By The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association | August 9, 2021

Let’s talk about essential workers during the start of the pandemic.

Health care professionals.

First responders.

Delivery drivers.

Meat packing plant employees.

Grocery store clerks.

Farm workers.

The list goes on…

There are far too many ‘essential workers’ to list who risked their safety, livelihood, and health to keep the economy going and to prevent major disruptions in the food supply chain.

Unfortunately, too many lost their lives.

Of all the essential workers, however, there is a specific group that stands out: farm workers.

It is an undeniable fact that those who picked the very fruits and vegetables we eat, became the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Already plagued with issues that were exacerbated during the pandemic including the lack of adequate housing, wage and hour issues, and heat exhaustion (just to name a few), the pandemic also brought on an increase in other types of issues: sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Just ask the UFW Foundation who established a call center early on during the pandemic to provide assistance, resources and important information to farm workers seeking to prevent eviction, keep their jobs and put food on the table. What they discovered instead was an alarming number of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases being reported across the state.

“It was surprising to us to hear how many cases were being reported that were not pandemic-related through our call center and we realized that despite the pandemic, there was still this type of behavior running rampant in the fields,” said representatives from the UFW Foundation. “It made us realize that the pandemic didn’t deter aggressors from engaging in unlawful acts, but instead, they were happening more frequently.”

To address the influx of cases being reported, CAAA and its Women’s Caucus Committee has teamed up with the UFW Foundation with the hope of encouraging victims to come forward, share their story and obtain the legal representation they need and deserve.

When it comes to the pandemic, farm workers should be focused on the health and safety of their friends, family and loved ones; not being victims of sexual harassment or assault.

This collaborative project between both organizations aims to send one clear message to those who engage in this type of illegal behavior: there are consequences and victims will not remain silent.