July 13, 2021
This week on Getting Curious, we’re going from table to farm to learn more about where our food comes from, and who is producing it. Activist and lawyer Mónica Ramírez joins Jonathan to discuss the history of farmwork in the United States, the labor conditions facing contemporary farmworkers, and the work she and her peers are doing to prioritize legal and mental health support for farmworker communities.
Mónica Ramírez is an attorney, author and activist. She is the founder of Justice for Migrant Women and co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, The Latinx House, and Poderistas (formerly She Se Puede).
Mónica has received numerous awards, including Harvard Kennedy School’s first Gender Equity Changemaker Award, Feminist Majority’s Global Women’s Rights Award and the Smithsonian’s 2018 Ingenuity Award. She was named to Forbes Mexico’s 100 Most Powerful Women’s 2018 list and TIME Magazine included her in its 2021 TIME100 Next list. Mónica is also an inaugural member of the Ford Global Fellowship.
Transcripts for each episode are available at JonathanVanNess.com.
Check out Getting Curious merch at PodSwag.com.
Listen to more music from Quiñ by heading over to TheQuinCat.com.
221 — What Does Justice Look Like For Farmworkers? with Mónica Ramírez
Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness & Mónica Ramírez
JVN [00:00:00] Welcome to Getting Curious, I’m Jonathan Van Ness, and every week I sit down for a gorgeous conversation with a truly brilliant expert to learn all about something that makes me curious. On today’s episode, I’m joined by lawyer and activist Mónica Ramírez, where I ask her: what does justice look like for farmworkers? Welcome to Getting Curious. I’m so excited for our guest this week. Welcome, Mónica Ramírez, who is the founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women. She is also one of the organizers Behind Healing Voices, a new mental health initiative for farmworkers. Mónica, welcome to the show.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:00:37] Thank you, Jonathan. I’m glad to be here.
JVN [00:00:39] I’m trying to do this, like, fierce thing where, like, I don’t compliment people on, like, physical appearances so much, ‘cause I’m trying to be, like, 2021 and everything. But this gorgeous purple you’re wearing today, I would just, I can’t. It’s just you’re giving me these colors today and your background is, like, super pretty on your wall. So I just had to give you. I had to. I’m sorry.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:01:00] Oh, well, thank you. Well, I appreciate the love from my wall because these are some of the clients I represented, and of my role models. So all the love accepted.
JVN [00:01:08] OK, so I’m taking it a hard right turn really quick, because you just said some of the folks that you’ve represented. Does that make you, like, a stunning lawyer?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:01:17] I am, in fact, a stunning lawyer. Thank you.
JVN [00:01:20] I love! Multifaceted, queen, yes! Okay, so really, part of what our, you know, framing question for today is, is: how are farmworkers protected in the United States? Who are farmworkers? What’s, what is going on? I think that’s something that we, we eat food, like, all of us, you know, we go to eat food, we go to the grocery store. But I just started gardening last year. And I think my whole, like, worldview kind of, like, like, it changed when I started growing food, because it’s, it’s just such a thing. And then it’s, like, “Well, where did all this other food come from?” So, yeah. So it’s kind of how it started. So can, my first question is, can you give us a brief history of what farm work in the United States has looked like?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:02:04] Yeah. So, thank you for being curious about food and who brings it to our tables, because actually I think not enough people are curious about that question. And that’s part of the reason why farmworkers in our country have experienced a lot of the hardships that they’ve experienced. So when we talk about the history of farmworkers in the US and we’re thinking, like, way, way, way back, you know, in the US, in the 1800s, we had lots of small farmers. And so we had family farms, where people were growing food and harvesting that food themselves. And, you know, in the Deep South, we also had slaves who were, you know, tending to the crops in the fields.
And over time, farming in our country has changed greatly in that it has become industrialized. There are larger farms and we’ve seen a need for workers to be brought in from other countries, like, you know, around World War I, farmworkers were brought in from China, Japan, and Mexico, because there weren’t enough workers domestically to work here. And then we saw many farmworkers being repatriated to their country after soldiers came back from the war. And then again, we saw farmworkers being brought in as a part of the Bracero Program from Mexico.
So in the United States, the history of farming is one that has always actually been a combination of small farmers growing their own food, having family farms, and a reliance on immigrant workers and-, who are needed to do the agricultural work, as well as because of the fact that agriculture in our country has not ever been compensated the way that it should. The conditions have always been bad. We’ve historically seen poor people, Black and white workers across our country who are also engaged in agricultural work. So there’s, there’s this domestic workforce that’s been historically engaged, plus immigrants. And it’s been one across, across time, it’s been one where the conditions have never been great and workers have never been fully protected in the way that they need to be protected.
JVN [00:04:11] So World War I and World War II is that, was that because, like, all of the, like, “young” I’m quoting my fingers here, like, all the young men had to go overseas and fight these wars. And so then those people that were historically working these farms in the early 1900s. Well, yeah, the early 1900s. And then, like, the mid-1900s. Were these immigrants who were brought in from China and Japan and Mexico, were they treated badly in the in the, like, that doesn’t seem fair that they came here and helped feed everyone and helped work the land and then they were, like, “OK, bye!” Like, what, there was that, like, I’m just learning more about it.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:04:46] That’s exactly what happened.
JVN [00:04:47] It was. And they weren’t nice. Like, the American government wasn’t cool and didn’t, like, offer incentives I’m guessing.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:04:53] No, I mean they were sent back home. And so that’s why in our country we have this, this desire and need for immigrant workers. And when we need them, we bring them, and we don’t need them, we dispose of them, and that might mean sending them back to their countries or that might mean creating conditions that are so terrible that essentially they’re treated as disposable people. And so we’ve seen that over and over again. And the Bracero Program, which was created around World War II, that actually continued into the ‘60s. So, you know, the 1940s to the 1960s. And it’s from there that-, many Mexican, Mexican workers were brought on the Bracero Program.
And from there, there was the creation of something called the H-2A program eventually, which is the current day guest worker program. You know, in the ‘80s there there was a change to our immigration law and so many of the workers who had worked as Bracero workers and had worked before this bill was passed called IRCA, Immigration Reform and Control Act, they were able to apply for immigration status in the U.S. And so there are many people who are from our community. I’m from the farmworker community. So there are many people from our community whose families were able to stay in the US and eventually become U.S. citizens because they legalized under the IRCA program in the 1980s and 1990s.
