There is a bright orange mural that members of the Farmworker Advocacy Network carry around. It depicts field hands laboring at their grueling work. In the lower left corner, dark-skinned arms, chained at the wrist, reach upward.
Nadeen Bir-Zaslow, a member of the group that handles communications for the North Carolina activists, says, “We have a legacy in this country of people not being paid for their work or being treated as less than human. We’re still working on that.”
They have their work cut out for them. North Carolina is considered among the most unfriendly states for workers in the United States. Farm and poultry laborers might be the most unappreciated and vulnerable.
The Farmworker Advocacy Network, based in Durham, is a coalition of 19 groups, from Bir-Zaslow’s Student Action With Farmworkers (SAF) to Legal Aid of N.C., the N.C. Farmworkers’ Project, the N.C. Justice Center’s Immigrants Legal Assistance Project and many more.
“The reality is we don’t have enough resources,” says Melinda Wiggins, SAF’s executive director and a network member. “But when we work together, we can get more done. We can be more effective about strategizing.”