COVID-19 Exposes Migrant Worker Conditions Amounting To Modern Day Slavery In Florida Agriculture

My home county, Alachua County in Florida, has been rocked by news that came out just after noon yesterday, that, as of that time, 76 agricultural workers in the county had tested positive for COVID-19. Today, that number appears to have grown even more, as the Florida COVID-19 dashboard shows 91 new cases of the disease being added on June 10 and 11, bringing the total to only 506. That means that this outbreak in only two days has grown the total for the county by about 20%.

Here is the report from one of the local television stations:

Although the particular farm where the outbreak occurred is not identified, this report appears to confirm my first suspicion, which is that due to the time of year, this outbreak almost certainly had to be among migrant workers harvesting watermelons, which are at the height of their season now locally.

The problem of migrant agricultural workers living and working under conditions conducive to an outbreak of the virus is not localized to Alachua County, of course, as we have been aware for some time of a severe outbreak in Immokalee. As AP reported today:

Immokalee is among several immigrant communities in Florida — and numerous rural areas across the U.S. — that have recently experienced outbreaks of the coronavirus. Once thought likely to be spared because of their remote locations and small populations, such communities have seen spikes in infections while having fewer resources to deal with them.

/snip/

The secluded town of 25,000 north of the Everglades has reported more than 1,000 cases, outpacing in recent weeks the rate of infection in Orlando, which has a population 10 times bigger and is home to a busy international airport. The number of total cases in Immokalee has surpassed those in Miami Beach, with more than 900, and St. Petersburg, which has more than 800, according to state health department statistics.

Meanwhile, the percentage of tests that have come back positive in Collier County, home to Immokalee, is the highest in the state among counties that have tested more than 5,000 people.

Because they initially couldn’t get the attention of state officials in Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers enlisted Doctors Without Borders to help them with testing and treatment. But that is not enough.  See their website for their very simple demands and how you can lend your name to their call for help. Here is Greg Asbed of the Coalition in a New York Times Op-Ed published back in April:

Picture yourself waking up in a decrepit, single-wide trailer packed with a dozen strangers, four of you to every room, all using the same cramped bathroom and kitchen before heading to work. You ride to and from the fields in the back of a hot, repurposed school bus, shoulder-to-shoulder with 40 more strangers, and when the workday is done, you wait for your turn to shower and cook before you can lay your head down to sleep. That is life for far too many farmworkers in our country today.

Those conditions, the result of generations of grinding poverty and neglect, will act like a superconductor for the transmission of the coronavirus. And if something isn’t done — now — to address their unique vulnerability, the men and women who plant, cultivate and harvest our food will face a decimating wave of contagion and misery in a matter of weeks, if not days.

Yes, Greg told us so. The conditions under which migrant agricultural workers are forced to work in the US are horrific and incredibly conducive to disease outbreaks.

Returning to the story here in Alachua County, I want to share information I received today from the farmer who runs the CSA from which our family gets its produce for much of the year (today was coincidentally our final pickup for a while, as production pauses during the hottest part of the summer). It turns out that some of the footage (but not the watermelon harvest footage) in the TV story above was shot, without permission, at his farm, presumably because his farm is very close to town and media outlets tend to contact him about any agricultural story. He shared with us his response to the media organizations that contacted him regarding the outbreak:

Our produce has always been safe. We have always practiced good hygiene and field work is by nature socially distanced work.

The problem is when people work and live and travel in groups. The American system of farming depends on mobile low wage workers who are are powerless to poor conditions. I’ve seen 15 people living in a single wide mobile home that another local farm pays for. The workers don’t make enough to live elsewhere and their work is transient because our American model of production is based on the efficiency of monoculture.

People will get sick when they live in crappy conditions. You should do a story that brings modern day slavery to light in Alachua county. Don’t put our farm in with all the rest. We have a safe normal job with benefits for our workers. We pay a living wage and retain employees for years. That is not the norm for agriculture in the United States. People demand cheap produce and people in the shadows pay the price. That should be the theme of your story.

And don’t call it a community. A community is when people live stably together. These people travel up and down the east coast. Their children miss school or they are separated from their parents. They have no home and their families are split up for economic reasons. Calling it community is just more ignorance for the general public who have no idea where food comes from.

