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Organizations team up to advocate for farmworkers after recent COVID-19 outbreaks

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jul 08, 2020

A couple of local organizations have teamed up to improve living conditions for farmworkers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This comes after Ventura County had an outbreak of cases among farmworkers who were there on H2A Visas.

That outbreak led a couple of local organizations in Santa Maria to team up to advocate for better living and working conditions for farmworkers.

With COVID-19 cases in Santa Maria being the highest among agricultural workers, organizations "C.A.U.S.E" and "Mixteco/Indigena Community Organization Project" (MICOP) came together to help farmworkers during this pandemic.

C.A.U.S.E Organizing Director Hazel Davalos said, "We are really doing all we can to ask our county government and our city government to do what they need to do to make sure workers are safe."

They asked for things like better regulations for the H2A workers in the community.

After the outbreak in Oxnard where 176 workers tested positive for the virus, concerns that something similar could happen in Santa Maria prompted leaders to speak out.

"We really felt that that's a warning that our local government should heed because that happened in Oxnard but Santa Maria is the number one destination for H2A workers in the state," said Davalos.

A joint statement by both organizations asked the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to:

  • Discourage H2A housing that does not allow workers to socially distance
  • Discourage H2a housing that has more than 20 workers concentrated on one site
  • Direct public health to investigate all H2A worker housing to see if proper health and safety are being implemented.

"We're here to provide solutions, we're not here to be combative. We're here to work and really uplift the reality of the people that we are working with," said Genevieve Flores-Haro, Associate Director of MICOP.

Solutions that Davalos believes can be implemented by city and county leaders.

"There are so many things at their disposal to do and I think at the end of the day we saw what happened in Oxnard. We don't want that to happen here and there is an urgency for our local leaders to act before we have a tragedy on our hands," said Davalos.

Both of the organizations say they are staying in contact with the county and city to continue these conversations in hopes of reaching a solution to prevent these outbreaks in the farm working community.

Santa Maria City Councilmember Gloria Soto told KSBY she agrees with the proposals and believes it’s imperative something is done to prevent an outbreak in the community.