JVN [00:06:20] OK, I got it. So who has historically done this, we kind of mentioned it, but who has historically done this farm work and what has this work entailed?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:06:35] Well, so, historically, you know, agricultural work in our country is done by family workers on family farms. You know, so think small farm, in a rural community, and the whole family’s working in the fields: children, parents, et cetera. I mean, for generations, some farms have existed in our country for generations. But then we also have immigrant workers who’ve been brought in. I also want to give a lot of love to the Indigenous community because native peoples have been tending the fields and caring for our Earth from the beginning of time in this country. And Native American people have continued to work in agriculture over time. They’re a much smaller percentage. But they, but there are Native American agricultural workers as well.
Today, there are about two to three million farmworkers in our country. The majority are Mexican or Mexican-American. It’s really difficult to get good data on agricultural workers because of the nature of the work. You know, we have workers who are migrating across country from state to state to pick crops. We have workers who are seasonal, who are staying in the same place year round and working in the fields, and then guest workers who are coming in. So there’s not one type of farmworker in our country. The, the context changes. But, but the data we do have says that there are two to three million farmworkers and about a million of those workers are women.
There are also about half million farmworkers in our country who are children. And Jonathan, I think that most people don’t actually realize that child farmworkers are, we have, the youngest child workers in our country are working in agriculture. So by law, without restriction still today, children can work in the fields as of the age of 12. So there are about half million kids that we know of her, the data that are working in agriculture. But we also know that there are kids who are working much younger, like, my father started working in the fields when he was eight years old, picking cotton. And we see that all over the country, that there are little kids who are out in the fields. And in particular during Covid, when schools closed, we saw more children who were out in the fields working alongside their families.
JVN [00:08:58] So what part, where in the United States is a lot of this, where does now and where has it, where has this farm work taken place?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:09:06] Yeah. So, you know, people think of California as the main place where there are farmworkers working. And it is true that farmworkers number about a million concentrated in California. However, Texas, Oregon, Florida, those have also been states with large populations of farmworkers. But it’s also really important for people to recognize that there are farmworkers all across the country. There are farmworkers in Puerto Rico who are working in the land. So we want to make sure that people also understand that when we’re talking about addressing the issues that relate to farmworkers, it isn’t only focused on a couple of places, it’s throughout our country. And as you said at the beginning, to the extent that we all eat, it’s something that we should care about across our nation, not just in a few places or, you know, and we certainly shouldn’t think that it’s only California, Texas and Florida that need to be mindful about how workers are being treated. It’s all across the country where we need to see reforms.
JVN [00:10:06] Even in, like, because I think I’m, I remember reading in the news and just hearing about, like, I think there’s, like, seasonal workers that come into, like, Illinois and Iowa and Missouri and, like, work on because there are so much, like, cornfields and soybean fields and all sorts of stuff that we have.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:10:21] That’s right.
JVN [00:10:22] And then is there a, is there a difference between, like, a farmworker at a farm that is only raising, like, fruit and vegetable versus, like, livestock? Or is that all in the same thing?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:10:32] Yeah, so great question. So, yes, there are workers who are going to Illinois to detassel corn, and they’re going to Iowa to work in the fields as well. In Iowa, they’re actually a lot of farmworkers who are working in egg factories. So, who are farmworkers in our country is an important question, because people, because working in the fields is one type of agriculture, picking and planting crops. That’s one kind of work. But there are workers who are working and packing sheds. So they’re packing the fruits and vegetables. There are workers who are working in dairy farms. Those are farmworkers. And there are also meat workers who are working with livestock.
So it isn’t-, we have to be really careful to not only think of farmworkers as those who are working in fruits and vegetables, the other group of workers that I think people probably don’t often consider farmworkers are those who are working in nurseries. So, you know, at Mother’s Day, when we’re getting those beautiful bouquets of flowers and we see that green fernery that’s with those flowers, there are fern workers in Florida. There are women who are working, mainly women. When they cut those ferns, they are getting paid about twenty-five cents a bunch to cut those ferns that eventually make it into those flowers that we’re buying. So, you know, we just have to remember that farmworkers are in fields, they’re in packing sheds, they’re in dairy farms, they’re working in nurseries. And together they comprise the agricultural workforce of our country.
JVN [00:12:01] So, then one thing they think about is, like, protections, like, when I think about, I’m a cosmetologist, there’s lots of things that, like, a client can do, like, if you get color in someone’s eye or if, like, you see another hairdresser do something, like, there, like, there’s a board of cosmetology, like, there is oversight. There’s a lot of protections. There’s a lot of regulation. There is also when I think about, like, lots of different fields, there’s, like, H.R. there’s, like, protections. There’s, like, things that are put in place so that, like, you know, work, like, people aren’t being taken advantage of in whatever situation they’re working in.
I think when we think about, especially when we think about the existence of enslaved people in the South, that we’re doing this work, like, you know, literally for free. And then even now, is there is there people who are in mass incarceration now that have to do farm work, like under that idea that, like, you know, you’re the only way that slavery is legal in the United States if you’ve been convicted of a felony. So do they have state governments that have, like, incarcerated people doing farm work for free?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:12:55] We’ve seen that. We’ve seen states that tried that. You know, certainly. I recall in Georgia that was a program that had been put into place and it didn’t work, unfortunately. You know, when we think about the protections of farmworkers, I actually feel like it’s important to talk about the just the lack of protections, because one of the reasons that farmworkers still don’t have some of the most basic protections that other workers have is because of racism. So when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed over 80 years ago, which employment attorneys, we call it flissa, F-L-S-A.
The FLSA, that is the basic employment law that protects all workers in our country. So that’s what allows us to have minimum wage. That’s the law that says people should be paid overtime. I mean, that-, it really regulates all workers. But when that law was passed over 80 years ago, Southern farmers did not want Black farmworkers to be extended those rights. And so the farmworkers were actually carved out of some of the most basic protections. And it was because of racism. And, you know, who are agricultural workers in our country has changed over time. So now it is predominantly a Mexican, Latinx workforce.
But, but the origins of those exclusions are really rooted in racism and from, you know, against Black farmworkers. And unfortunately, you know, now, more than 80 years later, I can’t tell you that there’s been an improvement because that law hasn’t changed. So farmworkers continue to be excluded from many of the basic provisions. And that means that, for example, if you’re working on a farm today and you work overtime, you won’t get paid overtime. That doesn’t exist for farmworkers except in some very narrow circumstances. Farmworkers were also excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, that, that’s the law that allows us to unionize. So when that law was passed, they said farmworkers could not join unions.
And that might be confusing to some people because you might be thinking about the United Farmworkers in California. That is a union. There are members of that union. And they, over time, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, they got the farmworker bill passed in California. And there have been a couple of other states where that’s happened, too. But that’s state law. I’m talking about a federal law, at the federal level. farmworkers are still not allowed to unionize. And why does that matter? Because when you can join a union, then people can work together collectively to try to improve their workplace conditions. But that’s been something that’s been denied to farmworkers.
