We have all endured the COVID-19 pandemic here in Washington for the past four months, and many of us have found ways to adjust to this new normal. Those who can have become accustomed to working from home. All of us are staying socially distant and doing what we can to protect ourselves and those around us.
Of course, there are so many people who are still out there on the front lines, working every day to keep our communities running. Our food producers and farmworkers do so much to ensure that our grocery stores stay stocked and our stomachs stay full.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced last week that nationally 175 of their members who worked in grocery stores, food processing facilities or meat packing plants have died as a result of COVID-19, and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed. It is more important than ever that we do everything in our grasp to help keep these vital workers healthy and safe during these uncertain times.
Simply put, this is not a political issue. No matter our beliefs or affiliations, every one of us must eat. Our family farmers, food and farmworkers do not grow, harvest and distribute food based on political beliefs or legislative ideals, and our support for them cannot depend on how we voted in the last election or the letter we put next to our names.
It is my job as a Washington State Representative, who not only serves the 40th Legislative District, but all Washingtonians, to open my doors and bring together as many people, voices and opinions as I can together to sit at the table and work out what we can do to keep our food and farmworkers safe and healthy. It is the Washington Farm Bureau’s job to work with family farms across the state so that we can feed the world, and it is the governor’s, our Legislature’s and Congress’ job to create and implement the policies that protect these essential workers.
In recent months, working with the Washington Farm Bureau, the Governor’s Office, and my fellow legislators from both sides of the aisle, we helped to make masks and hand sanitizer directly available to farmworkers across the state to help keep these essential workers safe.
Working with Washington State Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups, we have distributed more than 23,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and 25,000 masks to over 107,000 farmworkers. On top of that, Washington State Farm Bureau is working to distribute another 500,000 masks to farmworkers throughout the state along with an additional 27,000 gallons of hand sanitizer.
This work will continue to ensure that those who put food on our table are safe and healthy. We absolutely must do everything we can to make sure they have the necessary supplies to continue their important work.
We can come together, as so many of us already have throughout this pandemic, at the kitchen table and set aside our differences for this shared goal.
We must work together to find the best path forward together. We are excited to see this collaboration deepen our commitment to best serve all Washingtonians together. Food is bigger than politics, and the health and safety of our agriculture community is a priority for all of us right now, and tomorrow.
Rep. Debra Lekanoff was elected as a state representative for the 40th Legislative District in 2019, and has served as a public servant to citizens in Washington state and across the country for more than two decades. Contact her campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Washington State Farm Bureau is a voluntary, grassroots advocacy organization representing the social and economic interests of farm and ranch families at the local, state and national levels. By providing leadership and organizational skills, the Washington State Farm Bureau seeks to gain public support on the issue affecting farm and ranch families.
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