This past week, UVa law students traveled to thirteen farms across Central Virginia to inform seasonal agricultural workers of their rights. The annual Migrant Farmworker Project began in 1999 and was formed by the Latin American Law Organization at UVa Law. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to make the seasonal workers aware of their rights and ensure they are treated properly under the law.
Although hired farmworkers account for less than 1 percent of all salary workers in the United States, they play an integral role in U.S. agriculture. Agriculture in America could not be sustained without them, yet these workers are highly uneducated. According to the Economic Research Service analysis of data from U.S. Census Bureau conducted in 2012, 75% of the hired workers do not have any college education. Additionally, 27% of the hired workers have less than a 9th grade education.
With so many of the workers without a proper education, there is a great possibility that they are not aware of the rights that they are afforded as a worker. The Migrant Farmworker Project addresses this problem by handing out more than 100 “Know Your Rights” pamphlets every year. Although the students are not able to offer legal advice, the pamphlets attempt to consolidate most of the critical information.
First year law student Siarra Rogers explains that the pamphlets are a resource to contact people who can deliver legal advice.
“The most important piece of information, in my opinion, we can give out through the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet is the phone number for the legal service providers… it is a really helpful tool for the workers to recognize/spot issues they may be experiencing.”
When asked why this is one of the initiatives chosen by the law students to participate in, Siarra stated, “The Migrant Farmworker Project is under the umbrella of the Latin American Law Organization (LALO). I believe this project is especially important for having a presence in these camps and allowing folks to know the resources that are available to them.”
The information supplied by students such as Siarra give these workers an opportunity to understand their rights and how they can legally be treated.