So there have been protections put in place for farmworkers. You know, most notably, there was a law that was passed in the 80s that we call AWPA, the Agricultural Worker Protection Act. And that law was the law that said, “OK, farmworkers need to have some basic protections. Farmworkers should know how much they’re getting paid. Farmworkers should know what their basic working conditions are like. Farmworkers should be transported in vans and busses that have seatbelts. They should live in housing that actually provides them with a bed and doors and, you know, very, very basic things.” But it wasn’t until the ‘80s until that law was passed.
JVN [00:16:26] So what if someone got a job at, like, you know, to be a farmworker, and then they get there and there is no seatbelts, and there wasn’t a bed. Like, let’s say that, like, the employer is in violation of that. What would a, what, what would a farmworker have to do to, like, enforce that law on their work or, or would they have to go find a lawyer, would they? I mean, is there an H.R. department on these farms to go be, like, “This doesn’t seem right.” It just, it seems like if you’re someone who-, it feels David and Goliath, that there would be, like one worker or a couple of workers who could be up against this, like, very well funded, like, long-standing employer. Like, does that happen?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:17:09] Yeah. I mean, back in the day, hiring looked a lot different in that, you know, it would be, like, your local farmer who was hiring someone that they knew from town and that there was a relationship there and people knew how to complain or something was not going well. Today, I mean, we have to say, you know, so that people understand, that more than half of farmworkers in our country are undocumented. Many of them are recruited by labor contractors, some of them, who I’ve met, as I’ve done outreach to camps. They don’t even know where they are in the country. They don’t know what state they’re in, you know, because they are taken to those places as migrant workers. So there is a huge separation, often, between the worker and the farmer.
And the farmworkers often don’t know about the H.R. departments. Right. They don’t know where they would even go to try to make a complaint directly to the farmer lots of times. And so their main point of connection is with the labor contractor or crew leader. And that person is the person they rely on to tell them where they’re going to live, to tell them where they’re going to work, you know, which rows, in particular, they’re going to work in, et cetera. And unfortunately, often those are the people who are exploiting the workers as well. And so there’s lots of reasons why workers are not able to complain about not having a seatbelt or having poor working conditions. Yes, there are mechanisms that when a worker finds out about their rights and maybe has contact with a local lawyer or an organization there, there are mechanisms to protect workers.
However, the first question is: does a farmworker in our country feel safe enough to be able to actually exercise their rights? And unfortunately, the answer is often no, because they’re afraid that they’re going to be turned over to the police, or immigration is going to be called on them, or they’re going to be retaliated against by the crew leader. And so, unfortunately, that is the first obstacle that we have to overcome, which is the real fear that there will be something bad that will happen to workers who try to assert their rights for better conditions. Once workers are able to make a decision about whether that’s something that they feel that they can do. I mean, so courageously, like, so bravely. When they make the decision to do that, you know, that’s where our comes in.
Our work is to try to make sure that we are connecting with farmworkers by doing outreach directly to camps or, you know, if they’re seasonal workers who live in one community, you know, to the, to the daycares, and the laundromats, and the soccer fields, and all the places where we do outreach so that we can let people know that they have rights no matter what their immigration status is. And then when they need help, we want them to know that they can call organizations like ours or others who can then help them with the process of filing a complaint with the Department of Labor or making a complaint with, like, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for Discrimination.
You know, whoever it is that would handle the complaint, whether it be a federal agency or a state agency, the hope is that they can find advocates who can then support them and walk them through that process, because for anybody, whether we’re U.S.-born and working in some other job or working in agriculture, our legal system actually isn’t always that clear or easy to follow. So having advocates you can help with the process is really important.
JVN [00:21:34] Thank you so much for that, well, it’s not a gorgeous situation, but such a succinct answer. And I think that’s part of what I was getting to with the David and Goliath thing is that, like, I didn’t articulate it as well as you did, but it’s, like, I was thinking that, like, is there undocumented workers? You would think that there is. And then, like, are they being like, you know, kind of harassed or, like, feared into silence and I think especially in the Trump administration, when you had so much, like, all these ICE hires and all of these things happening, I was just I mean, I actually have chills on my legs thinking about the environment that a lot of these people probably found themselves in…
And here’s, like, another thing that I think that I’ve learned just generally in adulthood in America is that, like, a lot of the systems that we have are intentionally designed to be so vast, and so big, and so hard to navigate, to make things harder for people and to keep systems and power in place. I think we see that in so many different, like, areas of industry. I, I truly believe that our immigration system is so broken. We need a path to citizenship. We need a path to safety. For people that have been living in this country, like, it, it is so un-American to think about, like, the, the racism at play in, like, the Cuba policy versus like everyone else and how that was, you know, for decades and decades going on.
And there’s just been so much racism and confusion. And so when you think about immigrat-, like, immigration has been set up as a thing to, like, not be able to navigate, if you think about: how do you pay a speeding ticket, how do you do any of these things? OK, but let’s think about being from a different country and then trying to deal with immigration. It’s, it’s such an intense, huge process to navigate. So you have all of these Fox News-watching people saying like, “Well, I don’t have a problem with immigrants, just get in line.” And I think that one thing that I’ve learned through this podcast is that, like, there is no line.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:22:40] There’s no line.
JVN [00:22:41] There’s no line. There is no, fucking, show me where the immigration line is, please, so that we can go show people. So this is kind of a twofold question. It’s, like, you have this er, quote, “immigration problem,” like, on one hand that, you know, like, it’s talked about in the media and gets talked about is this, like, thing. But then it’s like, well what’s driving that. People want to eat, people want to do this, people want to use the labor, but then they don’t want to, like, you know, create a safe space for the people doing the labor. So people think that this issue is, like, in a bubble or, like, but actually Americans are kind of on both sides are driving the issue in the first place and there’s so much. So it’s like so so that was kind of the first thing I want to make sure that that was true. And then the whole IRCA and then labor contractors, how can a labor contractor legally go get a bunch of folks and then not help them? And then, how does this go down? Who are these labor contractors and who are they working for?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:23:41] Yes, so many good questions. OK, so first of all. There’s always been this tension, as I said, about how we perceive immigrants who are working agriculture. When we need them, we make this system very easy to use. And when we decide that we don’t care or don’t want to pay as much attention to them, we make it incredibly difficult. And, you know, to your point about immigration and the system being broken, it was designed this way. It was designed to work for certain people and it was designed to make things more difficult for others. And that is just the truth.
