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Farm workers – “essential” but living in fear



Farm Workers

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — They have very low wages, few benefits, no health care coverage, and no sick days. About half are undocumented. Yet they are deemed “essential” workers who harvest and package vegetables and fruits, work in meat packing plants, pick up and transport the product.

They are farm workers – so important to keeping the country fed and moving that they are exempt from ”stay at home” orders and even from the Trump administration’s recent two month ban on new immigrants. The rules for seasonal farmworkers have been relaxed and, if a recent proposal floated by the administration goes through, farmers may be allowed to “lower the wages” for them.

Now these workers work in fear of dying of Covid-19. So far very little has been done to stabilize their status, ensure they are protected and compensate them if they end of getting sick.

There is a growing push by legislators, trade unionists and advocacy groups “to protect farmworkers and the food supply chain,” Following reports in mid-April that 41 agricultural workers were diagnosed with Covid-19 in Monterey County, one of California’s key agricultural areas, California assembly members Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) introduced the first Covid-19 relief package in the nation focused on farmworkers. The proposed legislation includes expanded paid sick leave, supplemental hazard pay to cover increased health and childcare costs, and other measures.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress, urging financial assistance, support for child care needs and additional funding for community health centers and direct financial assistance for farm workers, reminding them that “our nation’s food security depends on the ability of farmworkers to continue to work safely to produce our food.”

Relief couldn’t come soon enough for the men and women in California’s fields.

Honduran Jose Ramos works at a vegetable packing house in Santa Maria near Santa Barbara. Ramos, a 41-year-old father of four, goes to work nervously because his company, he says, didn’t say anything about COVID-19 until a few days ago.

“Until recently they didn’t give us any guidance but many of us took our own measures, such as buying gel to bring in and making our own masks because the bosses didn’t give them to us,” Ramos explained. He noted that in his packing house social distancing was nearly impossible. “in the area where I work there are four packers, two cashiers and 8 to 10 cutters in a small space, forget about six feet. There are three feet at most between one person and the next.”

Armando Elenes, secretary-treasurer of the United Farm Workers, said 77 percent of workers in a recent survey reported that employers had not changed work practices or offered information on the pandemic.

“Now many are being told to go to work with a mask on, it’s like telling someone who has to dig holes in the ground to come with their own shovel. If you demand equipment to work, you must provide it,” said Elenes, who noted that there are individual farms that are improving their practices.

Cal OSHA regulations detail a prevention and safety program that all employers in the agricultural industry are required to implement, including worker training and information about what COVID-19 is and how it is spread, how to prevent it and what the symptoms are. Employers are required to implement on-farm safety measures and provide cleaners and disinfectants and hand washing units as well as measures to increase physical distance.  However, farm workers, trade unionists and health activists point out this has not been consistently enforced.

“ The California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) farmworker program receives numerous calls from workers,” says Estella M. Cisneros, regional director of the program. “They report that many companies have not taken any action.”

“They’re in a difficult situation,” Cisneros added. “If they work they can expose themselves and if they don’t work they have no income or help of any kind.”

Some farm workers also report that foremen or crew leaders spread misinformation and say the virus is not real. Most worried are those who work in meat or vegetable packing plants, since they work indoors and in air-conditioned environments, considered much more dangerous than working in the sun and outdoors, Cisneros added.A new report by the Civic Capacity Research Initiative (CCRI) at University of California in Merced, estimates that 42% of the 250,000 farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley are undocumented. At least 112,000 won’t receive the federal stimulus payment.

The report highlights other vulnerabilities exacerbated by the pandemic, including food and housing insecurity, lack of health benefits, lack of sick days, poor access to safety equipment. CCRI recommends that cities and counties in the Valley undertake policies to protect these workers.“Farm workers work under enormously unequal conditions,” said Genoveva Islas, director of Cultura Tu Salud, a public health advocacy organization in Fresno.
“I am proud that this community of farmworkers is recognized as essential workers, but that is why they also need essential protections. For too long they have not been paid a fair wage, have no retirement, and have no access to health insurance.

Now COVID-19 has magnified the inequalities that already existed.“In the San Joaquin Valley we have one percent of the nation’s agricultural land and produce 25% of America’s table food,” Islas says. “Anything that impairs our ability to do so would be catastrophic for California and potentially for our nation.”

Pilar Marreo (@PilarMarrero) is a Los Angeles based independent journalist who writes about politics, immigration, travel & food. She’s also a contributing Editor for Ethnic Media Services(EMS). This story was orginally published with EMS. 