Wow. That is just so damning in how our country goes about producing food. These migrant workers really are trapped in a modern version of slavery with virtually no chance of escape. They are forced into cramped living and working conditions that put them much more at risk than those affluent citizens whom they feed. And our media mostly misses the true impact of those conditions and the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way. My CSA costs are a bit higher than buying the same items at the local grocery store, but the difference is very small. When you factor in the cruelty of the modern slavery system and the cost to society when outbreaks like this hit workers, our current system can be characterized as nothing less than heartless evil.

Oh, and one last note in parting. The Gainesville Sun article on the outbreak opened with this gem:

One farm worker who traveled to Alachua County from Miami-Dade County unknowingly infected at least 76 additional workers with COVID-19.

A total of 98 people traced back to the worker were tested for the virus Saturday evening, said Paul Myers, administrator for the Department of Health in Alachua County. Eight tested negative, and 14 tests are still pending.

Hmmm.  So one person coming here from South Florida managed to infect over 70 (and likely now around 90) people with COVID-19. And yet, our esteemed governor is hell-bent on “opening” the University of Florida this fall. Yes, there are plans to “screen” students before they’re allowed on campus. And students don’t live with 15 or so people in a single wide trailer. But student living groups like fraternities, sororities and dorms do wind up with many students in close quarters. And does anyone really think that student parties or even student bars downtown will follow social distancing guidelines?

This will not end well.

 

 

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60 replies
  1. John McManus says:

    ” Every state in the union us migrants have been; we come with the dust and we go with the wind.”

    Things don’t change.

    • joejim says:

      I grew up in north central Ohio, and migrants came to work the sugar beets. As a child, my parents always admonished us to look away if we drove anywhere near their encampments, because they said it was wrong to stare at people who are unfortunate and suffering. Obviously we’ve been doing that for too long.
      I did sometimes see, and they were dismal enough to be among the few of my early childhood memories, a lot like homeless encampments nowadays, except there weren’t plastic tarps, but cardboard huts over dirt, open fires, garbage, and with kids. For some reason, in my memories, the sky is always dark above them.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    It will be interesting to discover whether Ed’s discussions of Stephanie Kelton’s new book, ‘The Deficit Myth’, will enable us to see the costs of this system more clearly. ‘Cheap food’ is turning out to be more costly than we thought.

  3. Peterr says:

    Back when I lived in the SF Bay area, I was friends with a number of winery owners and managers. The same dynamic is at work in the agricultural workers who tend the fields and pick the grapes.

    Here’s the thing about working at a vineyard – it is skilled labor, not mindless labor. If you mis-trim the vines, you could end up not just ruining this year’s crop but the production of that vine for years to come. Good wineries want to keep the best workers they can find, and the best wineries are willing to pay living wages and also provide suitable housing to attract and keep the workers they want.

    Here’s the rub.

    Back in the day, vineyard owners were prevented from building housing on their own land by county zoning commissions who are scared of people building apartment buildings and “ruining the bucolic ambiance” of their area. Times are starting to change, however, as the vineyard owners have prevailed on the Napa county Powers That Be, and gotten permission to build three migrant worker housing facilities. Single male workers pay a pittance for rent and owners taxing themselves to cover the majority of the costs. As the article at the link points out, this is a starting point, and there are plenty of problems and hurdles, like no options for women field workers — but it’s a step in the right direction.

    • P J Evans says:

      My father planted thirty-some vines in the back yard in Texas – about four rows, two of which were mostly windbreaks for the garden. I took over the pruning after he died, and by pruning one row to four buds instead of two, I got it to produce lots of grapes. (That one was a red seedless, IIRC. The other good row was Muscat, which tells you when it’s ripe, like Concords do.)

