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May 11, 2020  |  VIEW IN BROWSER

 

From the Desk of the Executive Director

Daniel Sheehan, Executive Director
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
 
Anyone reading this newsletter I am certain will concur in the fact that farmworkers are facing some of the, if not the, most dangerous times ever to be laboring in the fields.  “Essential” in every sense of the word, farmworkers are planting, pruning, and picking the fruits and vegetables our nation needs for its people to stay fed.  Yet so many – too many – insist that agricultural laborers go to work each day mostly without a care about how those workers can protect themselves and their families from the novel coronavirus.  Others care, though, like the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Program (AFOP) members who bring to this community the significant career and supportive services of the ever-successful National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP).
 
To help bolster that program in this time of pandemic, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (and also Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations) Ranking Minority Member Patty Murray (D-Washington) and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) have introduced identical bills in their respective chambers that would, among many other things, authorize an additional $150 million for the program above the already-enacted $92 million in program year 2020 that begins July 1.  Ranking Minority Member Murray and Chairman Scott are working with the appropriating committees to have their legislation incorporated into the second Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act II).  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has said she wants to move the CARES II package by no later than next week.  While no cost estimate is yet available, Speaker Pelosi said the measure could exceed the $2.3 trillion CARES I.  The Senate majority remains cool to the idea of moving another large package and is seeking to add liability protection to any future bill to protect businesses, essentially a non-starter for the Democrats.  So, we must wait to see if commonsense and compromise can prevail over entrenched political and policy positions.  Throughout this process, you can be certain that AFOP will continue to push for the betterment of the most vulnerable and essential among us: our nation’s farmworkers.

Inside AFOP

House and Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation to Bolster Workforce System, NFJP

AFOP Plays Key Role in Securing $150 Million NFJP Authorization, Change to Low-Income Definition

 
In response to rising unemployment, Democrats have introduced legislation to invest $15 Billion in workforce training needed to relaunch the economy.  Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking minority member of the Senate  Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, led House and Senate Democrats in introducing legislation to invest $15 billion in America’s workforce training infrastructure and career and technical education.  The “Relaunching America’s Workforce Act” authorizes funding to help workers sharpen their skills and quickly re-enter the workforce as the economy emerges from the deepest decline since the Great Depression.  Read more hereSee NFJP legislative provisions here.

AFOP is Moving!

 
With its lease ending and its landlord leaving for new office space, AFOP is moving two blocks east to 1150 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 315, Washington, D.C., 20036.  We will now be but a few steps from the Metro Station (Red Line), right in the heart of carryout central.  Be sure to drop by for a visit once our world returns to normal.  Oh, and happily, AFOP will be saving a bundle on rent.  Good news all around.

Pandemic Affecting Plans for 2020 AFOP National Conference

 
With the COVID-19 remaining a very real threat, the AFOP Conference Committee, with the primary goal of protecting the health and safety of AFOP members and staff, is taking a hard look at changing the conference from an in-person meeting to a virtual meeting.  The committee is considering the million details such a decision would affect, and is working with AFOP’s hotel consultant, HelmsBriscoe’s Stephan Gerhardt, to perhaps move our engagement with the Wigwam resort in Arizona to next year or the year after.  Stay tuned for more announcements concerning that major event.

Competition? You’ve Got This


With the May 14 application deadline for the NFJP grant competition quickly
approaching, AFOP would like to remind you that Katy Nelson, its workforce
development director, has compiled a document listing all the questions and answers
she, the Department of Labor, and others have provided to assist AFOP members in
writing their applications. Check it out. It may save you some precious time.

National Farmworker Jobs Program

Another Arkansas Human Development Corporation NFJP Success Story


Kasin Davis is the dependent of her farmworker husband and high school sweetheart, Ryce Davis.  Ryce’s farm job consisted of delivering various kinds of seed and fertilizer to farmers for production, and planting and harvesting crops.  Because Ryce’s status as a farmworker, the Crowley’s Ridge Vo-Tech Institute referred Kasin to Arkansas Human Development Corporation (AHDC) for NFJP training.  Kasin wanted to enroll in NFJP because she and Ryce could not afford the high cost of college, and she needed assistance to achieve her goal of becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN). 
 