India to play central role in revitalizing the global economy




SANTA CLARA, Ca. (Diya TV) — Nearly 250 guests around the globe joined together to listen to the latest entry in the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) “India and the World” discussion series, aptly titled, “India and the Re-emerging Global Order: Thought Leadership on COVID-19 Geopolitical Implications. The panel featured notable speakers from business and political fields alike including TATA’s Chair for Strategic Affairs Dr. Ashley J. Tellis, Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, and McLarty Associates President and Co Founder Nelson Cunningham; additional remarks were made by CII’s Director General Chandrajit Banerjee, and the discussion was moderated by CII’s past President Dr. Naushad Forbes. 

The event kicked off with Dr. Forbes casting a light on the lack of international collaboration in response to the global threat that the COVID-19 virus poses to the world. Forbes pushed further by highlighting that countries have a tendency to value domestic solutions and supply chains in order to secure national security despite the benefits that global trade relations, efforts, and organizations can provide. 

While Dr. Tellis found herself in agreement with Forbes’ statement in regards to a short term solution, she also put forth the belief that while countries may initially shirk away from the efficiency and comparative benefits of international interdependent supply chains, that the disadvantages of resiliency are vastly unsustainable in the post COVID world and would consequentially result in moving away from such practices. 

Cunningham posits that the pandemic has merely exacerbated changes in pre existing conditions, such as the strengthening of borders, rise of nationalism, and governments becoming increasingly insular. 

Ambassador Burns put forth his voice to insist upon that that the need for international collaboration is has reached an all time high, as its’ propogation is necessary for the development and distribution for a vaccine as well as the recovery of the global economy at large. 

The panelists ultimately came to the conclusion that trade within the upcoming years will continue to become increasingly difficult, albeit nations like India will hold advantages over their neighbors and global competitors that benefit from its long term recovery. 

India has become an enthusiastic focal point for companies seeking a reliable partner for global businesses, particularly those seeking to distance themselves from China’s response to the pandemic. Dr. Tellis echoed her earlier sentiment by stating that while globalism will face a short term decline, India will play a vital role in grappling with the rise of regional trade networks that will begin to develop. The panelists concurred that India’s position in the resurgence of a global trade economy has earned the country numerous allies in the United States, but that the investments will take time to nurture, thus necessitating that India must perpetuate engagements with the US in the government, corporate, and civil sectors in order to cement trade and strategic ties. 

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H1B Visa holders in limbo, stranded by lockdowns




NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — While the U.S. and India continue to loosen up movement restrictions put in place because of COVID-19, there are still thousands of H1B and other visa holders stranded in India because American consulates there are closed. Now job losses, money issues and family separations are taking their toll alongside these H1B woes.

There’s more than 112,000 cases of COVID-19 in India after a recent spike, with the death toll now over 3,400. India is now the epicenter in Asia for the virus, but the government is easing lockdown measures in some of the most heavily populated parts of the country. There are now more than 5 million people infected with COVID-19 globally.

Another 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total to more than 38 million people around the U.S. The unprecedented rate of job losses comes at a time many states are trying to reopen in an environment where the previous economic demand is just not there.

And we’ll show you the latest innovation in social distancing, courtesy of Parks & Recs folks in San Francisco.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report. 

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Controversial St. Paul, Minnesota India resolution approved



Controversial St. Paul, Minnesota India resolution approved | Diya TV News

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Diya TV) — It’s just a symbolic resolution, but it caused so much controversy, the St. Paul, Minnesota city council postponed their vote for two weeks. But in a 5-0 decision, with two abstentions, the council declared they oppose India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, a potential National Registry of Citizens, while stating India’s ruling party, the BJP, is “Islamophobic.” The resolution was advocated for by the Council on Islamic Relations Minnesota, whose leadership celebrated the condemnation of “Islamophobic ideology and standing in solidarity with all the minorities of India!” Meanwhile, Hindu American Foundation leaders, who coordinated 12,000 letters opposing the resolution, said “St. Paul’s resources are better spent on building community, not dividing it,” adding the “hypocrisy is breathtaking.”

And to celebrate the legacy of the late Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man slain in a hate crime, the non-profit Act To Change, co-founded by actor Maulik Pancholy, held the second annual AAPI Day Against Bullying + Hate, featuring a score of stars committed to ending bullying.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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