A Conversation with Mary Jo Dudley
Mary Jo Dudley is the Director of the Cornell Farmworker Program and a faculty member in the Department of Global Development. In this episode of "Extension Out Loud," Dudley recalls the history of the Cornell Farmworker Program and shares some of the challenges farmworkers in New York have faced during COVID-19.
This conversation with Dudley is the seventh episode of the latest “Extension Out Loud” series, “Leading Through Extension,” which features key Cornell Cooperative Extension voices discussing their approaches to extension work and how history – and this past tumultuous year — are shaping the organization’s path forward.
Mary Jo Dudley
Senior Extension Associate and Director, Cornell Farmworker Program, Department of Global Development
Paul Treadwell 00:00
Welcome to extension out loud a podcast from Cornell Cooperative Extension. I'm Paul Treadwell. And I'm Katie Baildon, we got a chance to sit down and talk to,
Katie Baildon 00:11
we talked to Mary Jo Dudley. She's senior extension associate and director of the Cornell Farm Worker Program in the department of global development at Cornell University.
Paul Treadwell 00:23
The format of this episode is the result of us wanting to give Mary Jo a platform to explain the farmworkers program in some detail.
Mary Jo Dudley 00:35
My name is Mary Jo Dudley. I'm the director of the Cornell Farm Worker Program, which is a university-wide program and my faculty appointment is in the department of global development, which is in the College of Ag and Life Sciences. The Cornell Farm Worker Program has a quite a long history. It actually started under the name of the Cornell migrant program over 54 years ago, when students in order to graduate needed to work on a farm. So for students who were from farming families, they would work a full semester on a different farm. But students who hadn't grown up on a farm would work a full year on a farm. And at this time, the program was born out of student activism. Because at this time, a Cornell alum donated a large apple orchard in Wayne County to the university. And it became one of the first experiment stations so many, many students worked on that farm. And they lived in migrant housing, and worked alongside migrant farmworkers who at that time, were primarily Southern blacks. This had a deep impact on the students. They were surprised about the situation of farmworkers, in particular migrant farmworkers. And they went to the Cornell Faculty Senate, along with their faculty mentors, and the Senate approved a resolution that Cornell should have a program specifically dedicated to the needs of farmworkers and their families. So with that background, our program really focuses on farm worker identified needs and opportunities. The program is dedicated to improving the living and working conditions of farm workers and their families. But we also seek recognition for their contributions to society, and their acceptance and full participation in local communities. So this includes things like equal protection under the law, earning a living wage living in safe and comfortable housing, and more importantly, receiving respect as workers and as individuals to allow them to participate fully in their communities. So how do we understand what farmworkers need? And the way that we approach this is direct interviews with farm workers in the format of a needs assessment? The interviews examine where the workers originate? Why do they migrate? How do they get here? How do they find their employment? What is their job? What is their day to day? What do they enjoy about their job? What did they find challenging? What do they do during their time off? How do they interact with others in local communities in rural areas? And what are their goals for the future. And this aspect of understanding where they came from, why they came, how they located employment, and what their goals are, for the future, drive the agenda of the Cornell Farm Worker Program, because we look at how people assess where they are today, and where they'd like to be in one year, five years, 10 years. And so we can look at the current challenges and go from there to how to address those challenges. So who are the farmworkers in New York State? Currently, most of the farm workers are undocumented workers that come from rural areas of Mexico, and rural areas from Guatemala.
