Legal Aid Chicago to partner with first Illinois center focused on farmworker health and safety opening in Chicago. The University of Illinois Chicago will receive $6 million from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to establish the newest Agricultural Safety and Health Center in the U.S. The new center, the Great Lakes Center for Farmworker Health and Wellbeing, will be housed at the UIC School of Public Health, and will carry out important research about farmworkers to learn more about their health and wellbeing.

As a collaborative grant partner, Legal Aid Chicago will provide the Center with its longstanding experience working with and accessing this vulnerable population. Supervisory Attorney, Lauren Dana, will be a member of the Advisory Committee for the Center and will share her expertise to help develop the Center’s plans for reaching farmworkers to participate in the Center’s work. Our Migrant Farmworker Project staff will help develop outreach to  farmworkers statewide and encourage them to  participate in the Center’s research. Legal Aid Chicago will help to ensure that  the research being conducted is accessible and understandable to the farmworkers so that they may participate.

In Illinois, 30,000 to 50,000 farmworkers migrate or shift into agriculture in summer. They typically live in extreme poverty, with poor housing, limited transportation, food insecurity, lack of health care and preventative services, and long distances to obtain social services. “Farmworkers routinely experience wage theft, unsafe, sub-standard housing, hazardous work conditions, and fear retaliation if they report these conditions or an injury to their employer. This experience at work along with the fact that these populations are low-wage and migratory, means that a lot of aspects of their lives are controlled by their employer; which are conditions that can lead to exploitation, and may negatively impact their ability to access healthcare,” said Supervisory Attorney Lauren Dana.

The goal of the partnership is to strengthen the network of service organizations that serve farmworkers in Illinois. “We will be able to bring our resources together to formalize this kind of work, and that is very exciting,” said Dana.

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