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EPA Boosts Farmworker Protections

Oct 7, 2015- Listen the program here

Farmworker advocates are celebrating the recently announced updates to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.  At a news conference in Washington D.C., last month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the previous standards were more than 20 years old and were not enough to adequately protect workers from the harmful health impacts of pesticide exposure.  Farmworker advocates had been lobbying for increased protections for years.  We’ll take a closer look at what the updated regulations will mean for Florida’s nearly 300,000 farmworkers, their employers and the health care industry.  We’ll also explore where advocates say further protections are still needed.


Andrea Delgado, Senior Legislative Representative with Earthjustice

Jeannie Economos, Pesticide-Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida

Karla Martinez, Senior Attorney for the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project

Great news for Farmworkers!!!

Great News! For twenty years farmworkers and allies have fought to improve the Worker Protection Standard issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. They hadn't been changed or improved since 1992, until today!
The protections given to agricultural workers today bring farmworkers more in parity with health and safety protections already covering workers in most other professions in the United States.  In a video promotion for the new WPS the EPA said, "farmworkers deserve the same protection from hazards as workers in other professions have had for decades." We couldn't agree more!

Improvements in the newly released WPS include an increase in worker protection trainings from once every five years to an annual training which will include improved content, such as take home exposure risks, and increased access to information about pesticides. For the first time, there is also now an age limit for pesticide handlers of 18 years. More signage to warn about pesticide use as well as buffer zones to protect from over spray have been included. 
EPA's Revised Worker Protection Standard
EPA's Revised Worker Protection Standard
Selena Zelaya, the 19-year old daughter of two farmworker parents in Central Florida, and a Farmworker Association member  said, "Many times, I saw [my parents] come home light headed or with blisters on their hands from the exposure to pesticides, and it was frustrating not being able to do anything. Farmworkers bring food to our table. I am grateful that EPA has finally taken steps to protect them.  We owe it to them to protect them and have strong laws to ensure their well-being."

Sick Apopka farmworkers hope for major study of their illnesses

By Martin E. Comas Staff 

Geraldean Matthew kept a wary eye on the sky as she picked sweet corn from a muck field near the north shore of Lake Apopka.

When she saw a plane over the horizon, she and the other farmworkers would quickly drop to the ground and cover their heads and faces as the crop-duster swooped, showering them with a chemical spray of pesticides and fertilizers.

On Thursday, Matthew sat in her Apopka living room, her walker nearby, recalling those days when she toiled in the fields as a teenager starting in the early 1960s.

"We would get wet, and we could feel it on our clothing," said Matthew, who for decades was exposed to pesticides, many of them since banned.

"After work, we would pick up our young children. And we would hold our babies. And their mouths, with their tongues out, would be on our shirts," she said. "And our babies later had rashes all over their skin."

Today, Matthew, 65, seldom leaves her home, except when she takes a bus three times a week to a local medical clinic for hours-long dialysis treatments because of chronic kidney disease. Scars from pesticide burns run across her legs.

Overwhelming Majority of Florida Latino Voters Want Climate Action Now

74 Percent Support State Measures to Combat Climate Change

San Francisco, CA – According to a new poll conducted by Latino Decisions for Earthjustice, a national environmental nonprofit law firm, and GreenLatinos, a leading national nonprofit of Latino environmental leaders, 76 percent of registered Latino voters in Florida strongly support national clean energy standards and 74 percent strongly support state clean energy standards to combat climate change.

Florida is home to over 4 million Latinos, which constitutes one-quarter of the state’s total population. Of the 1.5 million Latino voters in the state, 36 percent are Cuban, 32 percent are Puerto Rican and 21 percent are Central and South American. The survey found that while Cuban Americans have historically aligned themselves with the Republican Party and tend to take conservative positions on a number of domestic and international issues, Florida’s Latino population is more alike than different from Latinos in other states when it comes to environmental attitudes.

The top three environmental issues for Latinos in Florida are strengthening the Clean Water Act (84 percent), increasing water conservation (82 percent) and developing clean energy sources (81 percent). Additionally, 69 percent of Florida Latinos find it to be very or extremely important to reduce the use of pesticides and GMOs in farming. Florida Latino voters are worried about climate change and are supportive of candidates that take a progressive position on the environment. 71 percent in the state feel more favorable of officials who act on behalf of the environment; regardless of party lines. The majority of Latino voters (66 percent) say they are already directly experiencing the effects of human-caused climate change in Florida.

