Recent weather in the Treasure Valley hasn’t felt like summer yet, but eventually, temperatures will heat up.
Ahead of that, the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance is trying to gather as many supplies as possible for the state’s farmworkers who are subjected to extreme temperatures and have few resources to get the materials themselves.
Co-organizer of IIRA Irene Ruiz is a former farmworker and knows what it’s like to do hard labor. She worked in the fields for 12 years.
“These are very low paid wages, these are not $15 an hour jobs,” Ruiz said. “So, a lot of the money that we ended up getting was to go to pay for rent, pay for food and groceries.”
Along with low pay, Ruiz says this isn’t the type of job where someone can take a sick day or vacation and expect to be paid, leading many workers to power through heat exhaustion.
“If you can’t get out to the field, you are not going to get paid, period,” Ruiz said. “Even if they feel dizzy or sick, they know if they stop working, they are not going to get paid.”
After two farmworkers in Oregon and Washington died last summer from heat-related causes, Ruiz helped start the Heat and Smoke Farmworker Relief Fund for farmworkers in Idaho. The fund raised $24,000 last year.
Now in its second year, these are the items needed: bottled water and sports drinks, athletic coolers with a spout, straw hats, bandanas, cooling scarves, reusable ice packs, and sunscreen. You can find a list of drop-off locations here. Anyone who would like to make a monetary donation can do so here.
“Without the farmworkers, we wouldn’t have food on our table, we wouldn’t have food in our grocery stores,” Ruiz said. “It’s important that they are seen as human beings who deserve respect and need to be protected.”