AHDC was up to the challenge, securing the necessary training for her.  In one of those strange coincidences, Kasin’s instructor, Mrs. Debbie Hill, had also taught Kasin’s mother nursing about 15 years earlier.  During training, Kasin’s daily routine consisted of getting up about 4:30 a.m. each morning, dropping her daughter off at daycare, and then driving about 90 minutes from McCrory to Forrest City to be at class at 8:00 a.m.  Once she finished class at 3:00 p.m., she drove back home to pick up her daughter and become a fulltime mom until her husband got home to relieve her.  She then began several hours of study for her classes.  Despite these challenges, she managed to graduate as the number two student in her LPN class and passed her state board exam.
 
To help Kasin along her way, AHDC paid for her tuition, books and supplies, provided a bi-weekly stipend, and covered childcare and transportation costs.  With the assistance of AHDC employment specialist Mr. Bryant Stephens, Kasin secured employment at the ArCare medical facility in McCrory.  Before entering NFJP, Kasin’s past income was just minimum wage from mostly part-time employment, and the couple had no health insurance.  She now makes about $43,000 a year, and enjoys paid vacation, sick leave, and health benefits. 
 
The NFJP training is also helping her obtain future goals because she is now simultaneously attending RN training while working.  She is very excited about her future and appreciates the assistance AHDC gave her.  She said, “AHDC is one of the primary reasons I will achieve my dreams and career goals.” 
 
In addition to Kasin’s success, her husband, who had been working on farms since his teen years, has also advanced in his career with AHDC’s help.  He was previously doing the work of employees in higher-paid positions, but for less salary.  When an opportunity to secure better employment and higher wages presented itself, AHDC provided related assistance to assist him.  He is now a warehouse manager at SFR Seed in McCrory, Arkansas.


Define American out with Farmworker Video; Asks AFOP to Share

 
Define American is a national organization that works to shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship.  It has produced and asked AFOP to share a short video profiling Carlos Gutierrez, a farmworker who helps harvest fruit trees in California's Central Valley.  “Farmworkers are one of many types of essential workers who are still working during this time of self-isolation and stay-at-home orders,” says So Yeon of Define American.



Carlos and his fellow farm workers risk their lives every day to harvest the food that all Americans rely on. Let’s uplift their stories and show our appreciation.

Sample Tweets

-Carlos Gutierrez is one of many farmworkers who are risking their lives daily to harvest food. Farmworkers have always been essential, but especially now during this pandemic. We must do more to protect workers. Watch his story here: | @DefineAmerican

-Farmworkers are essential workers. They are heroes who risk their lives every day to put food on our tables. Meet Carlo Guttierez, one of the farmworkers at the front lines of #COVID19: #DefineAmerican

-Farmworkers like Carlos Guttierez are how we #DefineAmerican. How can you help support #EssentialWorkers like Carlos? Remember, we are all in this together. Check out his story:

-Many labor protections don’t extend to farmworkers to like Carlos. And yet, they continue to show up, day after day, because they know the nation depends on them. They are heroes during this pandemic. Watch his story here: #DefineAmerican

AFOP Health & Safety

Spare a Mask for a Farmworker?

 
Farmworkers are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, and they need your help. Please donate non-medical grade masks to your local farmworker advocacy agency.  You can find it here.

Did You Know?

 
Agriculture is one of the three most hazardous occupations in the U.S.  AFOP recognizes the need of farmworkers to receive lifesaving tools to better avoid health and safety risks while working and at home.  To help deliver those tools, AFOP Health & Safety operates two national programs:
 

NATIONAL FARMWORKER TRAINING PROGRAM (NFTP) 

The program focuses on impacting agriculture workers and their families by providing multiple occupational health & safety trainings in over 25 states with our network of over 200 trainers.  Read more.

 
CHILDREN IN THE FIELDS CAMPAIGN (CIFC)

The campaign focus on impacting farmworker children by advocating on their behalf, and by providing pesticide safety education.  Read more.

AFOP Health & Safety’s Long-Sleeve Shirt Drive in the News

 
Just another example of AFOP Health & Safety raising public awareness about the condition of farmworkers in our nation.  Check out this article from Florida newspaper.

