Hundreds of field workers in the Coachella Valley are still harvesting during the coronavirus pandemic. Salvador Valencia, a field worker from Thermal, stressed how it’s scary to come home to his family and not know if he’s contracted the virus.
“I’m worried for my colleagues and for my health.” We’re in God’s hands now, when we’re out in the fields and we know how deadly this virus is.”
According to united farm workers foundation the large majority of fieldworkers are undocumented and have no access to medical treatment and don’t have unemployment benefits.
Supervisor Manuel Perez, for Riverside County, acknowledges the work they are doing and is trying to support by providing extra precautions.
“They’re out there in the frontlines also, picking the crops. and obviously they’re afraid for their health, but are still out there,” said Perez. The high demand for food during the pandemic has increased the work for field workers.
“One thing we have to be mindful of is ensuring the safety of our constituents,” said Perez.
Off camera and afraid to speak up, workers tell NBC Palm Springs they’re working longer hours in tighter quarters. They claim to lack access to hand soap, protective masks, and social distancing is almost impossible.
Riccardo Estevez, who’s another field worker in Thermal and has been in this line of work for more than 30 years, said “only we know what’s happening. But I remain with God and hope things get better.”
While field workers continue to work, a local restaurant in Coachella, ‘SantaFe,’ decided to donate the remaining of their food to them. The local restaurant closed down after Governor Gavin newsom ordered a “stay at home” amid health concerns during the coronavirus, leaving all employees without a job.
The owner of the restaurant, Pedro Padilla, recognizes the struggles that his former employees are going through.
“I told my employees that it’s a tough time and we’re all going through it,” Padilla said.
During this difficult time, Padilla and his employees were able to share some positivity by giving out 400 burritos to several men and women still working in the fields in eastern Coachella Valley.
“we have to help out these workers, they can’t leave their jobs.”