And we have a small portion of workers who come from Jamaica through the temporary guest worker program. When we talk about farm workers, we often talk about seasonal or year round, and temporary guests workers who come through the h2 a program and those workers come with a visa with a beginning date and an end date. And they also have a very special cific wage rate, which is higher than the New York state minimum wage for farm workers, the 2017 AG census estimated that New York State has approximately 56,000 hired farmworkers, and an additional 40,000 unpaid workers, which typically refer to family members. In addition, we have over 1100 workers who work in packing plants in the apple packing plants, and then other packing plants. So when we talk about farm workers, it's important to think about, who are we including in that pool. In New York State, we had a major transition around 2000. And preceding 2000, about two thirds of our workers were migrant workers, people who followed the season and follow the crops, and about a third lift year round. But starting in 2000, that shifted dramatically. So currently, we have about two thirds of the farmworkers live year round, and about a third migrate. And that's directly associated with the changes within the dairy sector, in which a workforce that had been a family workforce or locals, neighbors cousins, transition to an immigrant workforce, with those workers coming primarily from rural Mexico, Guatemala, and that is a heavily undocumented population. If we look at agriculture in New York State, because of our prevalence as leaders nationwide in Apple production were the second largest Apple producing state, in pumpkins in Maple syrup. We're the third largest dairy producing state. And we're third and cabbage, grapes, cow flour, and fourth in crops, including pears, tart cherries, sweet corn, snap beans, squash, and we're fifth in onions. These are all very labor intensive crops. So traditionally, that large group of farm workers were referred to as migrants, those people who followed the crops so they would begin in southern states and work in harvests activities in southern states, and follow the harvest up the coast. For those who were on what we call the eastern migrant stream. They would work in the Carolinas, come to New York State. And once the harvest had been completed in New York State in November, typically around Thanksgiving, they would return to southern states. We saw a change in this since 2000, where rather than follow crops, there was a transformation within the farm worker population, where they would work on more than one farm and engage in agricultural production activities Following the season of the year. So we find in upstate New York, we have people in the winter months, January, February, who are tying grapes. And later in the spring, they might be planting apple trees. And then later, they are pruning apple trees, for example. And they will eventually move on to harvest activities and post harvest packing plants. So by working in different farms on different commodities, they can basically find employment in agriculture year round.
And agriculture has always been an entry point for recent immigrants, because you don't need to know how to read and write in English to do agriculture. So if we look historically began with former African American sharecroppers, and we've had any number of immigrants coming to the US that entered the employment through farmwork, Italian immigrants, Finnish immigrants, German prisoners of war coal miners, the towboats, who traveled the freight trains often lived from doing agricultural work, this change with the introduction of guest worker programs, so the guest worker programs, were actually a newer version of what is called the best seo program. When we have a labor shortage, then we can certify that there's a labor shortage. We can bring workers from other countries to do that work. And they come with a work visa referred to as the H two a temporary guest worker visa and their visa says are issued with a beginning date and an end date. Initially, we saw workers who were coming from Jamaica and other Caribbean Islanders. Later we had us workers coming from Puerto Rico. Under contracts similar. They didn't have the visa because they didn't have to worry about citizenship. And currently, our h to a guest worker program has workers from Mexico, Jamaica, and Guatemala. So in the 80s, between the 1980s in the 2000, farm work became an area for entry into the workforce for recent refugees. We had Haitians who arrived in Florida. Because of changes in Haiti. We had Guatemalans and sell Salvadorans who fled violence in Central America, as well as coming from the other sides of the globe's refugees from Bangladesh, Southeast Asian women, Cambodian women. So it's important to understand that immigrants have always been a critical part to farm work. For those workers who have lived in New York State for an extended period of time. They have created families here, many of them have US foreign children. That dynamic changes in that this pattern of migration moving north and south, returning to home countries, has diminished significantly, it also raises different priorities among the farm worker population. The primary priority that we have learned about through our research is the heavy weight of immigration concerns among this heavily undocumented population. But those who have children also want to understand how to navigate in their communities. What is appropriate interactions with schools, how to locate daycare centers, we don't have statistics on how many people have families and how many people do not. But in general, those people who are living in work in fruit and vegetable year round, are more likely to have family members and dairy workers, which are obviously year round workers may or may not have family members. The major factor in this is that dairy workers typically have employer provided housing. So some employers are not interested in housing a family, and their housing might not be appropriate for anything other than single men. So it varies tremendously. And we don't have statistics and don't attend to collect statistics on that, because that changes constantly, every day. But what I would say is that as we see more families, the interest in learning how to navigate in their communities, comes to the fore. Most of the farmworkers who are here currently are here to work. And that's something that our research showed that