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Former farmworker tells lawmakers what it's like

Juana Armijo of Colorado describes horrific conditions

Juan Armijo interviewed by Telemundo
Juan Armijo as interviewed by Telemundo Photo: AFSC

Testimony from Juana Armijo
Former farmworker and
 a leader in Not1More Deportation, a project of AFSC Colorado
March 2021

Given to the staff of US Sen. Michael Bennet regarding the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that would expand exploitive guestworker programs, and Colorado state legislators regarding the Agricultural Workers Bill of Rights that would give farmworkers the right to organize and overtime pay.

*Español abajo*

I am Juana Armijo, and I’ve been in the United States since 2002. I am the mother of six children. Three have been deported and one died in an accident. All of my 17 grandchildren were born here in the US. I’m the wife of a US citizen whom I care for because he is disabled from diabetes.

I worked about five or six years as an agriculture worker in Colorado and Arizona. I’ve worked with all kinds of vegetables and roses; in all of these places, working conditions were terrible. There is no rest on Saturdays and Sundays. I experienced exploitation in every place that I worked, such as wage theft and sexual harassment.

One of my bosses fired me when I asked for permission to go to the clinic, and they didn’t give us water. There were no bathrooms, and we had to go in the river and the cornfields. There was no water to wash to get the insecticide off our hands before eating.

We were shown a video that explained the dangers of the pesticides, that they could give us cancer, and we had to sign a paper saying that we understood the consequences and that they were not responsible. They did not give us masks or gloves to protect ourselves.

I worked packing corn and lettuce in Brighton, CO. With corn we began at 7 in the morning and worked until 11 at night. People fainted and fell among the knives. When it was time to cut the lettuce, we started at 2 in the morning in the darkness, and when the sun started to come up, we would start to pack the lettuce in bags, and we worked until 10 at night.

In some jobs I made complaints and they fired me. I had to put up with it out of necessity.

Instead of a guestworker program, agricultural workers, just like all workers, need a path to citizenship in order to stop the exploitation. Not just anyone can do this work; it’s very hard work. We need job protection and pay protection, and this is gained by having papers in order to get good medical care and better pay.

_____________________

Soy Juana Armijo- 2002 EU, mama de 6 (3 hijos han sido deportados y uno murió en un accidente) aquí nacieron todos mis 17 nietos. Soy esposa de ciudadano que cuido porque esta deshabilitado por diabetes.

Trabaje por 5 o 6 años como trabajadora agrícola en CO y AZ. He trabajado con todo tipo de verdura y con rosas y en todos los lugares condiciones horribles y nos quitaron horas, Sábado y domingo no hay descanso. Experimente explotación en cada uno de los lugares- robo de sueldo, acoso sexual, me echaron del trabajo cuando pedía permiso a ir a la clínica, no nos daban agua, no había baños tuvimos que ir en el rio y los maizales, no había agua para lavar para quitar la insecticida de las manos antes de comer Nos mostraban un video contando las consecuencias de las pesticidas- nos podrían dar cáncer, y teníamos que firmar un papel diciendo que entendíamos las consecuencias y que ellos no eran responsables. Y no nos daban guantes ni mascarillas para protegernos Empacando elote en Brighton empezamos a las 7 de la mañana hasta las 11 de la noche, gente se desmallaba, gente caía en lado de los cuchillos Cuando era tiempo de cortar la lechuga empezamos a las 2 de la mañana en la oscuridad y saliendo el sol empezamos a empacar la lechuga en bolsas y trabajamos hasta 10 de la noche.

En unos trabajos yo quejaba y me corrieron. Tuve que aguantar por necesidad.

En vez de un programa de trabajar huésped-  Trabajadores agrícolas como todos trabajares, necesitan un camino a ciudadana para parar la explotación No cualquiera lo hace, es muy pesado- necesitamos protecciones laborales y de pago y eso se logra con teniendo papeles para un buen cuidado médico, mejor pago.

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