Marielena Vega addresses the crowd at the Rally for Resilience in Washington D.C. Photo by Paul Morigi.
Marielena Vega speaks up for her fellow farmworkers at the Rally for Resilience in Washington D.C.
This post was adapted from a speech given by Idaho Organization of Resource Councils board member Marielena Vega at the Rally for Resilience in Washington D.C. The Rally for Reslience drew farmworkers, farmers, ranchers, and organizations from around the U.S. to demand that the next Farm Bill prioritize climate change policy.
Hello everyone! Mi nombre es Marielena Vega. My name is Marielena Vega. Today I am here, far away from home, but for a very important reason. Today I am here representing our farmworker community in Idaho and the farmworker experience. I am here to lobby for a Farm Bill that includes us farmworkers.
Our farmworker community gets excluded time and time again, and this is something that has never made sense to me because farmworkers provide very essential work here in the U.S. We don’t want to be overlooked or silent anymore. I will not be silent today.
“Our farmworker community get excluded time and time again, and this is something that has never made sense to me because farmworkers provide very essential work here in the U.S. We don’t want to be overlooked or silent anymore. I will not be silent today.”
Like many of us gathered here, I am advocating for a Farm Bill that is inclusive of the community I belong to. I need the 2023 Farm Bill to provide and improve worker protections. Protections from exposure to harmful working conditions. Conditions like extreme heat, poor air quality due to wildfires, and pesticides. Relief must be provided to farmworkers working under these conditions. It pains me to see the people I love and the community I’ve shared so much with, to continue to work under these conditions with NO RELIEF. It makes me angry and frustrated to have people in positions of power DENY the REALITY and SEVERITY of climate change. I have personally experienced these changing weather conditions. The extreme and prolonged chill, the undying and scorching heat. I have felt how extreme summers have become.
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When you are outside. In the heat. In what seems like an unending field. You feel like you are burning. You feel the heat in your body. You feel your body having difficulty breathing and cooling itself. You wish the small breeze blowing around you would stay to provide you some relief from the heat. You wish you could stop and go home but you can’t. No work means no money. No money means no way to support yourself and your loved ones. So you take on the heat and the chill because you have no other option. Because it feels like no one cares.
I have seen my own mother continue to work despite feeling unwell because there are no protections for farmworkers in public health emergencies. Severance pay, paid sick leave, and healthcare are not options because THEY DO NOT EXIST [for farmworkers]. We need a Farm Bill that puts the well-being and livelihood of our communities, of farmworkers, as a priority. As it stands right now, our farmworkers are out there, everyday, paid low-wages, working under harsh conditions, missing out on core memories with their loved ones, being exposed and sprayed to who knows what; to not even be able to afford a day off, or afford the food they help grow and harvest. THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE.
“As it stands right now, our farmworkers are out there, everyday, paid low-wages, working under harsh conditions, missing out on core memories with their loved ones, being exposed and sprayed to who knows what; to not even be able to afford a day off, or afford the food they help grow and harvest. THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE.”
We deserve to be seen and valued like other people who hold other essential jobs and careers. I will continue to advocate for the people in this photo. Mi familia. My family. I will continue to share our stories. We too come from the Earth, we protect the Earth, and value the Earth so why aren’t we included?!
I am thankful to share this space with you all today. It gives me hope and power to see all of you who flew, drove, and transported yourselves to share this moment together. We will continue to fight for a Farm Bill that is representative of all of us and puts our communities over profits & corporate greed. Representatives…Legislators… we WILL hold you accountable. Gracias.
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