“Fulfilling the Promise:
Empowering Farmworkers and Overcoming Pesticide-Related Environmental and
Health Challenges in Northwestern Pennsylvania” is a collaboration with Friends of Farmworkers (FOF). FOF, the grant applicant, received funding for this outreach project from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With
over seven years of field research experience with under-represented and
underserved populations, especially Latinos/as, Dr. Molina, MARTI research associate and assistant professor of Sociology, serves as a consultant on the project. Aside from his academic credentials, for most of his youth Dr.
Molina was himself a migrant farmworker for most of his youth. As such, he has first-hand experience
with the many challenges and issues farmworkers face. Annually, Dr. Molina, his
parents and siblings, migrated from southern Texas to Ohio, North Carolina and
Florida where they harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tobacco,
green peppers and cherry tomatoes. Dr.
Molina brings not only his impressive academic credentials to the project, but
also important first-hand knowledge of the many environmental hazards that
farmworker families face.
The two part objective of this project is to (1) educate
farmworkers about the health risks of pesticide exposure and to inform them
about their legal rights in cases of exposure and (2) to prepare community
leaders to become pesticide educators. The initiative will achieve these
results in three phases over the course of a year. The three phases are
proposed with the knowledge that farm work in Erie County is seasonal and is
the heaviest during the harvest (typically from late June-October). Phase one
is from June to September, the peak harvest period. Phase two is from October
through December when the harvests will be waning and centers on training
farmworkers to become pesticide educators. The third phase will take place from
January through May and will focus on making farmworker pesticide educators the
principal facilitators of future pesticide education workshops. The workshops
will be designed to inform farmworkers about pesticide dangers, protections
against exposure, measures to be taken in cases of exposure, and legal rights and recourse in cases of exposure. It will also prepare farmworkers
to be educators on pesticide exposure, including pesticide contamination of
In addition, Dr. Molina, together with students of the Tlacuilo Honors Society at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, will develop
language-appropriate resources to be used in the pesticide education workshops.
Some of the planned resources will be an image-rich Spanish language pamphlet
that explains pesticide exposure and related health risks; Spanish language CDs
with narrations of pesticide exposure and workers’ rights in obtaining health
and medical care and legal recourse; and a bilingual (English-Spanish
languages) pocket-sized resource card with contact information of local, state,
and federal agencies that support and aid farmworkers with pesticide exposure
and other health issues. FOF lawyers will review all materials for accuracy in
the presentation of legal issues.
Through the project, farmworkers in Erie County, PA and the
surrounding area will benefit by learning about the health
risks associated with pesticide exposure; knowing and understanding the laws
intended to protect them and the willingness of FOF to help;
and becoming aware of the importance of environmental sustainability for the
health of both the farmworker community and the general population. With the
provided educator workshops, farmworker leaders will take ownership of the
workshops and will administer them. In the process, they will become advocates
for environmental and social justice. The project will also result in more fair
treatment of an under-represented group that suffers disproportionately from
immediate negative environmental conditions. In addition, farmworkers will be
empowered to become major stakeholders in the education of their community
about environmental threats to the public food source.
About Friends of Farmworkers
Established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1975, FOF works
to improve the lives of Pennsylvania’s farmworkers. They fulfill this goal
through community education, advocacy and the provision of free legal aid
designed to empower the agricultural workers among us to earn a living wage,
and to ensure that they and their families have the opportunity to lead
productive, healthy, and fulfilling lives.
FOF focuses on helping workers with employment-related
problems – most commonly wage theft, harassment, discrimination and unsafe or
unhealthy work conditions. They do this
most often by helping individual workers, but also by educating community
members and advocating for better laws and policies. FOF focuses on client-centered lawyering and
aims to provide workers and communities with all of the information they need
to make informed decisions.
FOF is one of only a
handful of legal aid agencies operating in the Commonwealth without
restrictions on the ability to assist clients based on their immigration
status, and the only legal services organization in the state with an entirely
Spanish-speaking staff. In the last three years FOF has recovered $293,669.35
on behalf of low-wage agricultural workers from across Pennsylvania.