Raleigh, NC- Thursday, November 05, 2020– Workers and members of the Farmworker Advocacy Network (FAN) will gather at Bicentennial Plaza in Raleigh, NC to commemorate the lives of farmworkers and poultry and meat processing workers who have died from COVID-19. An altar will be assembled and community members will be invited to lay down an item to honor those who have perished. There will also be large Day of the Dead puppets.
The event will also feature farmworkers and poultry workers speaking about their experiences on the job and about the health and safety risks they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers will call on the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) to accept a recent rule-making petition that would protect workers during the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. The rule-making petition calls on NCDOL to put an end to dangerous conditions, saying that the current voluntary guidance for workplaces is insufficient in protecting workers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic.
This event and the submission of the rule-making petition to NCDOL comes at a crucial time for farmworkers and meat and poultry processing workers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 71,000 farm, food-processing, and meatpacking workers have fallen ill with COVID-19 – more than 5,000 in North Carolina alone. Due to lack of transparency regarding the number of cases the exact number is unknown. NCDOL has received roughly 1,000 complaints from workers who report their employers are not taking adequate precautions to protect them from COVID-19. In all but a handful of instances, NCDOL has closed these cases and done nothing more than send the employer a letter outlining best practices and offering guidance. Experts now warn that COVID-19 cases in meatpacking plants may rise again this winter. Farmworkers will continue to work in Western North Carolina until the end of this year, more will arrive in the Spring of 2021. Seasonal workers live in North Carolina year-round with their families. Now is a critical time to protect workers and public health.
“Lack of action from the government has resulted in thousands of Latinx workers testing positive for the virus. Many have died. Employers could provide basic protections for their workers, but many choose not to do so. Our lives are not disposable. There should be consequences for those who ignore our safety and the wellbeing of our families. We call on NCDOL to take action,” said “Alicia Soriano”, a farmworker and community leader with the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry.
“Too many workers in North Carolina’s food system have died from COVID-19. These deaths could have been prevented if the NCDOL would have done more to hold companies accountable for their lack of protection of workers against exposure to COVID-19. The NCDOL has an opportunity to adapt an emergency rule that will ensure workers receive the protections they deserve,” said Bacilio Castro, an organizer with the Western NC Workers’ Center.
What: Call to action and remembrance of farmworkers and meatpacking workers
When: 5:30 – 6:30pm on Thursday, Nov. 5th, 2020
Where: Bicentennial Plaza, Raleigh, NCSpeakers: Representatives from Western NC Worker’s Center, Eposical Farmworker Ministry, and workers from the farm and poultry worker community, The Rev. Daniel Dario Robayo Hidalgo, Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries at the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, and a health outreach worker.