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The Daughter Of Farmworkers Wins $100K Prize To Help Her Community

Maria Blancas grew up the child of farmworkers and saw the impacts of their work in real-time. She even worked on farms when she was in high school picking apples and onion seeds. It wasn’t until she got to college that she realized how little people truly understood about her community and their lives. So, she dedicated her studies to the lives and conditions of farmworkers and it paid off.

Maria Blancas is a Ph.D student at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Credit: @NinaShapiro / Twitter

Blancas grew up with migrant farmworker parents from Mexico. She helped on the farms and watched as the other farmworkers dealt with the physical nature of the job. However, in her undergraduate years, according to The Seattle Times, Blancas realized people had oversimplified the lives and struggles of the people she was working with.

Blancas has dedicated her education to improve the lives of her family and all others working in the fields.

Credit: @UWEnvironment / Twitter

According to The Seattle Times, Blancas wants to change the narrative around what is happening to the farmworkers’ community. Her aim is to create a fuller and more in-depth picture of the lives and “issues” within the community as the work in the fields.

Her work so far won her a $100,000 prize from the Bullitt Foundation to focus on furthering her work.

Credit: seattletimes / Twitter

The Bullitt Foundation aims to “safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the website.

In that effort, the foundation is giving Blancas a significant grant to allow her to focus on her work.

“When people ask me why I do the work that I do,” Blancas told The Seattle Times. “I always think about my family: mi familia.”

The Bullitt Prize is different than most awards and prizes.

Credit: @UWBridgesCenter / Twitter

Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes told The Seattle Times that the prize a “reverse Nobel Peace Prize” in that it doesn’t reward people on their overall work. Instead, the foundation looks for people with potential and awards them at the early stages of their careers based on where their work could go.

Blancas has already done work within her community by surveying the community during her time working at the local community college.

The Seattle Times reports that Blancas noticed that some people would go to her community and conduct studies of the workers. However, the groups would leave and never share the results. So, Blancas teamed up with other researchers and did a survey of 350 farmworkers from Whatcom and Skagit to see what was happening, who they were, and what they needed.

Blancas and the team compiled the results of the study, called “Nothing About Us Without Us,” and shared them in a video.

The team discovered that “40 percent of the workers identified as indigenous peoples, mostly from Mexico, and about a quarter couldn’t read Spanish. Its findings, in keeping with academic conventions, quantified problems: 40 percent said they didn’t always have regular breaks, 20 percent lacked consistent access to water, and 60 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year.”

Blancas is planning a dissertation that will incorporate video of farmworker testimonials.

Blancas will be hosting a workshop to teach farmworkers how to create the videos for the dissertation.

READ: A New Documentary Is Shedding Light On The Labor Organizer Who Fought For Farmworkers Before Dolores Huerta

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Coachella Farmworkers Are First In The Nation To Receive ‘Hero Pay’

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Coachella Farmworkers Are First In The Nation To Receive ‘Hero Pay’

Farmworkers in Coachella are the first in the nation to receive “hero pay.” There are hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in California and most are undocumented. Their work throughout the pandemic has kept food on the table for people across the country.

The city of Coachella extended “hero pay” to farmworkers

It is the first city in the nation to extend “hero pay” to farmworkers. According to the LA Times, 8,000 farmworkers live in the Coachella Valley and the ordinance goes into effect immediately. The ordinance gives employees an additional $4 an hour in pay for at least four months.

“We know that COVID has been more prominent in these agricultural communities, and if you look at the mortality rates, a lot of farmworkers have died,” Mayor Steven Hernandez told the LA Times. “You can see the devastation.”

Coachella is also going above and beyond to vaccinate the farmworkers as well.

A UC San Francisco study showed that farmworkers and restaurant workers are at a much higher risk of Covid because of the work they do. As such, the city of Coachella also decided to lead the nation is making sure that the farmworker community is signed up for vaccinations as they become available.

Governor Gavin Newsom highlighted the need to vaccinate farmworkers because of their vulnerability to the virus. Compounding on the issue is that Latinos tend to live in multi-generational houses and work other essential jobs. The risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable people is high within the community and part of the reason the city is rushing to vaccinate farmworkers.

“The heroes we talk about in this pandemic are not just our nurses and doctors, not just our frontline employees … (but also) our grocery store workers, our restaurant workers and our farmworkers,” Gov. Newsom said at a press conference.

People are celebrating Coachella for doing what they can to protect farmworkers.

Farmworkers have been crucial in making sure that grocery stores have been stocked with produce throughout the pandemic. The work done by farmworkers has made life possible for people during one of the hardest and darkest moments in the world. As the nation sheltered in place during the outbreak of Covid, farmworkers joined the ranks of essential workers that kept the economy and life moving.

Coachella’s ordinance comes at a moment when Kroger, a major corporation, shut down locations instead of giving employees “hero pay.”

Cities and states are passing ordinances to increase the pay for certain essential and frontline workers for their bravery. Kroger, which earned more than $121 billion dollars in 2020, chose to close locations rather than pay employees hazard pay for working through a pandemic.

“When large corporations make record profits and double their earnings – they need to share that success with those providing the labor. Period,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted about Kroger, which owns Food 4 Less and Ralph’s among other brands.

READ: Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

The world is racing to vaccinate everyone to put a stop to the relentless Covid-19 pandemic. In the U.S., states and counties are rolling out their own plans based on suggestions from health experts. California, home to the largest population of farmworkers, is making them a priority.

California has laid out their vaccination plan and farmworkers are being prioritized.

California is facing a relentless Covid-19 surge of infections, deaths, and hospitalizations. According to The New York Times, California has the second-highest level of infections per capita in the U.S. More than 30,000 people have died of Covid in California and the vaccination effort has been severely lagging.

California’s vaccination plan has been criticized for its very slow roll out.

According to the California Department of Public Health, more than 816,000 doses of the virus have been given to residents. There have been more than 2 million vaccine doses shipped to California. Currently, California, the most populated state in the country, is still in Phase 1A. Phase 1A is for healthcare workers and long-term care residents. The Vaccinate All 58 campaign claims that there are 3 million people in California in Phase 1A. Almost 40 million people live in California.

Activists have been calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to make sure that farmworkers are prioritized.

California is home to the largest concentration of farmworkers in the U.S. The Center for Farmworker Families claims that 500,000 to 800,000 farmworkers, or about 1/3 to 1/2 of the farmworker populations, live in California. Seventy-five percent of farmworkers in California are undocumented.

As the rest of the state was able to shelter in place, farmworkers did not stop working. They provided a necessary lifeline to the nation in keeping the food supply running. Farmworkers are more likely to contract Covid because of their living conditions. Studies show that the low wages that farmworkers are paid means that many live in crowded conditions.

READ: As The U.S. Rolls Out The COVID-19 Vaccine, What’s The Future Of Vaccine Access In Latin America?

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