Exclusive Video: Martin Sheen Speaks Out for Farm Workers

We can't truly enjoy the bountiful summer harvests until the workers who plant and grow them are treated with dignity.
07/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Every summer, millions of Americans enjoy scrumptious picnics and backyard BBQs with lots of California fresh fruits and veggies. At the same time, under the blistering California sun, hundreds of thousands of farm workers toil daily under brutal conditions to plant, tend and harvest this produce for us.

One such farm worker was teenager Maria Isabel Jimenez, who worked for Merced Farm Labor, near Stockton. Last May, she worked in the fields for nine hours straight without any water and no shade. After working under such brutal conditions, she collapsed. After delayed medical treatment, she was taken to a hospital several hours later and had a body-temperature of 108.4 degrees. Within two days, Maria had died.

Unfortunately, Maria Isabel's story is not unusual. Five other farm workers died last summer and unless the state does more to ensure enforcement of existing safety standards, others could befall Maria's fate.

The people who ensure we have food to eat three times a day are not given the dignity or rights they deserve. Our farm workers are often living in extreme poverty without enough money to feed themselves or their families. They are exposed regularly to dangerous pesticides, intense weather conditions and workplace intimidations.

People like Martin Sheen are standing up for the rights of farm workers, like Maria Isabel Jimenez. He's a long time advocate for farm workers' rights but he can't do it alone. He asks us to support the efforts of California State Senator Dean Florez to ensure that farm workers are guaranteed workplace protections such as shade and water access.

According to Senator Florez, the grandson of farm workers, "the focus on mass production at the factory farm has added to the brutality and dehumanization of workers who toil in the fields - even to the point where clean drinking water, shade, rest and other work rules are sidelined to meet quotas. We've lost sight of the human experience of growing our food, and at the cost of too many farm worker lives."

We can't truly enjoy the bountiful summer harvests until the workers who plant and grow them are treated with dignity. Martin Sheen and Senator Florez are raising awareness about farm workers through the Social Action campaign for our upcoming documentary, Food, Inc., which exposes the dire situation for millions of workers in the food industry. Join Martin Sheen and Senator Dean Florez in ensuring farm worker rights and protections a reality today.