Student Research: Fabiola Estrada

, Industrial Hygiene (IH), 2004
Faculty Advisor: Matthew C. Keifer

An Exploratory Study of the Incentives and Disincentives for Latino Farm Workers in the State of Washington to Participate in the Workers' Compensation System


Farm workers in the United States make a crucial contribution to our society. This occupational group perfoRMS numerous tasks vital to the cultivation and harvest of a large share of the nation's food supply. They work in an industry that has consistently ranked as one of the most hazardous industries in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000). In addition to the hazards faced in their work place, Latino farm workers in the state of California were found to generally suffer from poor overall health (Villarejo et al., 2000). This situation is further aggravated when farm workers do not have health insurance. Workers' compensation may provide the only insurance coverage for farm workers who are injured or become ill as a result of their work. It is important to delineate and address any barriers that might prevent farm workers from utilizing and taking advantage of a workers' compensation system that was designed to assist them in case of an occupational injury or illness. In many cases, workers may need to be encouraged to use this insurance system.

In general, farm workers in the United States earn annual salaries below the poverty level and many of them experience chronic unemployment. According to the report from the National Agricultural Workers Survey, the farm workforce consists mainly of recent male immigrants (NAWS, 2000). The survey's results also indicate that despite the relative poverty of farm workers and their families, their use of social services remains low, and for some programs a decrease has been observed. During the years 1994-1995 and 1997-1998, only 20 percent of all unemployed farm workers reported having received unemployment insurance. Similarly, only 10 percent of the interviewed farm workers reported they received benefits for their families from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program during 1994-1995 and 1997-1998. In addition, the survey identified a decrease in the use of Medicaid and food stamps in 1997-1998. For all of these reasons, it is important to learn more about Latino farm workers, particularly about their low use of social services despite their low annual salaries.

Taken from the beginning of thesis.