Recent photos and videos on social media showing the tough conditions farmworkers are facing as fires continue to burn in northern California are receiving a lot of attention. NBC Palm Springs spoke to local leaders on this front to see what conditions farmworkers are up against not only during extreme fire conditions but all days of the year.
“So now we’re talking about one disaster on top of another disaster,” said Diana Tellefson Torres, Executive Director with the United Farm Workers Foundation.
Farmworkers have never stopped working throughout the coronavirus pandemic and now California is facing a fight on three fronts, a pandemic, extreme heat, and out of control wildfires.
“When we are talking about the California wildfires. So we know farmworkers are letting us know that the air quality is very bad, it’s difficult to breathe, some are unsure of about what their rights are,” added Torres
A video posted on Instagram went viral, it offers just a glimpse of what they are facing.
“Some of that air coming through from the recent fires here in our county as well, and we have had some farmworkers hospitalized,” explained Luz Gallegos, Community Program Director of TODEC.
Many of these workers are immigrants who have trouble getting health insurance, we spoke to a local farmworker who only gave us her first name to protect her identity. She has pre-existing conditions that make this work especially hard.
“It’s not easy, it’s a really difficult job. I have asthma so it was a little bit more difficult for me to breathe,” said Mariana who is a farmworker.
Mariana gets a break from the harsh sun for now.
“Right now we’re doing a night shift, we’re planting bell peppers, it’s from 6 pm – 3 am in the morning,” explained Mariana
Adding to her challenges here children are home all day because of the pandemic.
“It’s really difficult having our kids home struggling a lot, help them out with their i-pad,” added. Mariana.
Gallegos stresses that extreme events, like the heatwave, the fires, and the pandemic are underscoring systemic issues.
“These conditions have always been there, right now COVID is shedding light on a lot of issues and challenges our community has faced for years and years, explained Gallegos.
Right now one of the biggest concerns is the air quality these workers are facing and advocates want to make it known that help is available…for more information who you can contact, head to https://www.todec.org/ and/or https://ufw.org/.