the farm workers come to work. And when you talk about their future, their plan is to return home, they don't come to stay. Over time, their personal situation may change as they marry or they have children that may change. But what motivates them to come is either they are fleeing violence, or it's an economic reality, that they cannot earn money where they are from. And they come here to work, to earn money to pay back the debts that are incurred with coming here. And to create a nest egg so they have something to go back to. They may purchase land, they may purchase animals, they may build a house. However, their primary priority while they are here is the workplace. They want to be successful in the workplace. They want to understand opportunities for advancement in the workplace. And they want to be involved in a positive workplace. So we did a large research project that we worked with producers and farmworkers to look at what is a positive workplace and we on our website, we have the results of that research plus tips and tools for creating positive workplace. And the tips and tools for creating positive workplaces revolve around establishing good communication, coupled with mutual respect. So typically in our interviews and our needs assessment interviews, farm workers will identify in Trust and how they can improve relations in the workplace, with their employers with their co workers. And it's a challenge because for many of them, their co workers are also their housemates. But in understanding the workplace and understanding the need to communicate well with others in rural communities, they're interested in learning English. And they're interested in opportunities to learn English, that are fluid and flexible, because they may not have a constant time off. And most don't have their own transportation. And public transportation in rural areas is unreliable. So one thing they talk about is they want to understand what services are there and how they can access that. Let's since immigration is at the top of the list, it's important to understand that we live in an area of intensive immigration enforcement. And over the years, immigration debates have been stalled. We're now in a new era where we're talking about the farm Modernization Act, which would provide an accelerated option for legalization of farmworkers. But until that passes, farm workers talk a lot about the presence of law enforcement officials in rural areas that identify them as potential undocumented workers. And so this risk of having law enforcement come to your house or stop you while you're going shopping is a very real risk. And that can lead to deportation and lead to separation of undocumented workers from their us born children. The ACLU refers to this as the constitution free zone of the United States, those areas in which immigration enforcement can take place without any necessary catalyst. And so the question of immigration is very central to the discussion about farmworkers. Some of them ask, are they supporting local economies? Are they doing work that others won't do? And our research points to the fact that they come to work? Not to stay? Many ask, Why don't they just apply for a visa, and there is no visa for workers on dairy farms. What we see is a situation where workers are doing physically demanding work in all kinds of weather. In our research, they discuss social, economic, linguistic, and geographic isolation. It's a relatively young workforce. And our research, they discuss challenges to adapting to new communities. That includes things like language, cultural norms, and expectations. Many of the farmworkers note that we talk a lot about time, we're out of time, we're running out of time, we don't have enough time. And so that's part of what they always find interesting. Of course, the challenges of living in rural, geographically isolated areas where there is no public transportation, the desire to have a positive workplace, to communicate well with your co workers to understand how to negotiate for changes in the workplace. And for those who now have families. They're interested in how to interact with schools, daycare. And as immigrants, many of them express loneliness missing their family missing home.
I think one of the aspects that is often not visible is while the general public has a sense that this is very physically demanding work, they may not have as close a sense of the dangers associated with the work. For example, dangers associated with using ladders, or equipment, and both mechanical equipment on fruit and vegetable farms and equipment in milking parlors, equipment and processing and packing plants. It's dirty work, and there are dangers associated with working with large animals on dairy farms. Another aspect which is very prevalent in our conversations with farm workers, is that they work in both extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures. All of you who have experienced an upstate winter, understand what it would be like to spend hours in February Tying grapevines to a wire. And as we talked about a little bit before, the challenge is that many of them now have us born children. In fact, in the US, there are over 4 million US born children with one or more undocumented parent. And since the undocumented parent runs the risk of deportation, the possibility for family separation is very high. So part of what we do is we support farmworkers in addressing these needs and fill in the gaps. We have students who go to farms during the farmworkers day off and tutor them in English as a second language. And I'll talk a little bit about some of the other things COVID-19 really changed the game with farm workers. Our priority was maintaining ongoing communication with farmworkers. So we had to nearly overnight transition from face to face on farm workshops to developing a system where we could quickly communicate with a large number of farm workers. We developed a system of text messaging to 3000 farm workers, that we have their personal cell phone numbers, and we have their personal cell phone numbers because they have participated in an activity with us. In the past few years. We do many on farm workshops about how to navigate within an intensive immigration enforcement environment. We do many workshops where we assist families in assigning temporary guardians for their us born children. And so we had those numbers. And we we utilize that system to begin communicating with farmworkers about critical issues.