  4. vicks says:

    I can’t help but feel we are witnessing the fallout from the giant pile of political debt that the Republican Party has built up by its years of dependence on “deplorables” for support.
    So much of their debt being called in at once tore off whatever they had going for cover and when you add something as ugly as what is going on with these migrants in Florida to the shit storm already in progress it becomes clear that we are where we are because the republican party has no interest holding their own people and supporters accountable.
    The entire Republican platform is a scam, the “party of law and order” God, Family, “THE ECONOMY” “Unions bad” and f’ing “MAGA” are all emotional triggers where a few manipulative words is all it takes for loyal party members to vote candidates into positions where they can implement the insidious strategy of dismantling accountability measures and clear the way for deplorables to flourish at the expense of the entire country.
    That that sink in a moment, and it also may dawn on you that the Republican party has ALWAYS has used the lives, rights, health, and welfare of people and our planet like the political version of “other people’s money” to pay down what it owes to police unions, wall street, polluters, the NRA and i will bet you a doughnut whoever these folks are working for is on the list as well.

    • James Joycr says:

      “The entire Republican platform is a scam, the “party of law and order” God, Family, “THE ECONOMY” “Unions bad” and f’ing “MAGA” are all emotional triggers where a few manipulative words is all it takes….”

      The hypocrisy is over the top. The party of Lincoln, the Radical Republicans are capitulating to miestenguizen, today as back then….

      We call it intellectual laziness.

      Easier to comply?

      Kind of like sitting in car at a drive up line waiting for your very addictive sugar product at a Daddies Ice Cream Joint….

      Love those sugar brain MRI images and gasoline engine efficiency ratings.

      Why moderate a truthful comment?

  5. klynn says:

    Jim,
    Thank you for sharing this. Just heartbreaking.

    Re college students: some students in FL are also finding themselves kicked out of their homes for supporting BLM. So they are bouncing around with housing over the summer, increasing their Covid exposure risk. I have friends who started a gofundme after their daughter’s best friend was disowned in hopes of securing stable housing.

      • e.a.f. says:

        Not a surprise to me at all. These parents don’t see these young people as their children any more. they consider them a threat to their way of life. Its real easy. I’ve seen it before. You see it frequently in religious communities, so why not in “political” communities. In an effort to “preserve” their way of life, nothing and I do mean nothing stands in their way.

        In Canada, P.M. Trudeau and the government determining university students would be able find jobs this summer, passed leg. to provide them with an income of $1,200 a month. In Sept. they will be able to return to university, in one form or another, and have access to their student loans again.

        Tossing your kid out onto the street because of the child’s support for “Black Lives Matter” clearly demonstrates how deeply racism runs in the U.S.A. and we can more clearly understand how families were divided about the Civil War.

  6. e.a.f. says:

    the working/living conditions is not news. The fact COVID is mixed in, not surprising. Most people in the U.S.A. don’t care and don’t want to know. Politicians don’t care. The workers don’t usually vote and they don’t contribute to their political campaigns but their employers do. Unionization in the U.S.A is very difficult, so the farmers will continue to get away with this for another 200 years or so. \

    People complain the government of China considers human life cheap. Surprise, surprise so does the U.S.A. You’ve written an excellent article. It ought to be in all the major news media. It won’t be, which is a shame and the shame is American’s.

    Farmer workers form part of the huge under class in the U.S.A. As you write, its a form of slavery. these workers have no protection, they have not rights, they are simply a means to an end: cheap food and high profits.

    In B.C. we had a farmer workers living and working condition problem, back in the day, but other unions financially supported a fledgling union, the Farm Workers Union. Then when we had a change in Government, Farm workers started to be covered by laws all other workers were. Its not perfect and we still have a long way to go, but we are way ahead of the U.S.A.

    Saw on the news the U.S.A. has the highest rate of COVID in the world. Its going up instead of down. This will continue until there is a change in attitude and governments or the deaths move into the middle and upper classes–the political classes.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Guardian’s bold, front-page headline reads: “‘He just doesn’t get it’: has Trump been left behind by America’s awakening on racism?” The article casts Trump in the passive role of an “old man sitting at the end of a bar, holding forth with crazed opinions, overwhelming self-assurance and taboo-busting shock value.” An old man who may have lost his way – and lost his crowd in a new, “woke” era. America, like the sleeper, has awakened and moved on.

