Congressional Hispanic Caucus Hosts Press Conference with Dolores Huerta, United Farm Workers, and National and Local Advocacy Organizations to Call for Passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Jun 22, 2022
Press Release

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

 

Contact

Sebastian Roa

 

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Hosts Press Conference with Dolores Huerta, United Farm Workers, and National and Local Advocacy Organizations to Call for Passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act

 

Washington, D.C. –Today, Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) hosted a farmworker policy roundtable to hear from national and local farmworker advocacy organizations, including Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and Co-Founder of United Farm Workers. CHC Members, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), were briefed on issues affecting farmworkers. CHC Chair Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) convened the roundtable to identify legislative actions, including calling on Senate Republicans to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will help improve the working conditions and livelihoods of farmworkers and their families. Four policy issue areas were covered: immigration, workers’ rights, education, housing, and health care.

Organizations in attendance included:

  • Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.
  • California Farmworker Foundation
  • Campesinos Sin Fronteras (CSF)
  • Centro Binacional para el Desarollo Indigina Oaxacaqueño
  • Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.
  • Cierto Global
  • Child Labor Coalition
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
  • Desert Healthcare District and Foundation (DHCD)
  • Dolores Huerta Foundation
  • East Coast Migrant Head Start Project
  • Farmworker Justice
  • FIND Food Bank
  • Líderes Campesinas
  • Migrant Clinician’s Network
  • National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association
  • Rural Coalition
  • TODEC Legal Center
  • United Farm Workers of America (UFW)
  • United Farm Workers Foundation
  • University of California, Riverside School of Medicine

CHC Members and partners that joined in solidary today included:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • CHC Chair Raul Ruiz, M.D.
  • CHC Member Senator Alex Padilla
  • CAPAC Chair Judy Chu
  • CHC Deputy Chair Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán
  • CHC Vice Chair of Policy Rep. Darren Soto
  • CHC Whip Rep. Sylvia Garcia
  • CHC Vice Chair of Member Engagement Rep. Tony Cárdenas
  • CHC Vice Chair of Communications Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández
  • CHC Freshman Representative Rep. Ritchie Torres
  • CHC Member Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García
  • CHC Member Rep. Linda Sánchez
  • CHC Member Rep. Lou Correa
  • CHC Member Rep. Salud Carbajal
  • CHC Member Rep. Jimmy Gomez

“Our farmworkers face incredible hardships. Already underserved, they experience abuse, family separation, and violation of their workplace rights. Growing up as the son of farmworkers in the Coachella Valley, I understand the hardships and how critical farmworkers are to keeping our country running. It is an honor today for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss with national and local advocacy organizations how we can continue to help our farmworkers­–which includes calling on the Senate to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Now is the time to provide stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy: nuestros campesinos,” said Chair Dr. Ruiz.  

“Earlier this month, I experienced a small taste of the demanding work that farm workers do to keep millions of families across the country fed. Whether it’s in the middle of a pandemic, during extreme heat, or under smoke-filled skied near wildfires, farm workers often risk their own health to ensure that we have food on our tables and on grocery store shelves. These workers are essential. That’s why I’m fighting alongside my colleagues to fix our broken immigration system and to provide immigrant farm workers the pathway to citizenship they have earned,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla.

“Farmworkers pick and package crops to ensure there is food on our tables to feed our families. Many of them are migrants who despite hard work and sacrifice, live in uncertainty because of our broken immigration system,” said Rep. Linda Sánchez. “Delivering a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers, TPS holders, DACA recipients, and the millions of immigrants who call this country home will help address workforce shortages and stimulate our entire economy.  I am proud to join my fellow CHC colleagues, United Farmworkers, and other leading organizers to discuss ways we can support farmworkers and their families. I would also like to thank Dolores Huerta, a lifelong advocate for the rights of workers and an inspiration to Latinas and Latinos everywhere, for joining today’s roundtable.”

"Farmworkers throughout the United States need to be granted the same labor protections as other industrial and public workers. They are, after all, the essential workers that put the food on our table every day. There can no longer be any excuses or delays to deny them the basic human benefits that other workers enjoy," said Dolores Huerta, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers.