Paul Treadwell 21:50
And you're listening to extension out loud the podcast from Cornell Cooperative Extension and our conversation with Mary Jo Dudley. As we talked to Mary Jo, the issue of the pandemic came up and this section really looks at farm workers and the challenges they faced in dealing with this crisis, including isolation, access to health care, and issues of food security. So you had a database of 3000 numbers that you could rely on? Can you talk a little bit about what it took to build the trust to be able to develop a database like that? Because obviously, farm workers aren't just going to give any random visitor their cell phone number.
Mary Jo Dudley 22:29
That's right. So I personally have been working with farm workers for over 16 years. And that means regularly going to farms regularly interacting with people. We do workshops, we do training activities, we do troubleshooting our workplace relations project, we interview farm owners and managers and ask them how their workplaces changed over time, and what are the challenges and as well as the benefits, and then separately, we meet with farm workers, and talk about what it's like to work in that workplace. We analyze what they're both saying. And we host a all farm meeting, in which we address the challenges that they face. And we have developed, as I mentioned earlier, a series of tips and tools that are available for farm employers as well as farm workers. One of the things that this research highlighted was that workers often did not have a face to face interview with their employer. They came to work on the farm. They shadowed another worker, but they never had that. Welcome to the farm. This is what we're doing here. And so we put together a bilingual tool, which is a worker orientation checklist that farmers can use when you have a new worker, did you talk about benefits? Did you talk about how to ask for time off? Did you talk about scheduling? Did you talk about training opportunities. So that that's an approach in which we interacted with hundreds of farmworkers and we in the immigration arena, many of the farm workers who came here without proper documentation, have us born children. However, in order to create a legal document that assigns a temporary guardian for their us born children, they have to have a current federally photo ID from their own government. So 13 years ago, we started working with the Mexican and the Guatemalan consulates, to bring them to upstate New York so farm workers could get those necessary documents without running the risk of traveling from the north country to New York City. Where the possibility of being detained was very, very high. So in a recent mobile counseling event that we had with workers from Guatemala, we had 400 people come in a single day. And so when they come, we collaborate with partners and during that event clinic is present to give free health consultations. We have pro bono immigration attorneys on site, in case people have immigration questions. We have workplace safety people on site to share resources. And so over the years, many farm workers have attended either an on farm workshop, a research project, a mobile counseling activity. And so that's how we have so many personal phone numbers, because we asked them if they would like to be informed of workshops, who consulate visits, etc. So obviously, of those phone numbers of certain percentage, no longer were active. But once we went through, we found that we had this way to communicate with about 3000 foreign workers. When COVID presented itself, we had to interrupt our face to face interactions. And so we started initially sending via WhatsApp or text message, links to videos in Spanish and mom and other indigenous languages about the transmission of COVID-19 and how to protect oneself. We also organize Spanish language calls with a trusted medical professional Dr. canario from who's the medical director of Finger Lakes community health. And these calls were simply q&a. But this system allowed not only for us to communicate information to farmworkers, but they could communicate back to us. They could text us back and let us know if they needed mask if they needed additional medical advice if they needed legal referrals, and for many if they needed food. So we transitioned our activities we work with a group of local volunteers, the Bryant Park mask sowers who sewed masks, and we have distributed now about 8000 masks to farm workers. But at the beginning of the pandemic, none of us were familiar with masks. And farm workers had a lot of questions about how to wash them, how to dry them, etc. So we included with the mask, a bilingual graphic, which showed how the match should be worn how it can be washed. And on the reverse side, we included the phone numbers for all the federally designated migrant health clinics. So if it's a mask that we distributed in this area, it has the phone number for Finger Lakes community health, or if it's in western New York, Oak orchard community health, or if it's in the Hudson Valley, it was then sun river community health. As we had this two way text messaging system, we started getting requests for food for people who during quarantine could not leave the farm. That's not a