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Thu Apr 30, 2020, 05:30 PM

'They cut all of our hours'

For the past five years, Juanita*, a resident of the border town of Mexicali, Mexico, has spent the spring and summer seasons in Southern California’s Eastern Coachella Valley, picking grapes, beets, blueberries and bell peppers, and then heading north for similar work in Northern California come July, once Coachella’s daytime temperatures become unbearable — 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This year, however, the 66-year-old grandmother finds herself unexpectedly idle. At the end of March, she was working only two days out of six. “They cut all of our hours,” she said, wondering just how much longer she could afford to linger here, waiting for work — and pay.

In California and across the country, agricultural businesses have remained open, classified as “essential.” The farmworkers who are still employed continue to work, despite the lack of protective gear, or unemployment benefits if they fall ill. Farmworkers are especially vulnerable given the difficulty of social distancing in the fields and the underlying health conditions, like asthma, diabetes and long-term exposure to pesticides, associated with agricultural work. Many also share housing and the buses that bring them to and from work.

Coachella Mayor Stephen Hernandez is not surprised by the furloughs. The closure of restaurants, schools and large businesses has affected farms’ bottom lines, and some can’t afford to keep their workers employed. One report, from the National Agriculture Sustainable Coalition, projects that shutdowns of non-essential businesses may cause small farms selling locally to lose up to $688.7 million. Eastern Coachella Valley is “probably another two or three weeks from plowing unsold crops into the ground, as has happened in other parts of the country,” Hernandez said.

The Coachella Valley stretches 45 miles from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea. The west side’s mid-century homes draped in blooming bougainvillea and its lush green golf courses vanish as you move to the east, where many of the region’s low-wage workers reside. There, rundown mobile homes and squat abodes appear even smaller against the vast desert and intermittent fields and orchards, which produce 95% of the country’s dates and nearly a billion dollars in fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/covid19-they-cut-all-of-our-hours
(High Country News)

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Reply 'They cut all of our hours' (Original post)
TexasTowelie Apr 2020 OP
jimfields33 Apr 2020 #1

Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Thu Apr 30, 2020, 06:10 PM

1. It is tough everywhere

At least they get two days. Those working restaurants get nothing. Hopefully everything is back to normal in a few years at most.

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