How A Latina Teen is Protecting the Rights and Safety of Farm Workers in the U.S. With This New App
From the age of four, my mother worked in the fields picking cotton, cherries, asparagus, and a variety of fruits and vegetables between Texas and Michigan. She was sprayed with pesticides, received little to no health coverage, and had to endure heat indexes that reached over 100 degrees. Before and after school, she was in the fields picking. No matter how hot or cold the weather was, my mother, aunts, uncles, grandmother, and grandfather had to pick in the fields to make a life for themselves.
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was not much regulation to protect farm worker’s rights. There was no access to shade or clean water and they were continually sprayed with pesticides. Farm workers were an invisible economy. Decades later, not much has changed. Farm workers, mostly made up of immigrants, play an invaluable role in this country’s food industry. They’re also subjected to inhumane conditions, including working in temperatures that can exceed 100 degrees.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least four U.S. farmworkers die each year from the heat. Most, if not all, suffer from sunstroke or other work-related illnesses.
Faith Florez, a student at the University of Southern California, is a third generation Mexican-American who grew up hearing stories of how her grandmother died in the field from the heat. She spoke with MBG about the perils farmworkers face every day and has created an app that will provide a solution.
The Calor App is a heat stress protection app protects the rights and safety of farm workers. It will allow farmworkers to receive notifications when the temperatures exceed 95 degrees, so that they can take their legally mandated break for water, shade, and rest. This may sound simple enough, but not all farm workers are allotted these breaks.
According to Florez, the Calor App will:
Allow farm workers to receive notifications containing tips on what to wear, eat, and drink to prepare for work in the fields based off weather data and individualized medical information.
Host short educational articles, videos, and quizzes to educate farm workers about how to ensure their own safety and health as well understand their legal rights on the job.
Function as a two-way emergency hotline to 911, contractors and health agencies by the utilizing built in GPS tracking services in order to locate farm workers in periods of distress caused by heat and dehydration.
Says Florez, “The system as a whole exploits immigrant workers. They are not paid overtime and are not paid by the piece. Illnesses due to heat can have lasting effects on a body. There needs to be a better way of doing things and I’m confident my app will help with this.”
The app currently runs on Apple watches, however, in order for it to actually work farmworkers must have access to an Apple watch, which are very pricey. Florez and her team of coders are currently running a pilot program with commitments from farmers to provide their field workers smart watches at the beginning of a harvest season. The cost of the smart watch will be the responsibility of the farmers, and to help with this cost Florez has created a fundraising campaign.
Her hope is that once the pilot is completed, farmers will understand the importance of proactively protecting farm workers’ health and safety and see an increase in production because of it. Everyone deserves to a safe and healthy work environment!
Check out this video from Florez and donate to help get more smart watches out on the fields.