Letter to the Editor, Raleigh News & Observer
The N.C. Council of Churches has been working for decades to improve conditions for farm workers in our state. Sadly, too much remains unchanged over that time.
Field and poultry workers do backbreaking work, but they don’t have the same protections on the job that everyone else has. Now with the recent filing of a complaint against the N.C. Department of Labor, it appears that even the few laws on the books designed to protect farm workers have been systematically ignored (“Dirty jobs,” Oct. 15 editorial). When the state agency responsible for workplace safety stops doing its job or ignores the law, it puts all workers at risk. No one should have to risk his or her life or livelihood while putting in a hard day’s work.
So far, the Labor Department’s only response has been to fling accusations of playing politics. It will be a shameful day for North Carolina if it turns out that department has indeed been turning a blind eye toward dangerous violations and reducing fines to the point where they have no effect. Farm workers want nothing more than you and I – safe places to live and dignity on the job. How long will they have to wait?
Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate, NC Council of Churches