And, you know, and if you look back at even just the programs where workers were brought in to work, it was because we had a demand. We needed workers, we needed people to continue to pick those crops. And so then we made a system available for that to work. You know, first, I think it’s really important for listeners to understand that I’ve been doing work in this community, in my community, since I was 14 years old. So for many years. And I’ve spoken to thousands of farmworkers across our country. Many of them are, are immigrants. Many of them are undocumented.
And what they tell me is, first of all, if they didn’t have to leave home, they wouldn’t, because they want to be home with their families and in their countries. Second, if there was a process for them to follow, to be able to come to the United States legally, they would want to follow that process. But they don’t understand it, and they don’t know how to access it. And sometimes the conditions in their countries are such that they are pushed out of those countries. And so they come to the United States sometimes seeking asylum, sometimes as refugees. So, you know, the narrative that we have about immigrants in our country and how they arrive and why they’re here and, and what their intentions are is completely false. It’s completely flawed. And, and it is not true at all to the experience of the immigrants who I have known and worked with and served over the many years that I’ve been doing this work.
They are painted as evil people, as bad people, as takers. And that is just simply not true. Now, we have a reliance on more guest workers. Many of those guest workers are coming from Mexico, but they’re also coming from other countries. And it’s not just in agriculture. It’s also in other industries, too. And there are recruiters who go to, to those countries and they recruit workers on behalf of farmers or whatever industry that they’re going to be working in. And there are laws that say that these recruiters, they have these contractors need to be registered. You know, there has to be something called a work order in order to bring workers. There’s a process that farmers have to go through in order to be able to bring guest workers. They first have to exhaust advertising to make sure that the local workers are not available. And so there’s an entire process that’s been set up to do this.
JVN [00:26:38] I would imagine, though, that it’s probably easy for the companies or, like, the, like, the farm owning people to, like, [COUGH] air quote, “exhaust” the advertising, like, I mean, isn’t, I would think that they’re just feels like there’s probably some dishonesty there where they can say like, “Oh, we did that, we took out the ad.” Is that a thing?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:27:00] Yeah, I mean, they would say no, but yes, there is a process for them to be able to advertise it in a little newspaper, to be able to send it to the local jobs department, et cetera. And so what we see now is more and more people are saying that they don’t have workers and so therefore they’re going to find workers to come through the guest worker programs. And they’re often talking to Congress about relaxing the requirements so that it’s easier. And for those of us who, who do this work, we say, you know, “These workers are already working.” Many of them were coming in guest worker programs. They are completely isolated and they are working in slave-like conditions today. You know, they’re extraordinarily vulnerable to exploitation.
And so we cannot make the system any easier for people to be able to bring workers because that could be detrimental to the workforce. And but on the other side of the coin, there are workers who do want to come as guest workers because conditions are so bad where they’re living that they need that opportunity. And so I think most of us who are doing this work, we’re not necessarily saying abolish all of those programs because we understand both sides of the, of the story. But we’re saying if we’re going to have those programs, just like any other program in this country, it needs to be just, and people need to have avenues to be able to raise concerns and they need to have somebody that they can report their complaints to. And they certainly cannot be treated like slaves. They certainly cannot be subject to human trafficking, which is something that we see.
JVN [00:28:31] Can you get into that of, like, I mean, I have a million more questions, but I think, so human trafficking, that’s, like, one of the many things that can result from these, like, exploitative or horrific working condition things. So what would that look like? Like, someone comes to be a guest worker. The conditions are very bad. And then, like, there is someone who would then be, like, “Hey, I have a better job for you.” And you could potentially be sold into like some sort of, like, human trafficking situation?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:29:58] Well, human trafficking can look very different. I mean, depending on the context, I’ve, I’ve represented people who have been victims of human trafficking. In fact, Norma, who’s right here on my wall, she was brought to the United States as a guest worker to work in Florida. And her situation was such that she and a group of other women were working on a particular farm and the company had them all living on the company premises, and they were locked in, so they couldn’t get out of the premises unless the crew leader or somebody from the company took them out. And eventually one of her coworkers actually scaled a wall and escaped, and that’s how they were able to get help. So we see situations like that, where people are brought in and they are physically constrained to a particular area, and they are, they’re not allowed to, to freely move there.
They don’t, sometimes their visas and their other documents they’re given in order to enter into the country. They’re taken away from them. And so the crew leaders or contractors or whoever it is, because sometimes the company’s directly involved, they have complete control over where they work, where they sleep. You know, their overall mobility. And if they were to get caught without those documents, then immigration could consider them undocumented and they could get put into immigration detention and eventually deported.
So that’s like one context, certainly. And those are for, for guest workers. I mean, we certainly see situations in which workers come into the country and they believe they’re going to be doing one job and then they ultimately are forced to do a different job or additional jobs than they had expected. And then you have the situation of individuals who come into the United States and, you know, they pay a coyote to cross into the U.S. and then sometimes they get put into these safe houses where they, where we’ve seen situations in which they are sold. I’ve represented a woman who had a situation like that. So the situation is variable. Right. And there isn’t just one clear-cut example of what that looks like.
Human trafficking can take many different forms, but in the case of guest workers, they come to the U.S. where a recruiter went to their country to bring them on a visa. The most common situation that we see is that the visas and those other documents that they rely on to be here and to show that they’re here legally, they’re taken away from them. They’re enclosed in a particular space. They’re not able to freely move. And the other thing is that the visa, whether they’re trafficked or not, that visa is tied to that employer. So if somebody is working under bad conditions, it’s not like they can just quit and then go get a different job because their ability to be in the United States, legally, is tied to that particular employer they’re working for.
JVN [00:31:48] So making a claim against the employer could, like, cause the employer to be like, “Oh, you’re not working for me anymore.” Your visa is linked and then you have to leave.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:31:54] That’s right, and that also could mean, you know, one of the biggest fears that exists for guest workers as well as all workers is that if they take some action against the company, that they will be considered a bad worker, a problematic worker, and they will then lose their ability to come back and work at all because the company or the crew leader will tell other people, “Oh, that’s a problematic worker, we can’t hire that person.” And so that’s another reason people don’t complain, because they don’t see it just as terminating their relationship with that particular employer or crew leader. It could potentially mean the end of their ability to work in agriculture at all or to come back to the United States on a guest worker visa at all.
JVN [00:32:36] So because unionizing is still illegal for farmworkers federally, like, nationally, so, you could maybe have, like, a union in California or you could have, like, in some of these other states, but whether you’re in California or wherever, like, you’re not, you’re not allowed to be paid overtime?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:32:53] Yeah, so, so, there are states across our country that have passed bills that allow workers to get paid overtime. New York is the most recent one. Just a couple of years ago, they passed their farmworker bill of rights. And farmworkers are able to get paid overtime there.
