Environmental Health in the Field: Our EPA Partners Experience Migrant Workers' Lives Firsthand
This week, MCN’s Environmental and Occupational Health office in Maryland was thrilled to host our partners from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for visits to several local sites where we could highlight the importance of our collaborative work in reducing the health disparities of agricultural workers. “We’re excited to see that the EPA is really thinking about the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and wanting to see how it operates,” said Amy Liebman, MCN’s Director of Environmental and Occupational Health.
Although the fields are covered with snow and the labor are empty this time of year, we took a trip out to the Westover labor camp, located on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, so EPA staff could get sense of the everyday reality of migrant workers, including their substandard living conditions, geographic isolation, and lack of transportation and access to services like health care.
We then visited our dear friends Sister Cecilia and Sister Eileen at the Seton Center, a service organization in the poorest county in Maryland. The two highlighted the need for resources specifically for migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, explaining the challenges for farmworkers in navigating the health care system.
Finally, we attended a farmworker training on the use of agricultural pesticides facilitated by our partners at CATA. About 30 farmworkers were in attendance -- a great opportunity for our friends at the EPA to see a WPS training in action. “The training underscored the importance of having interactive, participatory training, as opposed to a video training. This was an example of a culturally-appropriate training that will hopefully reflect the type of training in the strengthened WPS,” said Liebman. The final ruling on the WPS has yet to be completed; we hope to see it this year.