Aug 12, 2021

An Introduction to First Hands A 24 Hour Run for Farmworker Justice

In the 86 years since the exclusions passed in 1935, no one had succeeded. The farm industrial complex blocked attempts from unions, withheld strikes, won public opinion campaigns and courts. Every stone thrown at a farmer, a boulder is ready to be thrown back. Why attempt another awareness campaign, if only to lose another round? I believe public opinion has shifted in favor of labor justice, sustainable farming practices. And importantly, the increase of people of color elected to Congress can turn in favor of farmworkers. Even without these reasons, a fight against unjust laws is a fight for life. Annually, farmworkers, including kids in farm work, perish on the job for preventable incidences. If enough people learn what agricultural exceptionalism is, exceptions will fall. 

Agricultural exceptionalism is policy systemically buried in U.S. law. The consequence of the exceptions is relatable to all audiences. Consider having work conditions written into law to control bathroom breaks, access to clean water, or your employer legally able to pollute the air you breathe. To have an event celebrating farmworkers is a form of protest! Farmworkers are oppressed workers, marginalized edges of society. Any form of celebration in their honor is a protest.

Through this medium, we will reach diverse audiences to share stories of anguish and celebration of farm work. This event aims to reach people and connect with people on the struggles of the working poor who shoulder the responsibility of feeding 360 million people. Through conversation, art, and storytelling, we showcase the dignity of the working-poor looking to make a community. If we are successful, the humanity of farmworkers will connect with the humanity of consumers. A relationship is currently unbalanced as farmworkers live in poverty and the rest of social flourishing. 

Farmworkers live invisible lives. Being an unprotected class does not allow them to advocate for better pay, work conditions or even disclose criminal abuse. Fear of further marginalization, farmworkers never engage with neighbors. Instead, shelter away from threats from law enforcement and deviants who use law enforcement to threaten and intimidate them into coercive relationships. The consequence of exposure is severe to the point where farmworkers are reluctant to accept government services. The risk of being separated from family outweighs the benefit of steady help.

This Run represents the sacrifice, discipline, and effort of farmworkers. First Hands 24 Hour Run for Farmworker Justice is a celebration of work and harvest. They allow us to produce fruits and vegetables domestically, not relying on imported food shipped from thousands of miles away. A true luxury! An accomplished goal is always worth congratulations, but none are worth more of a festive celebration than farmworker's production of food. A regular day, a family gathering, or a business dinner is a joyous experience but not far removed from the hardship children, women, and men farmworkers experience to get your food to you. 

In the following weeks, we will share some of the many shades of farmworker life. The experience of farmwork is human. Every aspect of the farmworker experience is relatable. Our goal is to touch one where you may feel a connection with the farmworker experience. The major topics cover the egregious and heartfelt of farmworker life. It is estimated 800,000 children work on farms. Child farmworkers are unprotected and suffer injury, death, and more routinely plunged into a legacy of poverty. Many farmworkers experience wage theft and other forms of reduced pay. Exception laws allow for farmworker wages to be paid below market value and often lower than federal minimum wage. By age 45, farmworkers are aged out of employment by their busted bodies. The repetitive motion, stoop labor, heavy lifting, and high exposure to pesticides leave farmworkers battered bodies, unhealthy, and a higher rate of mortality. The atrocity of slavery is not a relic of the past. Cases in the American south describe bondage, beatings, wage denial, and death threat resembling the times of whips and lynching of American history.

The  First Hands 24 Hour Run for Farmworker Justice brings the message of celebration for the farmworker. The Run spotlights a devious legacy of Southern slavery rule created to regulate farm work and exploit people living in the margins. The contribution farmworkers provide to American comfort, culture and celebration are unrecognized. This project attempts to raise the farmworker plight to a level of national conversation towards legislative justice.