JVN [00:33:07] Able to or required to? Like, do the people have to, like, once they document their overtime, like, their employers have to do it?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:33:14] That’s right. [CROSSTALK] By law, in New York, New York, but in their other states, like Oregon and California. But, but under the federal law, under the FLSA, overtime is not required for farmworkers except for in very specific situations, which maybe are too nerdy to get into right now.
JVN [00:33:34] But if you’re in Texas or Arkansas or, like, one of these, like, states who has farmworkers but doesn’t have these, like, laws that only these, like, very liberal states have passed, like, you don’t get these protections, as a farmworker.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:33:46] You could. This is the, this is the problem when you talk to a lawyer because then we’re, like, “Well, maybe you could.” So, for example, I did a case in Florida on behalf of a group of workers, and they were, some of the workers were picking vegetables for, for a particular company. And then they were packing the vegetables for that particular company. And they were working, you know, a lot of hours every week, definitely enough to get them overtime. In that situation, they’re not entitled to overtime because they are packing the produce that that farm grew.
But the case hinged on the fact that in addition to those crops, that particular farm was bringing in crops from other farms and they were using their packing shed to pack those products. And so their workers were packing what was grown on that farm and what was grown on other farms. And so in that situation, those workers were entitled to overtime because they were packing produce that was, that was harvested on another farm. So there are circumstances under which farmworkers might be entitled to overtime, depending on the facts. But generally, no, they’re not entitled to overtime.
JVN [00:35:-1] So I hate that I’m using, like, Orange Is The New Black as, like, a reference point for this one thing that I’m about to ask, but it’s, like, how I learned about it. So, in the last well, if you were really OK, whatever. Don’t use Orange Is The New Black, Jonathan. You’re doing it. You’re growing as a journalist. So one thing that I learned is that, like, in the ICE system, it’s kind of, like, or in, like, the immigration detention centers, it kind of looks, at least on Orange Is The New Black. OK, I tried, but I ended up OK, it looks kind of, like, mass incarceration in there. Like there’s a bunch of beds. There’s a bunch of like, you know, it looks real prisony, so much, like, you know…
If you do get arrested, you’re given a public defender, if you can’t afford one. If your employer takes away your visa or if you leave your place in, your worker took your visa and you get pulled over or whatever, and you get put into this like in one of these like mass detention, like immigration centers, are you, like, guaranteed a lawyer to, like, deal with your deportation case? Are you like this? Do you have any rights from the government? If you find yourself in one of these situations?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:36:06] You’re not guaranteed a lawyer. What happens is that there are legal organizations, nonprofit legal organizations around the country that go in to immigration detention centers and they do, like, basic know your rights trainings for people once they get detained. So on some regular basis during the week, there are lawyers that go in and they do these trainings. And then the, those who are detained, they can ask for help. Right. They can tell people, tell the lawyers what their circumstance is to, to seek their representation or referral or, you know, what’s happened in my career since for the majority of my career, I have been an attorney.
You know, I’ve had situations in which clients or former clients will contact me when someone that they know has gotten detained and they’ll say, you know, “So-and-so is at this detention center, can you help them?” And, you know, so there are situations in which individual family members, after someone gets detained, or friends, they will contact lawyers if they know in the community and they will ask them to help represent the person that is detained. And, you know, and then people are able to either, they either contact us directly for help, or through their family, we’re able to get in touch with them.
But it isn’t as if as soon as someone gets detained, they’re then put in touch with an attorney that’s from a list of attorneys that’s going to take them on for representation. It doesn’t work that way. And so what we see happen often with immigrants who are detained is that, you know, they don’t know their rights and they don’t sometimes they don’t speak the language to even understand what is being explained to them, what they’re being asked to sign. So, for example, I worked on a situation in which many of the individuals were Indigenous and spoke Indigenous languages. They didn’t speak Spanish. So even if the information was being told to them in Spanish, it wasn’t their first language. And so they didn’t understand. And so if they’re being presented documents to sign in English or in Spanish, they don’t understand those.
And so people unintentionally, you know, sign away their rights. You know, they might take what’s called a voluntary departure. And they might say that they’re willing to be sent back to their country. It’s very, very complicated. And, you know, I’m not an immigration attorney. I’ve represented immigrant workers and worked on things like some human trafficking cases and cases on behalf of victims of, of, of crimes, because much of my work has been on behalf of of farmworker women, other women who have been victims of sexual violence at work. And they’re entitled to certain visas, so in that context, I’ve worked on those cases, but I’m not generally an immigration attorney.
My hat is off to those who are immigration attorneys because the volume of cases that they have, the complexity of the law, you know, the, the very specific facts that have to be presented because a worker whose visa was taken away from them, who then gets detained, like, they might not have the, the knowledge or even the words to express to an immigration officer the fact that they actually are here lawfully and they have rights. Right. And so that is, that responsibility falls on the immigration advocates. Their jobs are just immense. And it’s really important, particularly, you know, during the Trump administration, we saw a huge uptick in action against immigrants, immigrant workers across our country. And, you know, I know that the caseload for many of those immigration attorneys was, was quite vast.
JVN [00:39:41] So I want to go back to what you were telling us about Florida for just a moment and just reiterate to people that, like, you know I’d said, like, those workers are entitled to overtime and you were like, “Well, you know, maybe.” But I just want to really drive home to, to our listeners that the lengths that these women had to go to was to obtain a lawyer like find a lawyer, get a court date. Like, go through all of this stuff to just do what is basically right. Like, if you’re listening to this thing you’ve ever worked overtime, did you have to sue your employer to get overtime?
Did you have to go find, like-, the answer is most likely, no. And so I just want to say that, like, while even in some states if there, it’s just it shouldn’t be like this to the people who literally are putting, like, food on our table, you know, quite literally. And another thing that you said earlier was that a lot of these conditions are quite shocking. So one thing that does that, does that labor law mean that, like, just does everyone get minimum wage or is there a way that these employers can be like, “Oh, and minimum wage here is, like, $3.50,” or something, like, can they just screw you out of wages?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:40:46] Well, OK, so here’s something that we have. This, this is a real talk moment that we have to have. There is the law that exists and then there is the implementation or enforcement of that law, so there is what is required and should be, and there is what is, OK. And that matters a lot when we’re talking about farmworker’s, rather low paid workers, because, yeah, they’re entitled to minimum wage. They should be paid minimum wage for their work.