Florida jury awards $17 million to abused migrant female farm workers

REUTERS / September 10, 2015
By David Adams

A federal jury awarded almost $17.5 million to five former female employees of a South Florida farm who said they were either raped and sexually harassed at a vegetable packing plant, their lawyer and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Thursday.

Three men, including two sons of the owner of Moreno Farms, near Fort Myers in southwest Florida, were accused of sexual harassment in 2011 and 2012 against the women in coolers and an office trailer at the packing house, including rape, groping, kissing and threats they would be fired if they refused to have sex with supervisors, according to the legal complaint brought against Moreno Farms.

However, the women are unlikely to receive a penny as the packing house closed after the case was brought and the men were never arrested, said a lawyer for the women, Victoria Mesa-Estrada.

"It's more of a symbolic victory," Mesa-Estrada said. "The women knew that when the case was brought. But for them it was a question of justice."

Four of the women attended the two-day trial in Miami. "They were in tears when the verdict was read," said Mesa-Estrada.

Reuters does not identify rape victims.

Farmers: Trump 'terrible for agriculture'

Many say they can't harvest their crops without immigrant labor

By Bill Tomson

Even before real-estate mogul Donald Trump called undocumented immigrants "rapists and murderers" who "have to go," California contractor Carlos Castañeda was having difficulty hiring enough workers to pick celery and squash.

Now Castañeda and others fear Trump's talk about erecting a "big beautiful wall" at the border and deporting millions could make it nearly impossible to find the guest workers they need — workers who would obtain legal status under most comprehensive reform bills.

"There are growers out there screaming for labor," said Castañeda, a farm labor contractor in San Luis Obispo County in central California. "The people who are coming in are doing the work that not a single American would like to do."

Labor Secretary Tom Perez To Join The Fight For $15

Article taken from
Dave Jamieson Labor Reporter, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Fast-food workers who are hoping to raise the minimum wage will find an ally in the Obama White House this week, with Labor Secretary Tom Perez traveling to Detroit on Tuesday to show his solidarity with the so-called Fight for $15.

"I'm proud to stand with the Fight for 15 movement," Perez told The Huffington Post. "And it really is a movement. It's for shared prosperity."

The union-backed Fight for $15 and its allies have roiled the service sector with intermittent strikes over the past three years, demanding a $15 wage floor and union recognition. The sight of large-scale protests has helped spur vast increases in the minimum wage in cities and states around the country, most recently in New York, where the state's wage board moved to set a $15 minimum for fast-food workers.


On August 6, 2015, a man who made a difference in the world left this plane of existence for another.  He changed the way that we understand our world and, in so doing, he warned us of what we need to do to protect it.
Dr. Louis Guillette, the alligator scientist, noted for his studies on alligators on Lake Apopka and the effects of pesticides on wildlife, and, hence, on humans, died after a life-time of work that took him around the world and helped open up a new realm of science that identified chemicals in the environment that impact the endocrine systems of animals and, ultimately, of humans.
Farmworkers worked for decades on Lake Apopka.  They were exposed to the same chemicals that caused reproductive abnormalities in the alligators on the lake.  While agency officials and environmentalists were dismissing the importance of the chemical contamination on the lake, Dr. Guillette continued to sound the alarm that persistent chemicals are causing endocrine disruption in possibly more than just the alligators.
The Farmworker Association of Florida and the community of Lake Apopka farmworkers are deeply saddened by this great loss.  Dr. Guillette – Lou – and his anthropologist wife, Buzzy, participated in community meetings with the farmworker community to demand answers to their questions about their pesticide exposure on Lake Apopka.  Unlike other scientists afraid to take their science one step further and advocate for change, Dr. Guillette was a hero to many in our community, in Florida and around the world.  His work is cited in many publications, books, and journals.
We will always remember Dr. Guillette as one of the few people who listened, cared about, understood and spoke out for the farmworkers on Lake Apopka.  Our hearts break.  We will miss him greatly. See the message at Beyond Pesticides website
Dr. Louis Guillette was a keynote speaker at the Pesticide Forum in Orlando in April of this year.  The Beyond Pesticides annual Forum was co-sponsored by FWAF.   Video tape of Dr. Guillette’s keynote address. Watch the video here

Conditions for Farmworkers in Mexico and U.S. Show Lack of Basic Field Sanitation Protections

Revelations of unsanitary conditions for workers in the fields in Mexico have resulted in the FDA stepping  up and issuing a ban on fresh cilantro from the state of Puebla, MX.  But, conditions for farmworkers in the U.S. are often just as bad.  Workers tell us that they often do not have any place to wash their hands, or that their is no soap or paper towels available.  Also, some work in fields with no bathroom or with bathrooms so dirty, they do not want to use them.  We cannot point fingers at Mexico without improving conditions for farmworkers in the U.S., as well.  You can read the article here.

