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Agricultural workers and food processing workers in the South

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society, including low-wage workers in the agriculture and poultry industries. Based on our experience and expertise we submit the following ideas for implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

  1. DOL and USCIS need to work together to ensure that workers receive information about their rights under the FFCRA before they come to the U.S. Provision of such information can be done during the consular interviews taking place in the country of origin.

  2. DOL needs to be ready and able to work with USCIS to quickly remedy retaliation complaints against workers enforcing their rights under the FCCRA, in particular those complaints dealing with termination as that could lead to a worker losing all ability to earn income and pay for housing or medical care.

  3. DOL should focus outreach efforts in rural communities and in Southern states where state employment laws are notably weak in protecting low-wage workers rights. DOL needs to provide more resources to employees in these areas.

  4. Given the precarious work conditions for essential workers – including workers in the food processing and agricultural sectors – that expose them to high risks of contracting and communicating COVID-19 to each other at work (in addition to family members at home) and the lack of stronger guidance around what employers must do to protect workers, workers in these industries will likely experience high rates of Illness and death. As such, the DOL should have the ability and capacity to rigorously and expeditiously enforce the rights of these essential workers under the FFCRA to ensure that they can continue to provide for themselves and their families.


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Idea No. 2495