JVN [00:41:17] Which is still too low, by the way. But yes.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:41:19] Which is too, it is still too low, yes. But we see farmworkers who are being shorted all the time, who are victims of wage theft. We see situations in which people work, you know, hours, weeks, and then they’re not paid anything. You know, in the case of farmworker women who I have spent the majority of my career representing, it is still common today for farmworker women not to even get paid their own paycheck, because what happens for women is that when they go to work with their husband or with their male family members, they aren’t counted as workers. They’re counted as part of the work of their male family members.
So farmworker women could work alongside their husband or alongside their father or brother the entire time that those workers are working and the, the wages that they would have earned, or the moneys that they should have earned, get paid to their male family member. So, yes, they’re entitled to minimum wage and yes, they should be counted as workers. But unfortunately, I think because farmworkers in our country still today are considered invisible, they, they are, they’re not thought of as workers or frankly, as human beings.
And the people who are taking advantage of them don’t believe that they’re going to do anything to enforce their rights. They know that they’re afraid. They know that they’re not going to try to report the company because they don’t want to be turned over to immigration. And so, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are willing to take advantage of them and do things, like, steal their wages or shorten their hours or not count all the buckets that they picked or pay their wages to their male family member instead of paying the woman worker.
JVN [00:43:09] Do we need to get one of those rage rooms together and just break some fucking dishes for a minute? Fuck me.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:43:16] Yeah, every day I feel this way, I feel this rage.
JVN [00:43:20] So one thing that you have done is you are one of the organizers behind Healing Voices, which is a new mental health initiative for farmworkers. I think, you know, one of my questions was that I didn’t even get to but we’re going to kind of get to it now is that, like, you know, do, do labor conditions ever bare of, like, do they ever have things like for, you know, mental health or, like, legal recourse or, like, you know, to attain more physical safety or better working conditions?
And the short answer is, like, if you can get a lawyer, and if you’re, like, very lucky, and if you somehow, like, you know, get to know, like, it’s just, it’s a minefield of things for, for farmworkers to navigate. So you have been doing this work for years and brilliantly so. If I may add, after this, you know, short time that we’ve spent together, I just, I really have so many chills from just your advocacy. And you’re just, you, Mónica, you’re amazing. What is the Healing Voices initiative? And yeah, what, that’s the first one is what, what is the Healing Voices initiative?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:44:20] Yeah. So Healing Voices is a mental health project that we created in partnership with the Eva Longoria Foundation, the National Migrant Seasonal Headstart Association, and the Latin Therapy Network. And the reason that we created it, it’s the first of its kind project. But we created it because during the Covid pandemic, our organization and our partner organizations, we were tracking what was happening in the farmworker community. You see, we knew that farmworkers were going to be left behind during the Covid pandemic.
So even though our country decided that farmworkers were essential during this pandemic and started calling farmworkers essential, the truth is, as we’ve talked about, the law doesn’t reflect that they’re that they’re essential. They’re not being treated like they’re essential historically, have not been treated like they’re essential. And during the Covid crisis, we knew that they were going to be left behind. And so Justice For Migrant Women moved to action. We created a pandemic relief fund and we started to have these regular conversations with farmworkers about their situation and what they needed during the pandemic.
And the thing that just kept coming up over and over again was the fact that they were extraordinarily stressed out, that they had great anxiety, that they were feeling depressed. And so in every conversation, as that was emerging as an issue, we just kept coming back to, you know, to our team and saying, like, “Well, what can we do to try to fill this gap? Like, what is there that can help workers in this situation?” And so, you know, National Migrant Seasonal Head Start Association was holding these town halls with us. And we said, “Well, let’s try to figure out what we can do about the mental health issue.” And so we decided to create this project, which is providing mental health counseling, therapy to farmworkers in Florida and California. That’s where we’re going to be doing the pilot.
And the sessions will happen via Zoom. Some of the sessions will be clinical, meaning that they will have a therapist that is doing clinical work. Some of them will be non-clinical. But all told, we’re really focusing on four main areas. We’re focusing on parenting, partnering, on planting, and also on personal. And the project is is being set up in such a way that we really want to make sure that while the, you know, the new sort of methods behind therapy that might not be as familiar to the community, because our community isn’t accessing mental health because, number one, it’s really not available to us to get that kind of mental health support. But also there are taboos that exist around seeking mental health support.
And so it’s taking these new concepts around therapy and it’s also marrying them with a traditional organizing method that we’ve always used. So for us, when we do our organizing work, doing small, home meetings is something that is very much part of our work. And so we’re, we’re creating these groups in such a way that they feel like one of those small home meetings where we’re, we’re doing the work using the clinical modalities. The participants will be exposed to storytelling, their own storytelling and sharing. They’ll be doing meditation and breathwork, coloring, and role playing, like, lots of different tools and tactics are being used.
Two of our colleagues through the Latinx Therapy Network have developed the curriculum that will be used. And, and this is the test, because, as I said, it’s never been done before. So we will spend from mid-June to mid-October doing this first run with the curriculum and the groups that are being established. And then we will evaluate the program to figure out how we can scale it, how we can make it better and eventually, hopefully will be able to expand the project to other industries beyond agriculture.
JVN [00:48:17] So that’s an incredible initiative within Healing Voices. But Healing Voices is, like, multifaceted even beyond this, this pilot program.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:48:27] Yeah. So, OK, one thing that I didn’t share that I think it’s really important we talk about it kind of in the context of some of the questions. But, you know, the reason that we have these four pillars is because farmworkers in our country have always experienced trauma because of the work that they do and the work conditions. So the situation for farmworkers in our country is, yes, they’re experiencing wage theft. Yes, they’re not being paid for all their hours of work. They’re living in bad housing conditions. They’re being transported in vehicles that are not safe. But in addition to that, they’re being exposed to pesticides. They are, you know, they are working around and with dangerous equipment. Sexual harassment’s a major workplace problem for farmworkers, particularly for farmworker women.
And so there are many, many, many stressors that already existed for farmworkers pre-Covid. Now, with Covid, there are these additional stressors about staying safe. Unfortunately, thousands of farmworkers across our country have gotten Covid, and more than 9000 farmworkers in our country have died of Covid that we’re aware of. So the, the situation is such that farmworkers have always needed the support that they needed even more right now. And we understand that the groups that we will be doing are for a limited number of people. There are only about 100 people that will be able to participate in this pilot. And we know that there are many, many, many who need it and want it. In fact, we’re getting calls from people around the country saying, “How can I participate?” And unfortunately, we’re limited right now in this pilot phase.
