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Michigan farm workers challenge court appeal from farmers

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Michigan farm workers are speaking out in response to a lawsuit backed by the Michigan Farm Bureau. Farm owners want to annul a public health order requiring employers to test farm workers for COVID-19. But workers say these measures are necessary to protect them from the virus.

In early August, a state health order was issued requiring farmers to provide free coronavirus testing and safe housing for migrant farm workers that test positive. But the Michigan Farm Bureau filed a lawsuit arguing the order discriminates against Latinos. While the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan denied the industry request for an emergency preliminary injunction, the industry plaintiffs in the suit have now filed an appeal of that ruling.  

Juana is a farm worker who contracted COVID-19 back in April while she was working. We’re only using her middle name to protect her identity. Speaking through a translator, she says she was sick for a month and half.

“If this order had been in effect in April I would have received the COVID-19 test earlier and I would not have had to miss paying my rent, one months worth of rent,” said Juana. 

In response to the initial lawsuit, the United Farm Workers of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center filed a legal brief on behalf of farm workers. The appeals court is scheduled to rule on the appeal this week.