As Hurricane Dorian arrives in NC, advocacy group releases disaster preparedness and recovery toolkit
RALEIGH (September 5, 2019) – The Farmworker Advocacy Network (FAN) has released a disaster preparedness toolkit and factsheet to assist farmworkers, advocacy organizations, and state and local agencies handling disaster preparation and response as Hurricane Dorian approaches and extreme weather events become increasingly common across North Carolina and the U.S.
North Carolina is home to roughly 150,000 farmworkers and their families. These workers face unique challenges in recovering from natural disasters, as they are often among the worst paid and least protected workers in our state, largely due to the lack of internationally recognized labor rights under U.S. law. When a hurricane or tornado destroys or damages crops, workers lose workdays and, in turn, wages. Many farmworkers are ineligible for disaster unemployment insurance (limited to non-H-2A workers with work authorization), or FEMA disaster assistance (available only to citizens, legal permanent residents, or qualified aliens).
“Farmworkers are essential to our state’s economy and should be a primary consideration during natural disasters when we are discussing the impact on agriculture and the state’s crops,” said Melinda Wiggins, Executive Director of Student Action with Farmworkers. “Even farmworkers that are eligible for benefits often face challenges due to linguistic and cultural barriers.”
The FAN factsheet and toolkit detail lessons learned from last year’s catastrophic slate of storms, as well as recommendations for disaster preparation, relief, and recovery work before, during, and after a storm, respectively. This includes details such as emergency planning, community resources, and information tracking and sharing. FAN also highlights the specific challenges farmworkers face during hurricane and tornado season:
- Farmworkers tend to occupy housing in low-lying areas prone to flooding. Many workers find their trailers or mobile homes destroyed and face issues such as running water, electricity, and black mold.
- Fear prevents many farmworkers from seeking safe shelter. When facing a natural disaster, farmworkers who are without documentation, working on an H-2A visa, or living with undocumented family members are often reluctant to seek assistance, access shelters, or leave their housing out of the fear that they may suffer negative immigration-related consequences.
- Farmworkers in NC live in remote and isolated areas. Many workers do not speak English and cannot access important information about the location and severity of a storm due to language or internet access issues.
“We are inspired that so many groups came together to produce the toolkit,” said Lariza Garzon, Executive Director of Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. “During last year’s hurricane we witnessed a lack of response and knew it was vital for our community to come together and better serve some of our state’s most valuable and vulnerable workers.”
The Farmworker Advocacy Network is a statewide network of organizations that work to improve living and working conditions of farmworkers and poultry workers in North Carolina. Since 2003, they have been collaborating to bring workers’ voices into the public discourse on farmworker issues.
For farmworkers seeking assistance: Contact the Legal Aid of NC Farmworker Unit at 919.523.6665 and visit Facebook (English and Spanish)
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT Sean Driscoll, Legal Aid of North Carolina, 919.856.2132, firstname.lastname@example.org; Clermont Ripley, NC Justice Center, 919.856.2154, email@example.com; Julia Hawes, NC Justice Center, 919.863.2406, firstname.lastname@example.org