March 24th-31st is Farmworker Awareness Week (FAW), which gives special recognition to the men, women and children who make up a large part of the labor force that picks America’s produce. This year marks the 15th anniversary of FAW, a national event put together by the organization Student Action for Farmworkers based in North Carolina (www.saf-unite.org).
There are between 2-3 million farmworkers in the United States, 75% of which were born in Mexico. Many spend years separated from their families working in America and sending money home to support the education of their children and care for their home and other family members. It is not uncommon for farmworkers to endure substandard housing conditions and low wages here in the states. Thankfully here on the San Mateo coast, almost all farmworkers are paid an hourly rate as opposed to a piece-rate. Even though all are paid minimum wage, however, the Fair Labor and Standards acts exempt people working in agriculture from earning overtime. So, even though many people (both farmworkers and growers alike) work many more than 40 hours per week, they do not earn overtime rates for those hours.
Both farmworkers and growers are entrenched in a challenging system. Consumers want more affordable food, and so market-driven low prices for produce is one factor that prevents growers from paying higher wages. Fuel costs have doubled in the last 20 years, which also does not make it any easier.
Puente works with farmers and farmworkers to build a sustainable agricultural South Coast and the community at large to leverage resources for healthcare, youth employment and leadership development, and more. For more information on Puente’s work or to donate to the cause, please visit www.mypuente.org.
To help community members learn more about this important issue that affects our community, Puente is hosting a viewing of the award-winning documentary, Harvest of Dignity. The film will be shown in English and Spanish at 7pm on Wednesday, March 26th in the multi-purpose room of Pescadero Elementary, 620 North Street. Light refreshments will be served. For questions or directions please call Puente at 650-879-1691.