So we’re thinking about ways to make the project reach beyond the 100 folks that will be participating. We’ve set up a website. On our website, there’s a page that you can go to about Healing Voices, and there are tools that are going to be loaded there. So, for example, each of those groups that are going to be conducted by the therapists at the end of the group will record a video, which is sort of like an outtake that will summarize the content and the conversations that have happened so that that that can be available to other people to watch and to learn from. We’re also going to be sharing information about other kinds of resources that people can get in order to help address some of the mental health stressors that they’re, they are faced with.
You know, we have a vision for growing this project beyond these groups, these Zoom groups, as well as eventually, hopefully in-person groups and then even this page. But the other really, really important thing that I wanted to raise here is that mental health and work is not just an issue for farmworkers. Every person who works in this country spends probably more waking hours working than in any other place where we spend our lives. Many workers experience stress. People talk across industries about poor working conditions. You know, there are many workers who go to work and express that tension because, because they’re being treated poorly by their boss or by their supervisor, et cetera. And so we know that it isn’t just farmworkers who need mental health support, it’s all workers.
And so one of the chief objectives of this project is to push the federal government, OSHA, specifically to create a new standard so that all workers across our country will get support for mental health because our physical health, which is what OSHA predominantly focuses on right now, is certainly important. But our mental health is just as important in both our physical health and our mental health, also have a direct impact on our abilities to do our work. So the other big piece of this project is the advocacy with the federal government to create a new standard.
JVN [00:52:15] Well, I wasn’t smiling because of the content of what you just said, but I was smiling because you literally read my mind, because my next question was about OSHA, and what other government agencies can we, you know, lobby or advocate to step up and offer help? And, and how can we also put more pressure on OSHA to step in and fill this void of what, this just, just hundreds of years of toxicity in the American workforce. I mean, but also, I just want to point out that, yes, it is all workers, but I can’t think domestic work also comes up. For me, because that’s something we’ve learned about this also, like, very unprotected and, like, people that work in domestic work also have it. So we’ve learned a lot about that from Alicia Garza.
But, but these two both. I just want to say that, like, yes, all workers deal with this, but there are some that deal that way more and way more terribly. And I obviously don’t need to tell you that. But this is for the listeners. If you are having chills on your thighs while you’re listening to this, or chills on your triceps while you’re listening to this, and if your blood is at a 99.9, if you’re feeling boiling, if you’re feeling angry, how could you suggest for some of our listeners to get involved? Can people donate to Healing Voices? Can they, what can people do? How can they get involved?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:53:37] Yes. So OSHA is who we’re focusing on. I would say, you know, in terms of other agencies, we we also want to make sure that the folks who are in charge of the Office of Violence Against Women know what we’re working on, because I see a correlation between this violence and other social ills, you know, this harm and other social ills. So we believe that we can create this project and we can prove that it works, that it will also help in other ways, in other, in other parts of our lives. And so we need, you know, agencies like that to be aware of it. But the focus is OSHA, because OSHA is in charge of occupational health and safety. And we believe mental health should be viewed as an occupational health and safety issue.
So how do you get involved? First of all, we’re building this project right now. You are at the very beginning of it. And I would say following our work, going to Justice4Women.org, that would be the place to go to learn more about Healing Voices. You can donate to support the work there as well. But I would say sign up there to join our mailing list so that we can keep you informed of what the different action items are, because we will be sending letters to OSHA and doing other things by way of our advocacy to try to actually see this come to life beyond this pilot phase that we’re doing.
Now, Jonathan, to your point about certain workers experiencing more or different stressors, one hundred percent, you know, low-paid workers across our country, domestic workers, farmworkers, restaurant workers, so many are experiencing extreme stress, and many of them have been frontline workers during this pandemic. And we know that some of the research shows that frontline workers have said that they are experiencing mental health issues because of the pandemic and the stressors that they’ve been under. So it is our priority to ensure that this project gets scale to serve low paid workers. But we also think the government needs to step up and recognize that mental health should be a priority for all of us.
JVN [00:55:36] Absolutely, yes. I almost cussed. Then I decided not to. So this is kind of random, but I am curious and you’ll, I think you’ll see why. And my second question, but you said earlier that you’re not an immigration lawyer, but hats off to immigration lawyers. What, like, what kind of lawyer did what kind of law? Like, what? Like, what kind of lawyer are you? Because I want more people to be that kind of lawyer.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:55:57] Well, I mean, I I started my career as an employment lawyer, specifically focused on gender discrimination and eradicating sexual violence. Like, that’s my actual area, you know, and, but I’m a civil rights lawyer. I’m a human rights lawyer.
JVN [00:56:14] Okay, so my second question now is going to make more sense is, if you’re a lawyer listening to this or you’re, like, in law school and you haven’t, like, decided what you want to do yet, or let’s say that you, like, you already did finish or if, like, Kim K is listening to this and she’s, like, “I’m not sure which one I want to go into.” How can, like, a dissatisfied lawyer who’s like, “I don’t want to fight for these fuckers.” They need like, you know, like, if there’s, like, some lawyer who’s like doing something, it’s like not really, like, working towards, like, you know, but there’s a lot of lawyers who probably go to bed at night and just think, like, “Man, this sucks. Like, I want to do something better in the world, like, they don’t want to like, you know-.” So can lawyers, like, you know, jump ship and, like, do, like, and get involved in, like, a better kind of lawyering and like, like, would that be cool. That would be cool. Right.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:56:57] Well, first, I mean when we need more lawyers doing social justice work and advocacy and you know, if you’re a lawyer who who needs to continue working in a private firm or for the government or whatever it is that you’re doing, that job is important. But we also need your pro bono hours. So you can volunteer to work with some of the organizations that I’ve mentioned. And certainly there are lots of ways that you can get involved with local legal services and even organizations like ours to donate your time if it’s not something that you can do full time. And I fully respect that not everyone can do public service work, or public interest work full-time for lots of different reasons.
But for those who are thinking about what they want to do with their careers, I think we have to remind ourselves that there’s just not. One way to be a lawyer and one of the things that I have been really fortunate to have for my own career is the ability to be a litigator and to be an organizer and to do policy and to do advocacy and to do culture shift work. And, and so I think we have to remind ourselves that as lawyers, we have really important skills that can be applied in different ways. There’s not just one box that we fit into. And I would challenge anyone that is in law now or considering law to really think about the many ways that those skills can be applied and then put them to use and put them to service on behalf of the people who need so much help, like farmworkers and all of the other workers who are being exploited across our country.
