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What’s the Impact of COVID-19 on Food and Farmworkers? MCN’s Amy Liebman Joins Marylanders to Discuss

Workers harvesting apples

The impact of COVID-19 has not been spread equally. Within the exploitative structures of industrial agriculture, farm and food workers have frequently been unable to keep themselves safe on the job and in farm-provided housing and transportation, as the “essential” work continues without sufficient protections or modifications -- no required federal protections for workers have been issued.  Some states and counties have enacted emergency regulations to force employers to implement basic safety measures, but many workers report that employers have been slow to make changes.  And hundreds of thousands of farm and food workers toil on in states without any regulated COVID-19 protections. Even with safety measures, farm and food workers still battle poverty and a lack of agency. Farmworkers frequently lack the political and social capital to advocate for their health needs on the job. Testing and hospitalization are difficult in deeply rural locations where health services are miles away, transportation is limited, and health insurance is nonexistent.

In Maryland, thousands of farmworkers, poultry workers, and seafood workers find themselves working as “essential workers” and yet lacking basic protections. Local poultry workers here have suffered through multiple work-centered outbreaks, and yet the state still lacks emergency regulations for food and farmworkers

On Thursday, a panel of Maryland food and farmworker advocates will discuss a recent PBS Frontline documentary, “COVID’s Hidden Toll." The documentary tracks the lack of protections for farmworkers and the implications both for the health of this “essential” workforce and for America’s food system. On the virtual panel, Migrant Clinicians Network’s Amy Liebman, MPA, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, will join Gerardo Reyes Chavez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Sulma Guzman of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Devon Payne-Sturges of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Leila Borrero-Krouse of CATA Farmworkers.

“COVID-19 has ripped the thin veil that had previously and conveniently shielded people in the United States from the working conditions farmworkers and so many of our essential workers  endure each day,” says Liebman, who lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. “These workers are at the heart of Maryland’s strong agricultural and seafood industries. They deserve safe working conditions and access to health care. This panel brings together advocates and workers who underscore that it is time to act so that these workers are protected.”

Watch the PBS Frontline documentary, COVID’s Hidden Toll.

RSVP for the panel discussion, which takes place on Thursday, October 8, at 7pm EST.

Read and sign a petition to Maryland Governor Hogan to mandate COVID-19 protections for vulnerable workers. 



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