People over Profit during COVID-19

The pandemic is not dishing out its damage equally. Across Washington State, including King County, not all workers have the luxury or privilege to work from home. While working from home during the West Coast’s worst outbreak, farmworkers in Yakima Valley are getting pushed back to the frontlines to maintain our country’s food supply. We are ordered to protect ourselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing and self-isolation, yet the working conditions for farmworkers make those measures nearly impossible.

Farmworkers in the Yakima Valley are concerned about their employers’ weak enforcement of social distancing and sanitation procedures. As essential workers, they are requesting basic protections for all farmworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing no progress or promise in sight, farmworkers across six fruit processing plants in the Yakima Valley are peacefully striking back against substandard working conditions. They are asking for the minimum protections:

  • Specific measures to guarantee their health and safety
  • To stop employer retaliation if a worker complains about safety measures not being enforced
  • Hazard pay to reflect the risks they are taking as essential workers, and a permanent hourly wage increase to a just wage that extends beyond the timeframe of the pandemic

Before COVID-19’s onset, farmworkers’ work was characterized by low wages and no benefits, short terms of laborious employment, poor sanitation, and inadequate housing. Today, farmworkers are feeding our communities during a pandemic. They are not expendable and never have been. Yet, during COVID-19, they have to advocate for proper enforcement of protocols to protect fellow essential workers. You can do something to help farmworkers protect their livelihood amidst the COVID-19 crisis:

  1. Take one minute today to tell Governor Inslee to take immediate action to protect Washington State’s farmworkers
  2. Contacting the plant sites and urging them to negotiate with their workers, rather than retaliating against them for striking:
    – Allan Bros. Fruit in Naches, WA | (509) 653-2625
    – Hansen Fruit in Yakima, WA | (509) 457-4153
    – Jack Frost Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA | (509) 248-5231
    – Matson Fruit Co. in Selah, WA | (509) 697-7100
    – Monson Fruit Co. in Selah, WA | (509) 697-9175
    – Columbia Reach in Yakima, WA | (509) 457-8001
  3. Donating to farmworkers’ cause whether through their general GoFundMe page or individual pages by specific sites:
    General GoFundMe
    Matson Fruit
    Monson Fruit
    Jack Frost

Yakima County is the new epicenter of the global pandemic on the West Coast. We are not on the road to recovery until each community receives the assistance they need to make it through the COVID-19 crisis. As Governor Inslee begins our state’s economic recovery efforts, we must not forget the people in our communities that call Washington home. Please join us in taking action.