United States Department of Labor

Performance Measures: PY18 Showed Rise in WIOA Training

Employment Training Reporter

 
As Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act adult, dislocated worker and youth program enrollments continued to decline over the last complete program year, training for adults and youth program participants grew more common, as did the referral from Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments, for dislocated workers.  The Employment and Training Administration recently released the PY 2018 Data Book, a compendium of workforce system program participation and outcome measures covering the last complete federal program year, which ran from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, as well as prior-year data.  Social Policy Research Associates published the data book in February on behalf of the federal agency.  This data release comes at a time when the workforce development system enters a period of major change in response to the coronavirus outbreak.  With layoffs mounting, the future uncertain for many workers and months left in the current program year, it is likely that the system-wide enrollment decline of recent years will slow or end. It remains to be seen is how soon the workforce development system begins providing face-to-face, or even virtual, but individualized services to large numbers of newly dislocated workers; and how many will have jobs to return to in a few weeks or months. Read more.

ajc-new

May 08, 2020

Back to Basics: American Job Centers (AJCs)

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis has shown the importance of the public workforce system’s services in assisting individuals and businesses get through the crisis and back on the road to recovery. WorkforceGPS, with its robust webinar capabilities and communities is ideally suited to provide you with the latest guidance and resources to assist the public.

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May 08, 2020

The Council of State Governments’ Issues to Watch 2020

Resources identified with The Future of Work theme will spotlightforces affecting work, the workforce, and the workplace. A sampling of issues and trends that are anticipated to emerge during the 2020 legislative term.

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March 03, 2020

WIOA Voices of Experience Part 2: Five Years Later

Voices of Experience are videos showcasing workforce system leaders sharing how WIOA in the past five years has enhanced their partnerships and thus service delivery. This series showcases five stories focused on state, regional, and American Job Center partnerships.

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May 08, 2020

Quick Fact: AJC Locations

QUICK ACT: AJC Locations

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May 08, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has developed a series of technical assistance resources and frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address grants managementquestions related toCoronavirus (COVID-19) to help state and local workforce leaders, and other stakeholders and partners to assist the public workforce system during this crisis.

New Farmworker Justice Report Quantifies Wage Loss to Tens of Thousands of Farmworkers in Proposal in Congress and the Administration

Farmworker Justice

 
Farmworker Justice has published a new report called "Congress and the Administration Must Not Cut Farmworkers’ Wages in the H-2A Guestworker Program". It quantifies the devastating impact on farmworkers’ wages in 21 states by the hour, the week and the season of a proposal to lower farmworkers’ wages.  Read more here.

United States Department of Agriculture

Secretary Perdue Issues Letters on Meat Packing Expectations

USDA

 
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has sent two letters to governors across the nation and leadership of major meat processing companies.  These letters establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) clear expectations for the implementation of the president executive order signed last week directing plants to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance specific to the meat processing industry to keep these critical facilities open while maintaining worker safety.  Read more here.


As Tight Living Conditions Bring Coronavirus Risks, Farms Secure Housing to Isolate Workers

Hotels, fairgrounds to house virus-affected farmworkers, while some growers see new measures cutting production

Wall Street Journal
 
Farmworkers across the U.S. often live in tight conditions, with multiple families inhabiting a single dwelling or dozens of workers sharing dormitory-style housing.  Those arrangements can pose significant risks amid the coronavirus pandemic , leading some U.S. farms to take the unprecedented step of securing socially distant housing for infected or quarantined workers as they try to keep their operations humming.
 
Dozens of farmworkers from North Carolina to California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least one has died, according to companies and state health departments. However a national tally isn't known since most haven't been tested. As they try to prevent the virus's spread and keep food flowing to customers, agricultural employers have recently begun securing hotel rooms and other shelter so that potentially contagious workers can self-isolate.
 
Many farmworkers do their jobs outdoors, and sometimes harvest crops at a distance from one another. Yet crowded housing and buses that transport workers to and from fields pose a risk, labor advocates say. They worry many more workers will fall ill as the busy agricultural season in many states is just ramping up, with thousands of workers yet to arrive on farms.
 
Many farmworkers, including those who migrate, live in apartments, houses or trailers packed with others trying to afford monthly rents. Foreign guest workers recruited from countries like Mexico often live in dormitory-style housing provided by employers. Federal housing standards require beds to be spaced at least 3 feet apart, with one shower and one stove for every 10 people. Some states require more.
 
"There's multiple opportunities for this virus to leap across workers," said Erik Nicholson, national vice president for United Farm Workers, a union. "We want to make sure people don't lack food and it's getting harder every day to make that happen."
 
In California's Monterey County, home to some of the nation's most productive farmland, fresh-vegetable behemoth Taylor Farms is paying two local hotels for 20% of their rooms each night, an arrangement that gives the company access to the full hotels if needed to quarantine workers or family members who may have been exposed to the virus. So far, only one out of the 5,000 people Taylor Farms employs in the county has tested positive for the virus and is recovering at home, according to Chief Executive Bruce Taylor.
 