Action in Orange County Courthouse in Orlando

On July 10th, the Farmworker Association of Florida joined with allies Mi Familia Vota, YAYA of the National Farm Worker Ministry, Hope CommUnity Center, Central Florida Jobs With Justice, the Ironworkers union and many others in a rally in front of the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando and marched to the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to demand that Florida drop their lawsuit and instead support President Obama’s Executive Order for DACA expansion and for DAPA for parents of DACA participants.  

The action in Orlando was one of many actions around the country on the day when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals listened to oral arguments on the Obama administration’s request for a stay of the injunction imposed on the President’s Executive Order. A negative ruling may mean that the case eventually will end up in the Supreme Court sometime in the future. The result is that thousands of families’ lives are hanging in the balance, while they wait to adjust their immigration status and continue to hope for a good outcome in the end. DACA 2012 participants will not be affected by this ruling, except for Employment Authorized Documents issued after February 2015. Those who applied for DACA after February 2015 will, also, be affected.

Our hard-working immigrant families deserve better! FWAF will continue to be on the frontlines of promoting and demanding dignity, justice and equality for all! Sí, Se Puede!

FWAF Delegation is part of the U.S. Social Forum

On Friday, June 26th, a delegation of two volunteers, one youth leader and one staff member traveled to Jackson, MS to the Southern People's Movement Assembly for a Just Transition, being hosted by Cooperation Jackson.  The goal of the gathering was to ensure that we are unified and strong in seeking a just transition from the economic and social systems that have led to widespread economic injustices and environmental destruction for people and the Earth and to address the biggest issue affecting everyone today – climate change.

Representatives of FWAF joined with activists and communities from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and California (among others) to participate in the tracks throughout the weekend: Economics and Systems Change; Youth and Systems Change; Labor and Systems Change; Environment and Systems Change and to share stories of environmental destruction and social oppression as well as to share strategies for resistance.  The motto of the USSF has been "Another World is Possible" and in Jackson, together we envisioned that world and committed to work to make it a reality.  

Everyone came back energized and better prepared to fight the environmental injustices suffered by farmworker and other rural low-income communities in Florida. Check out FWAF at Facebook for pictures from our trip!

Groups urge 100 garden retailers to stop selling pollinator-toxic pesticides

WASHINGTON, D.C. — To celebrate National Pollinator Week, more than 50 beekeeper, farmer, farmworker, faith-based, environmental and consumer organizations sent letters to more than 100 of the top garden retailers across the country, including True Value and Ace Hardware, urging public commitments to stop selling bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. These letters follow thousands of calls on Tuesday from customers of Ace and True Value urging these retailers to stop selling bee-killing pesticides and pre-treated plants.

Ace Hardware, the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the world, announced at the beginning of June it is willing to move away from products containing neonicotinoids -- a leading driver of global bee declines -- but has not responded to requests for dialogue; or to clarify and make public their commitments to phase these pesticides out of their business.

“We are pleased that Ace has stated its willingness to move away from bee-toxic neonicotinoids,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “However, Ace, True Value and other retailers must do their part to address the bee crisis by joining their competitors in making concrete commitments to eliminate bee-killing pesticides. Until then, these retailers will continue to be part of the problem.”

Good News for Now, but No Time to Let Up

On Friday, June 12, by failing to pass the Trade Adjustment Act (one of three pieces of legislation that formed the trade package) the House slowed down and potentially killed Fast Track Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, otherwise referred to as the TPP.

Hundreds of organizations, including worker rights, environmental, labor, health, fair trade, and others, including many community organizations, including FWAF, have worked tirelessly to make sure that the House of Representatives did not pass Fast Track and the TPP.  Fast Track is a fundamentally undemocratic mechanism that would allow the office of the President to negotiate trade deals in secrecy and the TPP is a free trade agreement that has been described as NAFTA on steroids that would have disastrous effects on farmworkers, indigenous peoples, natural resources, and subsistence communities in the U.S. and overseas. NAFTA wreaked havoc on small-scale peasant agriculture in Mexico and Central America—the catalyst for many to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. and work the fields here—while it made U.S. agriculture compete with many more producers, to which they respond by exploiting their workers even more.