    I would call that horse shite horse race election coverage. It ignores reality as much as does Donald Trump. Trump is a lifelong racist. His views are not dated and he isn’t “left behind.” He represents a contemporary American perspective of people devoted to racism, social and political dominance, and rapacious resource extraction.

    It doesn’t much matter to them whether it’s public health, your meager household resources, or wolves and bears asleep in their dens. They’ll take all of it. They will put you in danger for being dark-skinned or speaking a foreign language. For asking them to put their dog on a leash, wear a mask, or make public the names of bidnesses to which they have given hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. They are as committed to their extreme views as any supporter of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/12/he-just-doesnt-get-it-has-trump-been-left-behind-by-americas-awakening-on-racism

    • Rayne says:

      Debating whether I comment on this or if I write a post about this. Either way I’m going to piss some people off.

      Fuck David Smith. He is part of the problem.

      And if you didn’t check the byline on that Guardian piece, you’re facilitating the problem.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I wonder if Smith’s byline was one reason for my comment? Never mind.

        That the Guardian employs Smith as its DC bureau chief, I find more disappointing than that the NYT employs a stable of has been neocons to fill its OpEd pages. That it put this thing in neon lights at the top of its Sunday front page is more disappointing. That real estate is hard to come by. Katharine Viner is a poor choice as editor-in-chief.

        • Rayne says:

          It’d have been nice if you’d clearly called out the white male dude for his white male dudeness, instead of merely pointing to the stupid in his article. The stupid is inseparable from his white male inside-the-beltway dudeness.

          Guardian also fails by not clearly marking opinion columns as opinion, but that’s yet another example of white privilege pervasive in media. White male opinion is this country’s default, treated as fact.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I’m happy to call out Smith when an article deserves mention, as opposed to merely extending its reach by citing him. Following Chomsky and Herman, I would say Smith is normalizing power – regardless of how vicious its expression – and manufacturing consent, in this case, by eliminating Trump’s well-established intent and undoubted agency. As intended, that guts his responsibility and inhibits others from holding him to account.

          My larger point is that it is Smith’s editors, ultimately Viner (especially for the front-page prominence giving this piece), who give Smith this visibility to promulgate hogwash. That’s a bigger problem than Smith and his gender.

          Viner – appointed post-Snowden – has Americanized the Guardian’s coverage, making it edible for those with and without teeth. She’s done the same across the paper, from food coverage (safely Big Ag) to Brexit, from Julian Assange and Alex Salmond to Donald Trump. Oases of good journalism remain, but her management is a blow to journalism.

    • harpie says:

      TRUMP changes DATE of TULSA RALLY to
      Saturday, NOT Juneteenth, 2020.

      https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1271644265014276097
      11:23 PM · Jun 12, 2020

      He says it’s to “honor the[] requests” of many of his “African American friends and supporters” who “have reached out to” him […]

      BWAHAHAHAHA!!!

      He’s NOT yielding to pressure [as some would have it].
      His motive is POLITICAL. That’s ALL it is.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        I guess DT doesn’t know the shame that befell Haydon Burns, the mayor of Jacksonville, FL at the time of the infamous “Ax Handle Saturday”, a despicable day of racial violence. If he did, he might be worried about a jinx befalling himself. He might reconsider holding his RNC speech on the 60th anniversary of that occasion in this location. But you know him, “Spook the market; Spook the target; Spook the Holy Ghost.”

        Just one small embarrassment that happened to that mayor involved an iconic library that was named after him. The people and city and library were so ashamed, that they routinely called that building the “Main Library.” And Haydon Burn’s portrait was stashed away in a dirty, dusty old storage room for decades.

        As the library was being designed and constructed, some official asked (was it Haydon Burns?!), “but where are the “colored” bathrooms?” It opened in 1965 without separate racist bathrooms. But now that building isn’t even a library any longer. So, there are the make believe stories that the GOP likes to pretend. And then there are the real life stories that everybody in the know knows.

        Oh, yeah, one more thing. Maybe DT can track down Susie Wiles and they can have a trip down memory lane.

