In Part 5, we continue our interview with Larry Kleinman, of the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United (PCUN), who shares his perspective on the struggles that farm workers face, and the important role that unions have played historically, and today.
According to the most recent USDA Economic Research Service Farm (2008) report, farm workers face an array of daunting challenges that significantly impact the quality of their lives, and their physical health. Among the ERS findings in their report (PDF):
- There are roughly 1 million farm workers in the U.S. as of 2008. ThIs figure represents a decrease in the actual number of farm workers over the past decade, attributed to productivity gains in agriculture.
- “California, Florida, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and North Carolina account for half of all hired and contracted farmworkers, similar to a decade ago.”
- “On average, hired farmworkers are younger, less educated, more likely to be foreign-born, less likely to speak English, and less likely to be U.S. citizens or to have a legally authorized work permit.”
- “Poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees.”
- “Housing conditions of farmworkers have historically been substandard because of crowding, poor sanitation, poor housing quality, proximity to pesticides, and lax inspection and enforcement of housing regulations.”
- “Agricultural work is among the most hazardous occupations in the United States, and farmworker health remains a considerable occupational concern. Farmworkers face exposure to pesticides, risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, inadequate sanitary facilities, and obstacles in obtaining health care due to high costs and language barriers.