Farmworkers, The Unsung Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Anna Del Castillo (she/her/hers) is a Mississippian, Peruvian-Bolivian American, and faith-rooted activist for justice. She is pursuing a Master of Divinity as a Dean’s Fellow at Harvard Divinity School where she studies at the intersection of public policy, racial justice, and healing. She is also an Interfaith America Racial Equity Fellow.
In February 2021, the United States death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic surpassed 500,000. As a country and as a world, we collectively feel the detrimental impacts of this relentless pandemic. Among those most impacted by the dangers of covid are essential workers, those workers whose services ensure that critical infrastructure operations continue to run.
This pandemic has highlighted just how much society depends upon essential workers. Across the country we have seen the dangerous and exhausting conditions that essential workers endure to make sure that our lives are not severely altered. Despite their sacrifices, essential workers feel the double whammy of unjust wages and working conditions and a failure of the government to protect them both physically and financially from this pandemic.
Among the essential workers who have kept us safe and alive during this pandemic are farmworkers. Each meal that we consume during this pandemic has been touched by the hands of a farmworker. Farmworkers tirelessly plant, grow, pick and prepare the food that nourishes our bodies and sustains us. When the pandemic hit, farmworkers were not afforded the privilege to transition to work from home life. As Mexican-American farmworker advocate Antonio De Loera-Brust states, “You cannot pick tomatoes on Zoom.”
Antonio is the son of Mexican immigrants and a native of Yolo County, CA, where he has been working with migrant farmworker communities since high school. He served on the policy teams of the Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro presidential campaigns, and is currently a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives in addition to working for Yolo County's COVID-19 response.
I sat down with Antonio to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on the farmworker community, the failure of the U.S. government to protect them, and his vision for the future of farmworker rights. I hope that Antonio’s story inspires you to support farmworkers and push for legislation that protects their rights, provides them with a path to citizenship, and calls for more equitable wages. As Antonio points out, farmworkers are American heroes and deserve to be treated as such.
To read more on the impact of COVID-19 on farmworkers, read this statement by Farmworker Advocates on COVID-19 and the Risks to Farmworkers.
To directly support farmworkers in the United States, visit FarmworkerJustice.org.
If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today.
more from IFYC
The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.