“We appreciate the opportunity to join today’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus policy roundtable on farmworkers and highlight the critical work these essential workers accomplish each day, contributing to the success of the agriculture and food industry, as well as challenges they face. Supporting farmworkers ensures America has a food supply that is abundant, safe and affordable, which is why USDA supports the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, legislation that will help to turn the tide on protections for farmworkers, enabling them to earn higher wages and exercise their rights under labor laws for better working conditions,” said Dr. Lisa Ramirez, Director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, and Oscar Gonzales, Assistant Secretary for Administration.

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas is a farmworker-women led organization, with 15 member groups in over 20 states, representing approximately 700,000 farmworker women and their families.  Our work to improve the lives of farmworkers at the grassroots level includes creating spaces for our members to directly engage with policy makers on four priority areas; addressing the harms caused by pesticide exposure, ending gender-based violence, promoting comprehensive immigration reform, and protecting farmworkers’ labor rights. We are further adding a fifth priority area -  confronting inequities in nutrition and health.  Farmworkers need and deserve equity and justice,” said Mily Trevino-Sauceda, Executive Director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas.

“The United Farm Workers of America welcomes addressing the issues impacting our nation’s farm workers with the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” said Giev Kashkooli, 2nd Vice President and Political/Legislative Director of United Farm Workers (UFW). “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a bill that passed the House with the support of both Democrats and Republicans and would honor the people who feed us every day by allowing them to earn legal status. Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership was critical for passing the bill in the House—every CHC member voted for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and several CHC members were co-authors.  The CHC's Senator Alex Padilla took up the United Farm Workers’ challenge to spend a day working in the fields.  We need the U.S. Senate to act quickly on behalf of farm workers who risk so much to ensure that families all across the U.S. are fed by voting on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.  And for Senators still studying the bill, we invite you to spend the day working in the fields to help you make your decision." 

"Both sides are working together to give farm workers the relief they need with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. It’s been 36 years since Congress passed any major immigration reform, let us come together to pass something we all agree on: legalization for the undocumented farm workers that nourish this nation," said Diana Tellefson Torres, Executive Director of the UFW Foundation.

“At today's CHC roundtable, Congressional leaders heard a clear message: Farmworkers are essential for our nation's food security, and policymakers are not doing enough to support them. Farmworkers face some of the most dangerous working conditions of any industry yet are among the lowest paid workers in the country. Farmworker Justice urges the Senate to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will provide a path to citizenship for the long-serving undocumented workers who make up nearly half of the American farm labor force and will allow these essential workers to live and work with dignity," said Ron Estrada, CEO of Farmworker Justice.

"As a country, we must always value, protect, and defend our country's most valuable asset, nuestros campesinos (our farmworkers). Not only during times of crisis, but always. The dire need to protect this workforce is more real than ever. If our farmworkers are healthy, our community is healthy, and our economy is thriving. I congratulate the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for their commitment to address the needs of our most vulnerable workforce," said Luz Gallegos, Executive Director of TODEC Legal Center.

“On behalf of the farmworker families we serve, including the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start parents’ whose work in fields and packing facilities was considered “essential” during the pandemic to support the economy and make sure families across the county could access fresh, safe and affordable produce, I urge congressional leaders to enact the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.  It's time Congress recognize the vital role that our skilled domestic farmworkers play in guarantying food security – not just in times of crisis – passage of this bill is an important step,” said Cleofas Rodriguez, Jr., Executive Director of National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association.

“Migrant Clinicians Network sees firsthand the devastating health consequences of our immigration policies. Better treatment and a path forward for citizenship for farmworkers and their families are both long overdue," said Karen Mountain, MBA, MSN, RN, CEO for Migrant Clinicians Network. "It's the right thing to do for the workers who feed us."

"For decades, we’ve fought to strengthen protections for and alongside workers in the food chain, including agricultural workers on temporary work visas. The public health crisis brought attention to the dire conditions workers face in the program long before the pandemic began.  These communities continue to lack basic protections and immigration relief to this day. At CDM, we urge policymakers to ensure migrant worker communities have a pathway to permanence, can access rights information, and strong worker protections," said Rachel Micah-Jones, Executive Director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante.

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.