Free trade deals negotiated across continents give more power and control to corporations that dominate conventional agriculture today, by promoting the production and distribution of more chemical pesticides and fertilizers and gaining more control over our seeds, our food and our food system. This is the reverse of the direction that we should be moving in. FWAF is working with others to create a new paradigm, in which communities work to re-gain their own sovereignty over their land and their food. In this way, we empower farmworkers and work towards justice for the Earth and for the people that work the earth.

The vote on June 12 is but a temporary victory, as there will continue to be intense pressure to push through this free trade deal. We need to keep pressure on Congress to make sure that they do the same if it is brought back for another vote. Sign up for our Action Alerts to stay abreast of the latest developments and to be involved in being part of the solution.  

Report on Walmart's treatment of Workers and the Environment

The Farmworker Association of Florida is a member of the Food Chain Workers Alliance , which has just released a new report that exposes the claims versus the reality of Walmart’s treatment of workers and the environment. Entitled “Walmart at the Crossroads: the Environmental and Labor Impact of Its Food Supply Chain”, the report (see here)   looks closely at Walmart’s impact on farmers, farmworkers, and at the labor and environmental records of 22 major suppliers to the company of popular food items. The findings of the report underscore Walmart’s priority on profits at the expense of genuine enforcement of its suppliers’ compliance with their code of ethics and over its goals for environmental sustainability and fair treatment of workers along the supply chain.    

The findings of the report show that workers in Walmart’s stores and in its food supply chain endure a slew of labor abuses, including gender and racial discrimination, unfair treatment of immigrants, low pay, violations of freedom of association and even workplace accidents and fatalities. This includes farmworkers in the fields that are harvesting the produce sold in Walmart stores around the country and around the world.

“We are calling on Walmart to truly enforce its labor and environmental standards and to strengthen them, based on the commendations in our report,” says Joann Lo, Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance and one of the principle authors of the report.     With well over 11,000 stores in roughly 27 countries, Walmart is the world’s largest retailer. Walmart’s influence on both suppliers and distributors in the food chain gives it incredible power in the global food system.

Walmart’s business model is based on using its size to extract the lowest price from suppliers.     For this reason, the report release coincides with a petition campaign. You can play a part in telling Walmart to “play fair” by signing the petition.


Lawsuit wastes taxpayer dollars


"The lawsuit against President Obama’s Executive Order filed by Florida’s own Governor Rick Scott and  Attorney General Pam Bondi with many others is simply a political PR stunt by anti-immigrant politicians. It is meant to tie our families up in a legal battle and kill their spirits. This lawsuit not only wastes taxpayer dollars, but also disenfranchises immigrant families, and robs much-needed revenue from state economies.


The governors and attorneys general behind this lawsuit need to drop it because they are only perpetuating the status quo of a broken immigration system. We need our elected officials focused on real solutions and giving 5 million immigrant workers and Dreamers a chance to live, work, and stay in the United States. This case is just another politically motivated move by anti-immigrant politicians to delay an action that will bring some relief to our families and to our country.


We will stop at nothing to ensure millions of immigrant workers, parents, and Dreamers have the chance to live, work, and stay in America with their families, and that includes going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. We are confident that in the end, the courts will side in our favor and our families will win.""


May 19th should have been the day when tens of thousands of immigrants around the country could breathe a sigh of relief! President Obama’s Executive Order on DAPA was scheduled to go into effect today, essentially giving immigrants in the U.S. an opportunity to come out of the shadows and escape the constant fear of separation of their families and possible detention and deportation.

Instead, 26 Governors and Attorneys General are dashing the hopes of hard-working parents and their children by insisting on a baseless lawsuit against extending the DACA program and implementing DAPA. The very people whose hands feed us every day must continue to live with uncertainty and trepidation each day they go to work, take their children to school, shop for groceries and go to the doctor.   This is not the kind of America we want; not the kind of America that we aspire to be. A nation founded on immigrants and on immigrant labor, culture, and contributions can do better than this. We can show the world that we are better than this!

As people who care, it is up to us to make our voices heard. Political leaders need to hear from the majority of people in this country who believe that we all deserve a chance to be treated with worth, dignity and value. DACA and DAPA are two programs designed to lift up those who have so much to offer our society and who have so much inner potential to succeed. Let us all be on the right side of history by making a statement – loud and clear – that we are all created equal and deserve equal rights. Drop the lawsuit now!

Sign the petition here

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