farm workers

For Migrant Workers, Need To Earn A Living Outweighs COVID-19 Concerns

Oct 12, 2020
Dana Cronin/Illinois Newsroom

On the outskirts of Rantoul, in east-central Illinois, about 100 migrant farmworkers are living at an old hotel in a sleepy part of town.

Every day at the crack of dawn, Samuel Gomez and the rest of the crew get their temperatures checked on the way out the door. Most workers, donning masks, load onto a big yellow school bus for a 30-minute drive to a large warehouse, where they will spend the day sorting corn on large conveyor belts.

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Raucous laughter fills a small communal kitchen as ten men shout and joke with each other in Spanish after a long day of picking apples on an orchard in Orleans County in Western New York.

They’re playing a game of charades. But instead of pantomiming movie titles or celebrities, the men are acting out symptoms of acute pesticide exposure, which include things like rashes, headaches, vomiting, and eye irritation.