum-wage protections for farmworkers.”
She added another important aspect in their efforts to support farmworkers is educating major companies and calling on them to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food program, which would help enforce labor standards.
This article originally appeared in Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.