typical activity that we had ever undertaken in the past. But we needed to develop a kind of emergency response to that. And fortunately, we had a farmer donated a large amount of beef. We worked with CCE to store that beef. And we worked with the local food kitchen with Loaves and Fishes to cook those meals. And so we were picking up 100 fully cooked meals every week and delivering those during the season. We also had farmers who provided produce. So we would deliver to those people who weren't quarantine, a box of shelf safe food, produce and cooked meals. However, this really underscored food insecurity within the farm worker population, not only during quarantine, but because their children were not attending schools. While the schools might offer the continuation of meals that could be picked up at the school. Most of the farmworkers didn't have transportation to go to the school to pick up the meals. So it kind of underscored how much reliance vulnerable families had when school lunches and breakfasts were no longer available to their children. During COVID, we undertook another activity we have always supported farmworkers with legal clinics, but we could no longer do face to face clinics. So we would get a text message from a farm worker family that had a legal need, we would conduct a legal intake over the phone, and then match that farm worker with a pro bono immigration or family law attorney in their area, the immigration attorneys often receive funding to serve a specific geographic area. And then we would have virtual legal clinics, the attorney would be at their kitchen table, the farmer could be at their kitchen table, the translator would be at their kitchen table. And in order to facilitate that, we had to teach farmworkers how to download zoom on their phones. So my students would do dry runs with farm workers who were going to go to a legal clinic and practice before the clinic. And this allowed for farmworkers to receive that kind of necessary support those people who were in immigration and deportation proceedings to receive the necessary support, and Governor Cuomo put into place the possibility for virtual notarization. So legal documents could be notarized, via zoom, or FaceTime. So we were allowed to continue with us families who were interested in assigning temporary guardians for their us born children. A parent who is undocumented, who is facing deportation proceedings will often put into place a temporary guardian to avoid that those children become Ward's of the state.
And they can name an individual that they know and trust, we did 10 virtual legal clinics, quite a bit of background work to make those happen. In addition to signing legal papers, such as temporary guardianship, we also put together a packet of information for those people who are going to serve as a guardian, which includes all the information about the children, their teacher, their pediatrician, their dentist, allergies, likes, dislikes. And we also use COVID. to tweak our service directory. We have a Spanish and English language searchable database of services that are organized by geo code. So you put in your address, and you can look at the services things such as housing, legal services, education, English, classes, job training, safety health services. And it's not just a simple lists, but each service indicates do they provide translation? If so in what languages? Do they provide transportation? If so, how do you organize it? What is the general fee structure? And what are the documents that are required for one to access those services because you don't want to send an undocumented person to a government service where they are mandatory reporters. So we did a lot of revamping of our website, we have a Spanish language website, which is that I had noticed that cornell.edu, which is cell phone accessible, and also doing COVID, we developed visual materials. on new regulations, there were state regulations COVID Farm safety regulations, there was not an easy way for those regulations to be communicated to farm workers. So we developed a audio visual, animated video to share that information with farmers. Many things changed. The driver's licenses, the greenlight law was passed. So immigrants regardless could have access to driver's licenses, however, the DMV closed, so we mailed out a lot of Spanish language driver's manual so people could study for the written test. Also, right before COVID, the law that provides the farm labor fair labor Practices Act, which revises the New York State labor law to include new protections for farm workers, farm workers and domestic workers were excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, which is the federal which provides the right to organize guaranteed workers comp excetera, guaranteed day of rest. And that was changed in July of 2019, where the New York State labor law was revised through this legislation, so that raise a lot of new information. One of the things that we we've been doing is how do you take complex information and make it accessible to an immigrant level? literacy population. So I'm just going to show you this. As I said, the labor law affecting farmworkers changed, and it has many components. So how do you communicate that.