JVN [00:58:30] OK, so this is, like, a really out of left field final three questions in one, but you have to really, like, inspired me so much. And I just and also you don’t have to answer any of them because it really is, like, it’s off script. But I just feel compelled to ask because I spent an hour with you and, like, these, this is what came up. Is there any companies after your work that you just do not fuck and buy food from? Like, is there someone who we should, just, that you won’t get sued for slander or libel or something. But is there someone who we should just not be fucking with in your experience?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [00:59:03] OK, well, yes, I do not want to get sued. And my first boss told me this because I actually used to boycott a lot. I mean, I used to basically not eat any fruits or vegetables for a long time because I was boycotting everybody. But my first boss told me that we need to buy the products because we need to make sure that those companies have the resources to be able to pay the settlements in litigation. So we should think about it that way as well, because, you know, if there is an action against a particular company and they are sued, I mean, sometimes, unfortunately, people declare bankruptcy or something in the middle of litigation and then workers don’t end up getting, getting paid what they’re owed. So I actually try to focus on using my voice and my energy to push those companies to do better. But I have, as I’ve gotten older, have veered away from just the boycott strategy of everybody.
JVN [00:59:56] OK, so, ok, so that was one of them. And then the other thing was will you run for office because I would vote for you. I think a lotta people would vote for you. I just, like, I just think that you would be such an incredible elected official. I just, I really I could see, like, a Governor Mónica or, like, Senator Mónica or, like, something major, because I just think you’re doing such incredible work. And I just had to say that. I think that was the last, I think that was the last question.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [01:00:29] Thank you so much. I mean, I have, I don’t know what’s in the future. We’ll see. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. And hopefully, hopefully we’re going to make a difference. Hopefully we’ll be able to make change.
JVN [01:00:40] And I know that electoral politics, like, it’s not the only way that you can be a change. I get it. But I’m just saying I just feel like you are electable, honey. I mean, I just I, I want to vote for you, and I’ve only spent one hour and six minutes with you. I just, I just think you’re incredible. So thank you so much for your work. So similar to people who you would never buy food from. And this is, like, another thing I. Learned about, like, Democrats, like, also from Alicia Garcia, is that, like, sometimes there’s, like, a lot of, like, racism within the Democratic Party and it’s, like, can be really problematic. So we really got to, like, like, continually put on her, like, critical thinking caps and, like, continue to think critically.
But after the work that you’ve done, is there any political person who we think is cool but is actually a fucker who we should not support, like, anyone who has really pissed you off that we need to, like, think fucking twice about. Again, you don’t have to answer, but just but just from our conversation, all the, like, incredibly genius things that you said is, I just want to be doing what you’re doing because I can tell you you’re doing, like, good stuff. And if there’s something, you know, that, like, we don’t know, is there someone who really that we are like, I think I already know who sucks, but is there anyone who we think is major, but they actually aren’t on shit?
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [01:01:51] OK, so I’m going to take a different approach to answer this question. I am going to answer you, but I’m taking a different approach. So people have always said to me “What about this party or that party, what do I think, or what am I doing about X, Y and Z?” And what I have said is this. As a litigator, I have sued Republican and Democratic administrations because it has been 80 years and farmworker’s still don’t have the most basic rights. Unfortunately, I think everyone in Congress needs to do better when it comes to farmworkers and some of our lowest paid workers. I mean, there certainly are political leaders who have stepped up and put, put in important bills and into that and will be forever grateful.
But I think that as a whole, our political leadership has not showed the kind of courage that is required for low paid workers like domestic workers or farmworkers. And we need we need them to understand that even if farmworkers or domestic workers don’t have billion dollar lobbies behind them, like some of the industries that that do have that kind of capital and have been using that capital to pressure political leaders not to take certain action, maybe our communities don’t have that, but our communities are literally doing life sustaining work that has value and is valuable. And that should be enough for people to take the action that is required and needed to do right by them. So in my book, until we see some major progress on the law when it comes to farmworkers and other workers have been excluded, I think they all need to do better.
JVN [01:03:28] And you said you’re based in Ohio. [CROSSTALK] I think you just accidentally made your case for, like, why you should definitely run for office, because that’s now two questions that you literally answered directly. But, like, in a better way, like, wow, yes, obsessed. OK, Ohio congresswoman, Ohio senator. I think that wow, that was such a good answer. You are, like, killing it with the good answers today. I feel complete. I think I feel like this is also, like, one of the best interviews we’ve done in, like, a hot minute. Like, I learned so much. I have. I did three full pages of notes. That’s a lot more than usual. Where can people follow you and, and your work, like, super directly.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [01:04:12] Okay, thank you. So they can follow me on Instagram @ActivistMonicaRamirez and on Twitter, they can follow me @MonicaRamirezOH, because I am from Ohio and based in Ohio. And the organization can be followed at Mujerxs–I’m going to spell it ‘cause it’s a little challenging–it’s @mujerxsrising, and that’s it on Instagram and Twitter. So Mujerx is m-u-j-e-r-x-s, rising. @Mujerexsrising, and that’s where, that’s where it will be. And that we’re posting updates about Healing Voices. And if folks go to the website, they can also learn more there.
JVN [01:04:58] Well, Mónica, I just followed your Instagram. I’m obsessed. I think everyone listening to this also needs to follow it. Pay attention to the incredible work that you’re doing. I’m so grateful for you for taking your time and being really patient with my questions and me and you’re, just amazing. And I’m just so grateful to have met you.
MÓNICA RAMÍREZ [01:05:43] Thank you so much. And thank you for being curious. Thank you for, for the conversation.
JVN [01:04:58] You’ve been listening to Getting Curious with me, Jonathan Van Ness. My guest this week was lawyer and activist Mónica Ramírez.
You’ll find links to her work in the episode description of whatever you’re listening to the show on.
Our theme music is “Freak” by Quiñ – thank you so much to her for letting us use it. If you enjoyed our show, introduce a friend and show them how to subscribe.
Follow us on Instagram & Twitter @CuriousWithJVN. Our socials are run and curated by Emily Bossak.
Our editor is Andrew Carson and our transcriptionist is Alida Wuenscher.
Getting Curious is produced by me, Erica Getto, and Emily Bossak.
May 31, 2023
Guest Melissa Murray
In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States will hand down decisions that could have major implications for LGBTQIA+ rights, racial justice, tribal sovereignty, and beyond.
May 24, 2023
We’re dripping in jewels this week on Getting Curious! What does it mean for a diamond to be “hard”? Are lab-grown gems made to perfection? What’s the difference between rubies and pink sapphires?
May 18, 2023
Guest Kathryn Olivarius
New Orleans was one of America’s most important cities in the early 1800s. It was also one of the most deadly. This week, to mark the new season of Queer Eye, we’re exploring New Orleans history with Dr. Kathryn Olivarius in a special two-part episode.