09 Oct 2020

Vulnerable and Essential - Migrant Farmworkers, Wildfires and COVID-19

  • Date
    09 Oct 2020, 12:30pm
  • Location



Michael Méndez - Assistant Professor, University of California, Irvine 

Lucas Zucker - Policy and Communications Director, Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

Genevieve Flores-Haro - Associate Director, Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project

Karen Baker - Co-Chair of Listos California and Senior Advisor, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES)

Justin Knighten - Co-Chair of Listos California and Assistant Deputy Director, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES)


Over the last decades, migrant farmworkers, including undocumented and indigenous workers, have been among the people worst affected by recurring fires in California. While their presence is essential to the sustainability of the local food systems and more broadly for the resilience of their host communities, their continued marginalization and exclusion limit their ability to access preparedness, response and recovery assistance and protect themselves during disasters. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is again exposing this contradiction: essential workers are among the people most exposed and vulnerable to the public health and economic consequences of the outbreak. In many sectors and contexts, in the US and beyond, migrant workers bear the brunt of these impacts, often unable to rely on adequate healthcare and public welfare schemes to reduce risks and losses.

Experience from past events can help us strengthen our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to ongoing fires, upcoming hurricanes and any other hazard that might affect our communities and societies. With a focus on the Thomas Fire, California (2017), the webinar looked into the specific patterns of vulnerability amongst migrants and identify measures that can help improve communication, assistance and engagement with migrants, effectively reducing risks for our whole communities.