        “Survivors of KKK’s Ax Handle Saturday Attack Appalled at Trump Speech,” – Daily Beast, Michael Daly, 6/13/20

        https://www.thedailybeast.com/survivors-of-kkks-ax-handle-saturday-attack-appalled-at-trump-speech

        • Rayne says:

          HE KNOWS. You people have GOT TO STOP cutting him any slack. The cruelty is the point and if it’s cruel to people of color he’s done it, he’s doing it, he’ll do it again.

          • Savage Librarian says:

            I’m pretty sure most of us know that the cruelty is the point. No news there. But maybe you’re missing a point. That point being the jinx, and now the greater awareness of it. And it can’t hurt to share some history with some folks who would like to know a little more. I think a lot more is happening here than you might know. People are fired up, all across the nation.

      • vicks says:

        Shift your perspective for a moment off of making Trump the target of everyone’s anger and consider that the Republican party and its mission of stopping “government overreach” and “deregulation” is 100% resposible for creating monsters like Trump, Barr, and Chauvin.
        Right now our country is on fire because of the years of pay to play agreements that Republican lawmakers have made with their supporters and donors.
        The employers of these migrant workers got so bold they felt they could get away with this for the same reason the police unions were able to build the power to enable them to brush off at least a dozen opportunities that could have saved George Floyd’s life, and the employers running the Trump rally next week are sending their people (mostly minimum wage workers) into the indoor convention center to be sitting ducks.
        The list is long and filthy and includes the innocents slaughtered in mass shooting to appease the NRA the civilians we promised to protect that instead we abandoned when we pulled troops out of Syria for Putin and the immigrants in cages that so pleased the red hat wearing white supremacists.
        In my not so humble opinion it’s time to target the entire party, including its voters.
        Perhaps run a snarky campaign targeted at republican voters touting these “accomplishments” and giving shout outs to the actual beneficiaries with a tag line along the lines of ” we hope we can count on your vote in November”

  8. Su Hall says:

    I live in Alachua country – Gainesville! This is what is going to keep happening until the evil morons in office are kicked to the curb! Damnit all!
    Thank you kindly for this, Mr. White!
    Su

  9. Rayne says:

    Off topic and I’m sure bmaz wants this…

    ~gesticulating wildy~ ~running in circles~

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Who knew falling asleep in a fast food drive-thru while black was a capital offense. Shields had a good reputation, unlike many of the usual suspects. Undoubtedly, more to come.

      • MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

        I love Gville. A friend of a friend named Cory Rice was murdered by a Gainesville cop in 2001.

        Since Cory was a white UF student, the officer was indicted but of course found innocent.

        I’m hoping these protests are leading to actual changes that are long overdue. Dave Chapelle has a new youtube video where he speaks eloquently about it.

        https://www.gainesville.com/article/20141213/News/604159334

    • bmaz says:

      She saw to it that the first two cops were terminated immediate too. Now saw too it that the Chief “resigned” today immediately. Bottoms also called for immediate termination the this officer too.

      She has some trouble there in Atlanta, but dang she acts fast.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If Rayshard Brooks’s alleged attempt to turn a police officer’s Taser against him is considered reasonable justification for the use of deadly force, the police should stop using the false claim that they are a non-lethal alternative to the use of deadly force. Better yet, stop using them.

      What happened to waking the guy up and telling him to move along? It’s not as if there was any doubt anywhere about how badly this sort of thing could turn out – if the first response was an overwhelming display of force. What person of color in America, waking up in the dark to a uniformed gang outside their car, weapons apparently drawn, is going to think, “What a relief, I’m safe, it’s the police.”

      • P J Evans says:

        There are lots of instances of people dying from being tased. Tasers aren’t non-lethal, they’re *less-lethal*, like rubber bullets.

        • bmaz says:

          Digby used to have a running series on Taser deaths a few years back, its probably still in her archives.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          You’re preaching to the choir. The dismay is that through government grants, punitive litigation and secret settlements, claims that everything about them, their sale and use is proprietary, and other means sales of these devices grow and the devices proliferate internationally, with little knowledge about their drawbacks becoming public.

