Thanks to the Skagit Valley Herald for covering this issue (see "Mount Vernon Farmers Market kicks off with limited vendors," May 14).
How much do our local farmworkers matter to us?
On Wednesday, May 13, Gov. Inslee declared an emergency proclamation requiring employers to protect farmworkers from the coronavirus by enhancing sanitation conditions and providing cloth masks. This action follows an April lawsuit against the state by the United Farm Workers and other unions. While the governor’s action is a laudable start, it does not provide any specifics such as how to secure the masks or monitoring of work or living conditions.
Local advocates advise that farmworkers are not receiving enough masks and that many workers are getting sick and exposing others because of their cramped work and living conditions. And the situation will only get worse as summer brings more workers to pick our crops. The migrant camps can have six to 10 people in one room, so the situation is a disaster waiting to happen. The farmworkers’ needs are also urgent in terms of feeding themselves and their own families. Our local food banks are overwhelmed, and many of those families are the very farmworkers who are helping to feed us.
Growers, too, need our support. They are facing huge economic challenges because of the coronavirus and need help in supplying masks and providing safe work and living conditions.
What can we do? We can advocate for state support from our governor and lawmakers to provide masks and sanitizing spray to employers for these workers as well as guaranteeing oversight that protections have been put in place. We can lobby the stores where we shop to buy produce only from those farms that show they are protecting their workers. Other suggestions?