The Hispanic Heritage Foundation will be recognizing nearly 3 million farmworkers who have served as essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic with this year's Heroes Award during their 33rd Hispanic Heritage Awards.
“Every single time we take a bite of food, we should think about the importance of our farmworkers in our lives, especially during the COVID-19 crisis as they put themselves and their families at risk to nobly nourish our families. Their service is nothing short of heroic," said Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, in a statement. "It is with tremendous gratitude, pride, and admiration that we honor farmworkers."
The Hispanic Heritage Awards, which were created by the White House in 1987, commemorate the establishment of Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. The awards are considered to be one of the highest honors for Latinos by Latinos.
The coronavirus crisis prompted renewed attention to farmworkers’ critical role as people found empty supermarket shelves cleaned out by those stockpiling food supplies and sheltering in place during the early days of the pandemic.
Advocates have raised concerns over the health of the nation's farmworkers since they often earn poverty wages and live in overcrowded housing.
“Their work conditions make it nearly impossible for farmworkers to be able to abide by the social distancing, handwashing and other requirements that health care professionals say are necessary to prevent the transmission of the illness," said Monica Ramirez, founder and president of the advocacy group Justice for Migrant Women, in a statement. "Farmworkers deserve this prestigious recognition along with respect and appreciation for feeding us every day."
The nearly $3 trillion stimulus package to combat the coronavirus helped many families, but excluded many farmworkers. At least 50 percent of all farmworkers are undocumented, according to United Farm Workers. Even though the government considers them essential workers, undocumented workers were ineligible for the relief payment most U.S. households received.
The Economic Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to promoting the interests of workers in economic policy debates, recommends that farm employers "provide adequate safety equipment" such as masks and gloves as well as "ways to disinfect their hands, tools, clothing and machinery."
They also suggest farmers use social distancing measures to keep workers safe, "even if some safety measures reduce productivity," and "provide health insurance and paid sick days."
Farmworkers will be honored on Oct. 6 alongside Puerto Rican music star Bad Bunny who will be receiving the Vision Award for his "transcendent impact" as an artist and an activist during Puerto Rico's historic mass protests in 2019.