        • Vicks says:

          Yes and the opposition is also using isolated statistics like “black men shot and killed by police vs white men shot and killed by police” to downplay the entire premise of brutality and inequality by police against blacks.
          They will also continue to have conversations that fail to include the number of black v white deaths by choking, tasers and other means or compare the times excessive force and abuse is used on one race versus another but does NOT result in death.

  10. H. Clay Johnson says:

    Jim, did you see Gov. DeSantis’ response Friday, when asked if the surge in numbers meant reopening came too soon? He talked about increased testing, and how a few hotspots in agriculture, long-term care and prisons were driving up numbers of positives because they were just now being tested. I felt like asking if he had ever heard of superspreader events or locations, and, also, who was in charge of the response during March, April and May when these obvious problems were overlooked and many elderly people died as a result.

    A second issue turns up in data from the U.K. where similar neglect took place w.r.t. long-term care. Hospitals knew they had to open up beds to avoid being overwhelmed, so they discharged recovering patients to long-term care facilities, which lacked testing, protective equipment, and means of isolating patients. Nobody actually knew if the patients discharged by hospitals could still transmit the infection. Neglect seeded superspreader events.

    A third issue is that Florida’s shift to posting reports of deaths on the day the person died, rather than the day the report reached those handling the dashboard spreads out reported deaths to make it look like the fatal aspects of the pandemic are winding down. This applies at any time, regardless of the “ground truth”. Delays introduced to “validate reports” play into this attempt to spin the narrative.

    Then there is the insistence on testing to confirm SARS-CoV-2. This makes it impossible to detect an epidemic before you have a highly-reliable test. Methods used in 1918 noticed a pandemic without such tests, depending on symptoms and excess deaths to estimate the problem. There were anomalous deaths in Florida from respiratory infections in January which tested negative for influenza. Good luck in getting your hands on reliable measures of excess deaths today.

    What did this deliberate delay buy those in charge? Check Bloomberg for the headline, “Goldman Traders Reap $1 Billion in Commodities on Oil Tumult”. Know any links between this administration and Goldman-Sachs?

    • H. Clay Johnson says:

      Jim, I have a number of links to back up the opinions expressed above, and wish to add others. For example, Rachel Maddow has discovered the Miami Herald investigation of manipulated numbers and omissions from statistics.

      Perhaps the most important numbers for epidemiologists are the number of serious active cases which might be superspreaders. To estimate this you need to know hospital admissions and discharges, which this state is not interested in providing. This also bears on how close medical facilities are to overload. If you send me an address, I will let you decide which links you want on this blog without broadcasting them everywhere.

        • H. Clay Johnson says:

          Miami-Herald investigation of numbers:
          https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article243363086.html
          Rachel Maddow coverage:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Csvzt6kGzHw
          Official State Covid-19 Dashboard:
          https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/96dd742462124fa0b38ddedb9b25e429
          Community Dashboard created by the person who created the original official dashboard after she was fired:
          https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/7572b118dc3c48d885d1c643c195314e/

          You can find such things as the number of available ICU beds in each county there, but you won’t find hospital admissions and discharges because the state is keeping those cards close to its vest, presumably to “prevent panic”.

          As an example of the utility of this community dashboard, I just checked that Duval county has 125 ICU beds available. I haven’t found a total of available hospital beds (for all purposes) on that dashboard, but my last calculation showed 1,186. You have to expect 150 to 200 cases per week without a big surge, based on data during this pandemic. A surge resulting from a big rally could be a serious problem for the community, and I don’t a lot of other facilities where you could move covid-19 patients nearby.

          This makes it very hard for me to estimate active cases capable of spreading the virus, perhaps the most important number to track. I’m also having trouble predicting the ratio of infections to hospitalizations to ICU admissions or transfers.

          Anyone who can tell me how many covid-19 patients are being discharged to long-term care, and what precautions are being taken to avoid creating a new hotspot should post something.

    • P J Evans says:

      Deciding that people who died in Florida but weren’t officially residents shouldn’t have their deaths counted in Florida – how many deaths does *that* hide?

    • Vicks says:

      I’m not sure where I heard Santis interviewed recently but i believe he referred to the outbreaks in agriculture areas as “case dumps” and gave a similar shrug of his shoulders when he mentioned that over 1/2 of the states cases are in nursing homes.

