The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.
Additionally, a donation will be made to an organization or community project on behalf of each week’s hero. This week we will be donating to Todo Por Mi Familia.
This conversation was translated with the assistance of Bonita Rivera of United Farm Workers. The Quakes and UFW are teaming up for a limited release fundraiser. View more and support UFW COVID relief here: https://quakes-foundation.myshopify.com/
Oswaldo Cisneros, a member under union contract with the United Farm Workers (UFW), has experienced the effects of COVID-19 firsthand.
Oswaldo has been a broccoli rabe harvester working under a union contract with the UFW for approximately 18 years. He has spent 14 of those years operating harvesting machinery.
Working out of Monterey County, Oswaldo and his coworkers have directly felt the shift in crop demand caused by COVID-19. He and his peers typically bounce between various farms and ranches in the Monterey/Salinas area harvesting specialty crops.
Specialty crops have been hit hard by the pandemic. These crops include broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms, to name a few. Specialty crops cost more to grow and harvest.
Because specialty crops have a higher price tag, they have not been as high in demand the past few months. Additionally, specialty crops receive most of their business through restaurants, which have not been operating as usual, and many have closed down.
This decline in demand has caused specialty crop workers like Oswaldo to experience a decrease in work hours. Normal work days prior to COVID-19 ranged between 7-8 hours in the field. Now, work days reach only 4-5 hours leading to a decline in wages.
Popular crops such as lettuce have not experienced as much of a drastic shift in demand. Departments of specialty crops such as broccoli rabe range in approximately 120 and broccoli from 300-400 members, whereas the lettuce departments range 600-700 members.
Many farm workers like Oswaldo are essential workers and have continued to put themselves at risk to provide food for their community’s tables.
Yet despite the hurdles, Oswaldo still finds joy in his work. He has spent the last 18 years working up to the position he now holds as a machine operator, and he enjoys the ability to work with his hands. Oswaldo’s favorite part of his job is the ability to work outside.
He says the sunshine and fresh air has helped his mental health significantly. Farm work has allowed Oswaldo to find his priorities all in one place: working outdoors and being in nature, working with his hands, and operating complex machinery.
The Quakes Foundation is grateful for the hard work and commitment from Oswaldo and all other essential workers.