Migrant women working in Sonoma County’s famous vineyards are “coming together to support one another and advocate for the safety of undocumented fieldworkers,” Trina Moyles and KJ Dakin reported for YES! Magazine in June 2016. As Moyles and Dakin wrote, “Thousands of women from Mexico and Central America have played a crucial role in developing the U.S. food economy while sacrificing their safety, cultural traditions, and families.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, three million undocumented workers live in California, half of who are women and twenty percent of who make up the agricultural workforce. In addition to working days of ten hours or more, undocumented agricultural workers often must work without adequate water, shade, or rest breaks. Pickers may also encounter health issues due to pesticides.
Undocumented women who work in agriculture face additional problems. They face verbal and sexual assaults in the field by male supervisors and co-workers. However, a majority of women fail to report these incidents for fear of losing their jobs. Chris Castillo, executive director of Verity, an organization based in Sonoma which offers crisis intervention and support to women encountering domestic and sexual abuse, states, “It’s not an easy life for women. Particularly if they have children, it’s a struggle to pay rent, buy food, and send their kids to school. They can’t afford to lose their jobs, so many don’t report the abuse that goes on.”
Nevertheless, as YES! Magazine reported, the women of Sonoma County are “not sitting meekly by.” Instead, they are “coming together to support one another and advocate for their safety,” with the help of community organizations.
Verity, which hired Spanish-speaking staff members and formed relationships with local immigrant communities to better serve the community’s needs, helps women workers with U-visas. As Moyles and Dakin reported, U-visas, a non-immigrant visa reserved for victims of crimes, have been a “major game-changer” for undocumented women workers in Sonoma County. Another California-based organization, the Lideres Campesinas, aids female migrant farm workers with education and information about their rights and helps integrate them into larger Latino communities.
Trina Moyles and KJ Dakin, “Female Migrant Farmworkers Push Back against Machismo and Abuse in California’s Wine Country,” YES! Magazine, June 21, 2016, http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/female-migrant-farmworkers-push-back-against-machismo-and-abuse-in-californias-wine-country-20160621.
Student Researcher: Doreen Ruiz-Pereyra (Citrus College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Citrus College)