EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — One group of essential workers are the reason why fruits and vegetables made it to the stores this year. Experts say farm and migrant workers are some of least protected from COVID-19.
“Both the wage underpayment claims and feild sanitation claims are exacerbated by COVID,” said managing attorney at Texas Legal Aid Daniela Dwyer.
One field worker says that he does not feel safe working and the pandemic has cut into work.
Franscio casiano says earlier this year he filed for unemployment, and only received one check for $85 and never saw the rest he was owed.
“What I have proof of is, they sent me a card and they sent me my first check, and never received the rest,” said Casiano.
Dwyer says without feild and migrant workers, we would not eat.
“The level of protections that they receive is not commiserate with the importance of work that they do,” said Dwyer.
Casiano explains he gets paid $11 per crate of oranges and $9 per crate of grapefruit, but the pay has always been low he says.
“There are some who pay us by weight and those that carry more weight, the more they earn,” said Casiano.
Dwyer says some workers earnings never get recorded.
“They’ve just never been properly paid with a pay stub or with taxes withheld that then get credited to their taxes earning statement,” said Dwyer.
Casiano says the pandemic has taken an extra cut in his pay and is at risk for COVID due to his age. He also says his employer does not provide them with any personal protective equipment.
“When the pandemic started, we started working less,” said Casiano. “I don’t feel safe, but what can i do? We need to work as much as possible to pay the bills.”
Attorney Dwyer encourages any farm and migrant workers in need of help to contact their office.
For more information, visit Trla.org.