Audio from Video
If you’re a farm worker in New York State, there's a new law that you should know called the New York state farm laborers fair labor Practices Act. This video explains what this new law means to you. This material was produced by the Cornell Farm Worker Program at Cornell University. Pause this video at any moment to take note of the information. This law went into effect on January 1 2020. To whom does it apply? This applies to all farmworkers in New York State with or without legal status. Under the new law, you have eight rights that could be beneficial to you. Right number one, the right to 24 hours of consecutive rest per week, you could choose to work during your day of rest, but your employer can't force you to work. If you're unable to work for 24 consecutive hours due to weather or crop conditions, this counts as your day of rest, you should always keep track of the hours you worked. And to make sure that your pay stub reflects the exact number of hours worked.
Paul Treadwell 36:23
To watch the full video, please visit https://bit.ly/cfp_video or see the link in our show notes. Now back to our conversation with Mary Jo.
Mary Jo Dudley 36:39
I wanted to show that to you because we're using this animated form. And this is the English version. And we obviously have the Spanish version to communicate complex topics. As you note, this new law came into effect January 120 20. And we faced a stay at home order two months later. And it was critical because there are certain aspects of this law, including paid sick leave, paid family leave, that became very critical during COVID. How would farm workers be paid for the time that they were in quarantine, or the time that they were ill or the time that they were caring for a sick family member. So what this required is, is a different way of working, but the priority being to maintaining ongoing communication with farmworkers and this two way communication, which included our text messaging system, as well as regularly scheduled health related calls and Spanish with Dr. canal. And our most recent one was about vaccines. Why do you need it? And it's q&a? What what are the challenges with vaccines and general calls with farmworkers that were regularly scheduled where they could just talk about issues that they were facing. So we went from in person face to face regular communications to developing a system to maintaining communication, using text messages, WhatsApp, zoom calls, and regular telephone calls. The concrete when your life is primarily focused on your work, certain aspects of that take on greater importance, for example, your housing. If you're working 60 hours a week, and you go home to a house where you don't have hot water, the house is falling apart, you never rest. But if you go back to a house that you're comfortable in, you're able to rest. And one interesting aspect of farm work is that many of the farm employers provide housing because there's no other housing available in rural areas. So the quality of the housing is extremely important to those that work on farms for their general satisfaction and their well being.
Katie Baildon 39:23
Historically, farmworkers have not been protected under the national labor rights act. Right. But then there are some protections at the state level now because of the new legislation. Is that right?
Mary Jo Dudley 39:37
When the National Labor Relations Act was passed, at that time, that was still a time of the Jim Crow laws in the south. And so that worker protection which gives the right to overtime, pay the right to a day of rest. The right to organize in order to get the support of the Southern Congress people, rather than explicitly state a racial exclusion. They excluded two kinds of workers who were typically black domestic workers and farm workers. Since that is federal regulation, the only way that can be changed is states can amend their labor law. And and 1990, I think New York State amended its labor law with relation to domestic workers. Other states, as you know, have amended their labor law with respect to farm workers such as California.