The Salinas-based Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, which represents about 400 producers of crops like spinach and strawberries, has contracted with multiple hotels and motels left empty amid the pandemic. Christopher Valadez, the association's president, said he has begun filling the rented rooms with coronavirus-positive workers, as well as some who may have been exposed to the virus.
 
The group is also coordinating meals and medical services for workers and joining with local hospitals to send doctors and nurses to fields, packing sheds and processing facilities to train workers on protective measures for coronavirus.  "Conditions are just ripe for the spread of coronavirus," he said.
 
Meat plants also rely heavily on immigrants and refugees to do tough, low-paying jobs, and some live in close quarters. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and meat-industry executives have expressed concerns about workers' ability to practice social distancing at home. In some states, like Kansas, empty hotels and community colleges have offered to house family members of affected meat plant workers, said Matt Teagarden, chief executive of the Kansas Livestock Association.
 
In April, United Farm Workers and other groups sued Washington state, saying farmworkers there lacked sufficient protections against Covid-19 and seeking updates to the state's health and safety standards.  State officials last month issued a draft of emergency rules for housing temporary farmworkers, including requirements to space beds 6 feet apart and in many cases only use the bottom bunk on bunk beds. The state also responded to the suit, saying the court should deny the unions' requests, in part because state agencies alone had discretion over their rules.
 
The rules came after Stemilt Growers LLC, a Washington grower of apples, pears and cherries, said more than half of 71 asymptomatic workers at the company tested positive for Covid-19. Fifty-three of Stemilt's workers have now tested positive, according to Roger Pepperl, Stemilt's marketing director.
 
Washington fruit growers and state lawmakers have pushed back on the rules, saying there is no proof the measures would protect workers' health and that flexibility is required to manage risks.  Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers, a major Washington fruit producer, said his company has spent millions of dollars in recent years to build government-approved apartment complexes with central heat and air conditioning, and that the company takes seriously its responsibility to keep workers safe.
 
Domex said the new rules would cut its housing capacity by 60%, potentially resulting in more than 400,000 bins of apples, or $200 million worth, it may not be able to harvest. Statewide, industry losses could be $2 billion for apples, Domex said.
 
Farther east, farmworkers said their living conditions, trying under normal circumstances, now feel perilous.  Isabel Rafael Pérez, a Florida farmworker, said there are few choices for her six-person family this season, when they pack their belongings and travel to farms in Georgia and North Carolina, following the tomato harvest north.
 
Last year, Ms. Pérez stayed with her sister's family, squeezing 11 people into a trailer where their combined seven children slept on the living room floor and lined up to use a single bathroom. Some years, her family has slept in their car until they find housing.  "It's the reality we have to live with," Ms. Pérez said.

What We're Reading

As COVID-19 Reveals Our Food System’s Flaws, Congress Can Boost Protection Now—and Resilience for the Future

Millions Teeter on the Brink of Hunger; Food and Farm Workers are at Risk

Union of Concerned Scientists
 
If we didn’t know it before—or had forgotten—the escalating pandemic and its widening economic ripple effects are hammering home the reality that our world is full of risk and uncertainty. Preparedness is paramount. Resilience is essential. And apart from the nation’s healthcare system, nowhere is this more apparent right now than when it comes to keeping ourselves fed, as food producers, workers, and consumers alike face mounting threats to their health and well-being. Read more.

The Crisis Within the Crisis: COVID-19 Is Ravaging African Americans

Union of Concerned Scientists

 
Why hasn’t the CDC acknowledged that African Americans are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness and death and why isn’t that reflected in its updated COVID-19 Guidelines? It is no secret that simply being African American in the United States is bad for one’s health. Early data also suggest that you’re more likely to die if you get COVID-19—and you’re African American. The CDC has a responsibility to speak to what the emerging data say about the health of African American communities. Help is needed NOW.  Read more here.

More Than One in Five US Adults Experienced Food Insecurity in the Early Weeks of the Pandemic

Communities of color face higher levels of food insecurity—and greater health risks from COVID-19

Urban Institute, April 28, 2020
 
A recent Urban Institute survey reveals 30.6 percent of adults reported spending less on food as a result of the pandemic between March 25 and April 10.  In addition to exploring the higher risk of food insecurity for Hispanic and Black adults, and how families can stay fed during this time, the institute warns of the health impacts for those who cannot afford to go to the grocery store. Read More here.

