Listen in: The Farmworker Association of Florida calls H2-A workers essential to Central Florida's economy after protests at Maitland hotel
Misinformation spread over social media caused crowds to gather outside the Extended Stay in Maitland earlier this week to protest quote “undocumented workers” living there.
In reality, these workers were legally employed by Dewar Nurseries on H2-A visas, a temporary visa for agricultural laborers to the US.
WMFE spoke with The Farmworker Association of Florida’s Jeannie Economos about the crucial role these workers play in our economy.
On the H2-A visa process:
"Employers have to go through a process of filling out lots of paperwork, they have to petition the federal government or the Department of Labor to be able to recruit these workers in other countries. It goes through an approval process, the state of Florida has to approve it. The Department of Labor, US Department of Labor has to approve these contracts. And then employers have to pay the transportation for the workers to come here."
On the essential work these agricultural laborers do:
"Central Florida relies on the economy of the greenhouses and nurseries in Central Florida and then the Apopka area. And these nurseries grow a lot of sensitive plants. And when temperatures go to freezing or below freezing, or even, you know in the 30s. There's a lot to secure greenhouses to cover plants, to do all kinds of preparations in the nurseries and greenhouses."
On the real consequences of this misinformation:
"They are very afraid, a lot of them don't know the language and a lot of them this is a new culture, a new place for them. And rather than terrifying them and making them feel unwelcome and afraid, we should be thanking them for the work that they're doing."