‘Essential’ Farm Workers Are Putting Food on Your Table With No Insurance, No Sick Pay, and Few Safety Regulations – VICE
very morning, while most of America sits at home on coronavirus lockdown, José Gutierrez heads out into the West Texas countryside to tend fruit trees. He doesn’t have health insurance, but he also can’t afford to stop working. So each day, he risks contracting the virus.
“To work in the fields, maybe we are exposed, but we have to keep working,” the 52-year-old said. “I’m afraid of not having food for my family.”
Originally from Mexico, Gutierrez, bounces between different Texas orchards, wherever he can find work. None of his jobs cover healthcare, even though he’s a legal permanent resident. He and his colleagues are taking precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19 — driving separate cars instead of their usual carpooling, working with extra distance between them — but most of his information about the virus has come from the news, not his jobs.
“If we don’t work, they don’t pay us,” he said. “Even if we are sick, we have to go to work.”