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Bringing 3000 workers for Wayne County harvests begins months before the apples ripen

by WayneTimes.com
June 27, 2020

As migrant workers near the completion of the southern Spring/Summer harvests, eyes are turning northward in their quest to follow crop picking.

Months before their arrival to the Wayne County area, a local company, DeMay Labor, is preparing for the move of bulk of the 3000 Mexican migrants. Applications and work visas must be obtained for each worker. Some have already arrived for the early harvests, but the majority of the migrant workers will begin their journey in August.

According to Demay Labor  partner, Dulce DeMay Gelina, the  Company’s busy season has already begun. Paperwork and government filings for the preparation of the “oranges to apples” migration has become more complicated with the a touch of fear. As the corona virus has had a defined uptick through Southern States, what will happen, be required of local farmers and migrant workers headed this way?

Lessons learned by earlier migrant worker incidents have locals on edge.

In an article by Solaina Ho, a CTV news writer pointed out that at least 164 migrant workers at one Ontario, Canada farm tested positive for COVID-19.

The asparagus fields in Norfolk County were all but emptied following an outbreak in workers from Mexico, temporarily halting production.

“When we think of congregate settings, we think of places where ... a relatively large number of people share the same bathroom, same shower, same kitchen, same dining area. And it can spread very quickly among those people,” said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the medical officer of health for Norfolk & Haldimand Counties.

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) say the workers are afraid and scared.

“This is a deadly virus and they don’t know what will happen to them. Their family members also don’t know what’s going to happen to them here in Canada,” said Sonia Aviles of MWAC.

Adding to the challenge is the language barrier that makes communication challenging, the article explained.

In a CNN article by Catherine E. Shoichet the problem was exposed.

“More than a million farmworkers aren’t hunkered down at home as the coronavirus pandemic paralyzes much of the country.

Their labor -- in fields, orchards and packing plants -- is keeping food on America’s tables.

But workers and groups who represent them are sounding an alarm. Their warning: As the virus spreads, many farmworkers are living and working in conditions that put their health particularly at risk. And if outbreaks hit farmworker communities hard, they say, that could put the nation’s food supply at risk, too.

Growers and farmers say they’re doing everything they can to keep production going and keep employees safe, including scaling back the number of workers they’re transporting on buses, spacing workers out more as they harvest and increasing the number of hand-washing stations.”

appleAt one orchard where cherries, pears and apples are grown in Washington’s Yakima Valley, workers recently began bringing their own soap from home to wash their hands because the company wasn’t providing any.

“We were feeling very desperate, very helpless, very disillusioned, because no one was supporting us or giving us anything to protect ourselves. No gloves, masks or disinfectant -- nothing,” Maria, a worker at the orchard, told CNN. “We feel forgotten, and really terrified and afraid.”

Read the full article in this week's print edition

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