STATE’S PROPOSED GUIDELINES WOULD SEND ABOUT 15,000 FARM WORKERS HOME AND DESTROY AT LEAST HALF OF THE STATE’S FRUIT HARVEST
Political and legal pressure applied by extremist labor activists have resulted in Washington state issuing proposed guidelines that would send half of the state’s “essential” farm workers home and destroy billions of pounds of apples, berries, and other fruits and vegetables.
“This is not about farm worker safety,” said Gerald Baron, Executive Director of Save Family Farming. “We’ve been documenting here all the measures taken to protect farm workers, even above state guidelines such as quarantining those with the virus. Why is the state not applying the same standards to all other essential workers such as health care, police and military? Will the state next enter homes of essential workers to see if beds are far enough apart?”
Proposed guidelines make use of bunk beds in temporary worker housing illegal. Because most farm workers, both domestic and guest workers with legal visas, use temporary government inspected housing, this requirement would reduce the work force by about half according to farm leaders. “It’s interesting they do not require this of non-temporary worker housing,” Baron commented. “Why the double standard? There can be no justification. Despite our state leaders stating they would not allow politics to interfere with decisions to respond to the pandemic, here is a clearcut case where they are.”
The proposed restrictions are available in PDF form below.
Lawsuit to stop essential farm workers from working in Washington is harming farm workers now and could result in millions of tons of food waste at worst possible time
A lawsuit filed in Skagit County against the state of Washington is already harming efforts by farmers and state agencies to protect workers. If it succeeds, Washington farmers will lose as many as 15,000 farm workers scheduled to help harvest fruit, hops and wine grape crops in Washington state. The activists behind this have failed in their effort to convince Gov. Inslee to halt seasonal guest workers, and have now taken their extremely harmful action to court.
How does this action threaten farm worker protections during the pandemic?
According to the Washington Farm Bureau, the lawsuit halts the work by the State Department of Labor & Industries to work with a crucial state appointed farm committee to update guidelines farmers and farm workers need to stay safe and healthy. Mike LaPlant, president of Washington Farm Bureau stated in a press release:
“The timing of this lawsuit was purposeful and intentional. These labor groups placed their own political interests over the needs, health and safety of the farmworkers they claim to represent.”
Farmers and state agencies have been working together tirelessly to do the very best to protect farm employees, who are listed as essential during the pandemic to maintain our food supply. Healthcare workers, those involved in food service, and many other essential workers are exposed to additional risks, but those risks have been limited by following strict safety guidelines. Farmers and farm workers explain some of the measures they are taking here. Like employers of any other essential workers, farmers cannot be held responsible for their employees’ actions outside of their working environment, despite what the activists imply.
How will this affect Washington’s food production?
The lawsuit could result in nearly 2 billion pounds of Washington apples wasted at a time when our nation’s food supply is already under extreme strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This does not include the additional massive loss of cherries, pears, hops, wine grapes and more. Washington’s family farmers hire about 40,000 to 60,000 seasonal workers to grow and harvest $10 billion worth of food crops, and almost half of those are guest workers. The lawsuit would impose new rules that would eliminate about half — about 11,000 — of those guest worker jobs, which would hit apple growers hardest.