Tag Archives: farmworkers

Protest targets Wendy’s billionaire chairman

Hundreds of protesters, led by Ethel Kennedy, demonstrated near the home of the chairman of the Wendy’s fast food chain in hopes of convincing the company to pay a penny-per-pound fee for its tomatoes to supplement some farmworkers’ wages.

The Palm Beach Post reports the Immokalee Coalition of Farmworker’s march near billionaire Nelson Peltz’s home was peaceful on March 12.

A federal judge had ruled the coalition could use loudspeakers but said marchers must remain on the sidewalk.

The coalition, which represents about 40,000 workers, has used demonstrations and sometimes consumer boycotts to pressure the five largest fast-food companies — Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Taco Bell — into joining its “fair food program.” All but Wendy’s eventually joined.

Peltz, a 73-year-old investor, has a net worth of $1.35 billion and is the 423rd richest American, according to Forbes Magazine.

One of his companies, Triarc, bought Wendy’s in 2008 for $2.3 billion and he became chairman.

Others who live in the area include Rush Limbaugh, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump.

 

EPA announces new protections for farmworkers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today increased protections for the nation’s 2 million agricultural workers and their families.

Each year, thousands of potentially preventable pesticide exposure incidents are reported that lead to sick days, lost wages and medical bills but with changes to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard the risk of injury or illness resulting from contact with pesticides on farms and in forests, nurseries and greenhouses can be reduced.

“President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring healthy work environments for all Americans, especially those in our nation’s vulnerable communities,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release. “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables — and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections.  With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued the growth of our agricultural economy.”

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “No one should ever have to risk their lives for their livelihoods, but far too many workers, especially those who work in agriculture, face conditions that challenge their health and safety every day.”

He continued, “Workplace illness and injury contribute greatly to economic inequality, and can have a devastating impact on workers and their families. By promoting workplace safety, these provisions will enhance economic security for people struggling to make ends meet and keep more Americans on the job raising the crops that feed the world, and we are proud to support the EPA in this effort.”

EPA’s updates reflect comment federal and state partners and the agricultural community including farmworkers, farmers and industry.

The EPA said the provisions will help ensure farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded under today’s action and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure.

These revisions will publish in the Federal Register within the next 60 days. 

Activists seek to serve justice on Food Day

Justice throughout the food chain — from farmworkers to child consumers — is the focus of the fourth annual Food Day, which is observed on Oct. 24.

Started by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and other nonprofits in 2011, Food Day grew to 5,000 events from coast to coast in 2013.

This year, the Food Chain Workers Alliance — a national coalition of 23 organizations that represent over 280,000 workers who farm, produce, pack, transport, cook, serve and sell food — will use Food Day to bring awareness to consumers about food justice. 

Food Day will be celebrated in a variety of ways in Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, a “Disco Soup” event will bring young adults together at Troop Cafe, 3430 W. Wisconsin Ave., 10 a.m.–6 p.m., to turn 2,000 pounds of rescued vegetables and other food into a free meal for veterans and other community members, to the sound of classic ‘70s beats. In the Capitol, the Dane County Food Council will be host a Food Summit 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m., discussing locally achievable change, partnerships and innovations in the region to create a fair and sustainable food system.

For more, go online to foodday.org.

Farmworkers welcome planned changes to protection standards

Farmworkers welcomed an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it will soon propose revisions to the Worker Protection Standard, which provides minimal workplace protections against pesticide exposures for farmworkers.

A coalition of farmworker, public health and other nonprofit organizations has long urged the EPA to include stronger protections for farmworkers. More than 20 years has passed since the rules were updated and the EPA has admitted for more than a decade that the standards are inadequate.

Following a review by the federal Office of Management and Budget, advocates expect the EPA will publish the proposed rule for public comment in the next few weeks. The farmworkers want to see updated rules for safety training requirements, safety precautions limiting farmworkers’ contact with pesticides and mechanisms to improve enforcement of workplace protections.

An estimated 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops annually in the United States with the nation’s 1 million to 2 million farmworkers facing the highest threat from the health impacts of the chemicals.

The federal government estimates there are 10,000–20,000 acute pesticide poisonings among workers in the agricultural industry annually. Short-term effects of pesticide exposures include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, nausea, headaches, respiratory problems and even death.

Long-term exposure can increase the risk of serious chronic health problems such as cancer, birth defects, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease for farmworkers, their families and their children.

A petition for reform was filed by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice in November 2011 on behalf of United Farm Workers, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, The Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc., PCUN/Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, Farm Worker Pesticide Project, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and the Pesticide Action Network North America.

“While most Americans benefit from broad workplace protections, farmworkers are fundamentally disadvantaged and face dangerous exposure to poisons over the course of their working life,” said Eve Gartner, attorney for Earthjustice. “We urge the EPA to offer farmworkers a more protective safeguard.”

“Each year pesticide exposure poisons tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families, leading to injury, illness, and death,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice. “We applaud the administration for taking this step to help protect the men, women and children who labor to put food on our tables. We hope that the EPA’s revised Worker Protection Standard will include important safeguards for farmworkers and strengthen their right to a safe workplace.”