And that adjustment of labor regulations when you have the right to organize that evolved into the birth of many labor unions. United Farm Workers, based in California, was an entity that focuses has focused on organizing farmworkers. The farm labor Organizing Committee in Ohio, focuses on organizing farm workers, the typical union structure. Since many States Congress did not have the right to organize. Some states formed farmworker organizations that didn't use a typical union structure. So for example, I don't know if you've ever heard of the Coalition of immokalee Workers. That was a coalition of farm workers in immokalee. That rather than focusing their energy on changing the relations between worker and employer, they joined forces and targeted those that were making the most money from their labor. And so they put forth a campaign which was called a penny a pound for those that were buying tomatoes. And they focused on Taco Bell, Whole Foods, Burger King. And eventually, they were able to convince those people who bought the tomatoes to pay a penny more per pound. And that extra income was distributed among the workers. We can turn back to the United farmworkers, many years ago, had a great boycott. And so that was a consumer boycott, where consumers were encouraged not to buy grapes grown in California, or the farm labor Organizing Committee had the tomato soup boycott. They encourage consumers not to buy Campbell Soup until they change their relationships with farmworkers. So there are different ways to think about organizing. And there are ways that farmworkers have organized informally, for many years, probably the most predominant is there's an organization of dairy workers. It's called Alianza Guna. And they have organized but before organizing around changing the labor law with its provisions for farmworkers, they focus on driver's licenses, the green light campaign. So those workers said, we can't have a driver's license. We have us born children. If something happens to our children in the middle of the night, we have no way to legally attend to their medical needs. Similarly, we have no way to legally arrive at our parent teacher conferences. If you don't have a driver's license, and you live in rural areas of New York State or any other state where there is no reliable public transportation. Most of the farm workers rely on an informal system of transportation. It's called Greg tables. They will hire a local unemployed or underemployed individual to give them a ride to town. And that right to town may cost $50. So this is still an issue for us right now is we're encouraging farmworkers to access COVID-19 vaccines is the transportation aspect. So there's a two prong approach one is the federally designated migrant health clinics go directly to farms and vaccinate all workers, or in some areas CCE has hosted joint vaccination clinics with the county health department. But we need to ensure that there's appropriate and accessible transportation for farmworkers to arrive at those clinics. The most successful model that we've seen is where the employers transport their workers. So there was an outbreak of COVID among a group of Guatemalan workers for whom Spanish is their second language. And their employer told them that people would be coming from the county health department to ask them questions in Spanish, probably in some version of Spanish, and that they should speak to them truthfully, someone arrived at their house, they gave their real name, their address, and that person took photographs of them, and of their house.
The next day, they appeared in the local newspaper photographs of undocumented immigrants that tested positive to COVID-19. With their address in front of their house, the only option for those individuals is to flee. Whether they're violently ill or not, because that kind of information is an invitation for ice to go to that location. That week, we had various reports of ice, picking up other farm workers in the area, who had worked on the same farm for 20 years, who had us born children, and took them to our federal detention center in Batavia that had a significant number of COVID-19 cases. And their bail was posted at $19,000. make of it what you will. But did that person do that intentionally? I imagine not. But it illustrates the gap between an understanding of that would be a HIPAA violation if that was a health provider, right. But it was a journalist and they didn't know who it was. They didn't know the difference, right. But it also in the current context of anti immigrant sentiments, it fueled the fire. And we saw this in rural areas where social media, Facebook postings etc, pointed to immigrants and farm workers specifically as bringing COVID to their area. farm workers are essential workers. They worked despite statewide stay at home directives, they had higher exposure to infection. And initially, they did not have access to PT.
Katie Baildon 48:11
And a final though, Mary Jo shared with us, what brings her hope for this work.
Paul Treadwell 48:17
And it's really an interesting section because it's after listening to the lead up to this part. It really seems like hope is a challenge to maintain. But Mary Jo had some words about that. So we hope you've enjoyed this conversation. And here's Mary Jo.
Mary Jo Dudley 48:33
I think it's helpful that the New York State labor law has been revised to provide protections for farm workers. And as long as we can communicate that in an effective way, that opens up options for a better wellbeing for farm workers. I think that the partnership and the trust that we've developed with farmworkers allows us to work together to create approaches and materials that respond to both immediate and long term needs among this population. I believe that through the covid 19 pandemic, when many people in New York State and other states, perhaps change their perspective towards food. It opened the question of who is producing this food? Who is milking the cows, who is harvesting our vegetables? And so I have hope. And I have hope that we're now talking about immigration reform, specifically for farmworkers. Because if we could find a way to diminish the fear associated with living, undocumented In the US, we open up opportunities to be more creative
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