  11. posaune says:

    Thank you for this post, Jim. Modern-day slavery is the right term.

    Seems like the UF architecture graduate program could have a studio devoted to family housing for agricultural workers, look for funding and try to build it.
    I worked on a project like that in Turkey in the 1990s.

  12. John K says:

    Thanks for writing this, Jim. Until I read it I was under the impression that the greatest injustices to the immigrant labor force was the work itself and poor pay. This is horrifying. I had no real conception of their living conditions. It truly is modern day slavery and clear evidence of the working model of American capitalism.

  13. The Old Redneck says:

    It’s going to be grim indeed if Covid takes hold in the sugar cane worker communities like Belle Glade. These workers live in terribly primitive conditions and it will spread like wildfire. I’m sure DeSantis is not concerned; he knows those workers don’t vote.

  14. greengiant says:

    Washington state, Yakima county population about 250,000 had 5384 cases reported Sunday at the state site.
    https://www.npr.org/2020/06/13/875389223/during-pandemic-farmworkers-kept-their-jobs-and-raised-risk-of-infection
    Testing at arrival May 23 and 24 were 48 positive out of 350 seasonal workers at one employer in Oregon.
    https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2020/05/coronavirus-outbreak-hits-townsend-farms-in-fairview.html
    85 were positive out of 125 on board a fishing boat. https://www.adn.com/nation-world/2020/06/01/factory-trawler-returns-to-seattle-after-85-crew-members-test-positive-for-covid-19/

    • rosalind says:

      yup, re fishing trawler: 85 was from the initial testing, several others tested postive later. the two sister ships were called back and after testing all crew and finding similar high positives they were sent back to Seattle to quarantine crew and re-group.

      note: other fishing co’s implemented a 14-day quarantine for their crew w/testing prior to shipping out. this company only did a 5-day quarantine. oops.

  15. madwand says:

    When I was working on the WC I saw an article about an apple grower in Oregon who had advertised for Americans only to come and pick his apples during harvest. In the ad he made it clear he didn’t want migrants and he was paying 10 bucks an hour. He got one guy to show up who quit at 10am, and that was the end of his experiment to use Americans to pick apples. He went back to migrants.

    Then I used to watch the strawberry harvest on the Central Coast. They were paid by the box and they literally bent down all day, picked strawberries, and then ran to the truck with the filled box, obtained a new box, and ran back to where they were picking in the field. You have to admire people who are capable of doing this day after day after day and then are subject to the visceral hatred of people who are unwilling to do this work, and yet resent these migrants as taking their jobs.

    • P J Evans says:

      I remember one summer, visiting an aunt and uncle in Gardena – they had nearly an acre, from back in the 30s – and spending some time picking strawberries. It’s given me a lot of sympathy for the people who pick them – and that was more than 50 years ago.

  16. H. Clay Johnson says:

    Just to give perspective to the problem of covid-19 among agricultural migrants, I want to show how similar problems in long-term care facilities were handled.

    News that covid-19 was definitely in the state arrived on Mar 1, 2020. On Mar 2, 2020 Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an emergency, which seems to have mainly meant he could apply for federal money. He said the cases were “presumptive covid-19”, but the CDC was sure. You should go back and check official announcements prior to that date to see what he said about being prepared.

    How prepared was the state? Well, we are just now getting incomplete results from a “crash testing program” for long-term care facilities:
    https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article243545317.html

    The idea about elder-care, and assisted living facilities being possible hot spots was not exactly a surprise at that point. Neither should have anyone been surprised about spread among migrant farm workers. Those facilities appear to have accounted for half the deaths. How much they seeded other outbreaks elsewhere has still to be determined.

    At one point Gov. DeSantis denied there was community spread in Florida, and Dr. Fauci corrected him.

    Latest official announcements still downplay the role of spread via asymptomatic or presymptomatic people. We are still not to the point where we should have been on March 1, 2020.

  17. Bobster33 says:

    In 2012, Chris Hedges and joe Saco published a book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt which had a chapter on the horrible conditions in the agricultural area of Immokalee. Seems nothing has changed in the intervening years.

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