New Unemployment Report Shows Record-Breaking Hardship – Congress Must Respond

Coalition on Human Needs

 
The gravity of our national situation cannot be denied. With 20,000 – 30,000 new COVID-19 cases every day in the U.S., we will not be able to fully open our economy for some time. We are experiencing a pandemic-induced economic depression.  April’s stunning unemployment report showed a total of nearly 44 million either out of work or involuntarily part-time.  For Latinx, nearly one in five were unemployed (18.9 percent); for African Americans, 16.7 percent; for whites, 14.2 percent; for Asians, 14.5 percent, using the narrowest official definition of unemployment.  Over and over again, the Bureau of Labor Statistics report noted the increases were the highest on record.  “The evidence of growing hardship is brutal.  Forty percent of mothers with children under age 12 reported in late April they were unable to buy enough food for their family.  In 2018, the comparable figure was 15 percent.  While temporary moratoria on evictions are now in place, when they expire, analysts believe that in the absence of help we will see unprecedented numbers of tenants forced out of their homes.  In Colorado alone, a recent report estimated 500,000 tenants would likely face eviction, close to one-quarter of all renters.
 
The pandemic exposes and magnifies our nation’s ruinous inequality, by race, class, and immigrant status.  A Washington Post/Ipsos poll shows even more recent than today’s April jobless statistics: 11 percent of whites, 16 percent of blacks, and 20 percent of Hispanics were laid off or furloughed.  That figure rises to 32 percent of non-citizen Hispanics, many of whom are here legally.  Hispanics, because they include many immigrants, have been far less likely to receive assistance.  Only 47 percent got the one-time Economic Impact check, while 61 percent overall did.  In a public health and economic emergency, we must leave no one behind.  Immigrants are doing this nation’s work; they are part of our communities and must not be excluded from help.
 
This is a crisis that urgently demands more action by Congress and the Trump Administration.  Read more here.

Hispanics are Almost Twice as Likely as Whites to Have Lost their Jobs amid Pandemic, Poll Finds

Washington Post

 
A Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that Hispanics and blacks are more likely than whites to lose their jobs during the economic shutdowns, deepening the divide in how different racial and ethnic groups are experiencing the crisis.

Health Insurers’ Offers of Free COVID-19 Care Are Less Generous Than They Appear

Public Citizen

 
While most large health insurers are offering free care for coronavirus patients, their promises are riddled with confusing conditions and loopholes, according to a new report by Public Citizen that analyzed the coronavirus policies of the 25 largest health insurers.
 

Immigrants — essential, ignored, persecuted — are committed to the U.S. Where’s our gratitude?

The Washington Post


The coronavirus pandemic has shocked America’s economy, and one of the groups that has suffered greatly is the vast Hispanic community. A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll captured the extent of the anguish: Latinos are almost twice as likely as whites to have been laid off or furloughed during the crisis. Unemployment among Hispanics has risen to 18.9 percent. More than one in five Hispanic men have either lost their jobs or seen their hours reduced.

Once again, Hispanics are paying the heftiest price: 21 percent said they had received some sort of unemployment benefits, almost 10 percent less than whites and 5 percent less than African Americans. Only 47 percent of Hispanics in the poll said they had benefited from the government’s massive federal stimulus. Among whites, the number is 67 percent.

The plight of undocumented people in the United States during the pandemic has been particularly incongruous and cruel. While the government has declared many within the undocumented community as essential — among them at least 1 million farmworkers — it has not only refused to help them directly in any significant way, but also persisted in their relentless persecution. Many of those deported carry the virus with them, back to countries that aren’t remotely ready to deal with an outbreak. In the meantime, Stephen Miller, President Trump’s de facto nativist czar, has continued to restrict immigration, making it harder to obtain legal residency in the country.

Read More here.
The AFOP Washington Newsline (ISSN# 1056-8565) is produced by the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of agencies serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers. AFOP’s mission is to improve the quality of life for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families by promoting self-sufficiency through employment and training opportunities, educational attainment, and health and safety.
The publication is funded by subscriptions and the members of AFOP. The Washington Newsline receives no financial support from the federal government. Staff may be reached by calling (202) 384-1754.
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Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

1120 20th Street, N.W. |  Suite 300 South
Washington, D.C. 20036

Phone: (202) 384-1754
Website: www.afop.org

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