#MeToo has made us aware of sexual harassment in workplaces but harassment against low-wage women workers, including farm worker women, has not been highlighted. Now, farm worker women are silent no longer! Advocate for the BE HEARD bill in Congress and send letters to your legislators aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/womens-rights-workplace/be-heard-act-will-overhaul-workplace-harassment-laws
Read more to discover how you can help amplify their voices.
“We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packing houses that are out of site and out of mind for most people in this country… We share the common experience of being preyed on by individuals that have the power to hire, fire and blacklist us… To report or complain seems unthinkable because the risk is too great. We know deep in our hearts that it is not our fault.”
Of the more than 800,000 farm worker women who plant, pick and pack our food, many are isolated and vulnerable to abuse. Harassment can involve everything from inappropriate comments to sexual assault and rape. Many women must decide between reporting sexual violence and potentially facing deportation, or letting sexual violence go unchecked. Some women must trade sex for their jobs. Sexual harassment protection is a Living Wage issue because women face job loss due to harassment and lost work days when dealing with the aftermath of violence. Change begins by creating and expanding legal protections for farmer worker women’s safety.
Farm worker women have learned that sexual harassment seems to be protected by law because equal employment protections do not apply to them if they work in crews of fewer than 15 people or are not direct employees. Technically, they are protected under the Violence Against Women Act, but the volume of complaints and the length of time for resolution makes the “protection” hard to realize. HR 2148, the BE HEARD act, will change this!
United Methodist Women is a member of the National Farm Worker Ministry, which has created materials to support the leadership of farm worker women in demanding their rights. Here are ways your unit can address gender-based violence in the fields.
- Screen the video “Maricela’s Story: Standing with Farm Workers Against Gender Based Violence,” which highlights the work of farm worker partners and allies as they address gender-based violence. org/resource-center/harvest-of-justice/maricelas-story-2/
- Listen to the Faith Trust Institute webinar with Monica Ramirez, Justice for Migrant Women; Leticia Zavala, Farm Labor Organizing Committee; Julie Taylor, National Farm Worker Ministry, to learn how faith communities can respond. org/news/upcoming-webinar-on-october-3
- Plan a Bible study, worship and action. The Harvest of Justice resource created by the National Farm Worker Ministry includes Bible studies, worship resources and litanies. org/resource-center/harvest-of-justice/biblical-resources/
- Join the Bandanna Project to show your direct support for farm worker women in their organizing work. This art-activism and advocacy project serves as a healing tool for women across the United States, Mexico and other countries. Some farm worker women use white bandannas as a symbol of their resistance to violence and harassment. Decorate bandannas with messages of solidarity to display in your church and community. View a video about the project here: com/355718833
- Advocate for the BE HEARD bill in Congress. This bill strengthens antidiscrimination laws, removes barriers that prevent individuals from accessing justice and helps employers create harassment-free workplaces while also holding them accountable when they fall short. At your circle or unit meeting send letters to your legislators org/blog/womens-rights/womens-rights-workplace/be-heard-act-will-overhaul-workplace-harassment-laws
This message is adapted from material produced by National Farm Worker Ministry Harvest of Justice.