Presenter Information

Jennifer MartinezFollow

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Start Date

4-5-2022 1:30 PM

End Date

4-5-2022 3:00 PM

Subjects

farmworkers

Advisor

Melody Valdini

Student Level

Doctoral

Abstract

This study draws on a subset of thirty individuals that took part in the community-driven Oregon COVID-19 Farmworker Study to analyze how farmworkers interpreted the contradictory label essential worker. Using discourse analysis, this article examines how these peasant workers drew on their embodied experiences working throughout the pandemic to give meaning to their essential designation. The data suggest that farmworkers were tacitly aware of the contradictions between their labeling as indispensable and their disposable treatment on the ground. Farmworkers generally felt unrecognized, underpaid, and felt exposed to COVID-19 infection in addition to everyday workplace hazards. While the essential title was devoid of additional protections or benefits for these essential workers, this article finds the institutional recognition helped crystallize farmworkers’ identities and galvanized their grievances in relation to their interpretations working throughout the pandemic. They reference their labor contributions, treatment in the workplace, and immigration status to crystallize claims of identity. Moreover, farmworkers share these common experiences to forge grievances about their dehumanization; low wages; and enduring illegality with lack of opportunities for documentation. This study contributes to a growing number of studies exploring the epistemological implication of labeling workers as essential through the perspectives of farmworkers themselves.

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/37466

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May 4th, 1:30 PM May 4th, 3:00 PM

Farmworker Voices: Contesting & Renegotiating Essential Status During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This study draws on a subset of thirty individuals that took part in the community-driven Oregon COVID-19 Farmworker Study to analyze how farmworkers interpreted the contradictory label essential worker. Using discourse analysis, this article examines how these peasant workers drew on their embodied experiences working throughout the pandemic to give meaning to their essential designation. The data suggest that farmworkers were tacitly aware of the contradictions between their labeling as indispensable and their disposable treatment on the ground. Farmworkers generally felt unrecognized, underpaid, and felt exposed to COVID-19 infection in addition to everyday workplace hazards. While the essential title was devoid of additional protections or benefits for these essential workers, this article finds the institutional recognition helped crystallize farmworkers’ identities and galvanized their grievances in relation to their interpretations working throughout the pandemic. They reference their labor contributions, treatment in the workplace, and immigration status to crystallize claims of identity. Moreover, farmworkers share these common experiences to forge grievances about their dehumanization; low wages; and enduring illegality with lack of opportunities for documentation. This study contributes to a growing number of studies exploring the epistemological implication of labeling workers as essential through the perspectives of farmworkers themselves.