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Solidarity in the Fields: How Immigrant Farmworker Women in North Carolina Defend their Workers Rights

Authors: Emilia Cordero Oceguera*, North Carolina State University
Topics: Food Systems, Ethnicity and Race, Gender
Keywords: immigrant farmworker women, solidarity, workers’ rights, food justice
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Farmworker women hold a paradoxical position within the US food system. They are part of a workforce that is constantly transforming the food system, while simultaneously being exploited by it. They have the skill and knowledge to grow food and are an essential part of the food system, but society does not value their work. In the US, farmworker wages are substandard, and exploitative working conditions threaten workers’ safety and wellbeing (NCFH 2018, NCFHP 2017). There are between 2 and 3 million farmworkers in the United States, primarily working in the fields, nurseries, and packing plants of California, Texas, Washington, Florida, Oregon, and North Carolina (NC Farmworkers 2012). Two-thirds were born in Mexico, and over half of them are undocumented (SAF 2017). 27% of all immigrant farmworkers in the US do not speak English at all (NCFH 2018). And most of them are men. Only 28% of immigrant farmworkers are women (NCFH 2018). Often immigrant farmworkers in the U.S. are depicted as helpless victims because of the working conditions they endure. This case study, informed by in-depth interviews with five immigrant farmworker women living in rural North Carolina in March 2019, shows how these women enact the defense of their workers rights through everyday acts of solidarity among workmates. Thus, challenging the narrative of victimhood in their life experiences.

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