Dear Idaho Governor and State Officials,
Idaho Organization of Resource Councils appreciates the work you have done to keep our communities safe in this uncertain time. However, there are many workers that keep our state running that haven’t been provided adequate resources and protections for their families. The men, women, and children who work tirelessly in Idaho’s agriculture industry are essential to our economy, nutrition, and land stewardship. However, these low-wage, high risk jobs are filled largely by Idaho’s immigrant population and many workers do not communicate in English. The wide use of pesticides in the agriculture industry also exposes these workers and their families to dangerous chemicals – particularly when face masks are in low supply.
Local organizations have stepped up to help fill the gap left by Idaho’s leaders. Organizations such as Immigrant Justice Idaho, Community Council of Idaho, and ACLU of Idaho have adapted quickly to provide services such as translation and resource management in addition to their existing responsibilities. If organizations such as ours can be this agile with limited resources, why can’t Idaho’s elected leaders?
We call on you to do more to protect one of our most essential and most vulnerable populations. All information about COVID-19, safety precautions, healthcare access, and workers rights need to be translated into a variety of languages. Community resources such as testing sites, informational videos, and food assistance programs need to be prepared to meet the needs of non-English speaking community members. Additionally, farm owners and contractors must be held accountable for providing suitable protective equipment for their workers. We have seen the consequence of pesticide poisoning during a typical growing season. We can’t imagine the harm that would be done if farmers and contractors continue to skirt responsibility for protecting their teams in such an unprecedented landscape. As Idaho begins to emerge, let us not sacrifice the health and safety of the workers who kept us nourished in this time of crisis.