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5. January 2021, 10:20 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:20 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Former farmer, Immokalee, Fla.

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CreditCredit… Video of Alfonso Duran

I’ve been working and working and working all these years. I worked here all last season, including the pandemic. I started planting in August 2019 and then worked until the end of harvest, around May or June last year.

It’s a long day, it’s a very tough job. For example, we harvest cucumbers in the morning and tomatoes in the afternoon, both of which are very heavy. By the end of the day, my fingers will be sore. My back hurts and my lungs hurt from working so hard. Sometimes I came home and cried.

We worked long hours, but they put up a lot of defense. The Lipman family farm was part of the Fair Food program and followed procedures.

We cleaned all tables with Clorox or bleach and made sure everyone washed their hands. Thank God no one I know has gotten sick. I wasn’t too worried about a pandemic because the company had taken precautions. They hired extra people to clean the buses every day.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that if we didn’t get the job done, prices could rise dramatically. We knew this could have a much bigger impact on everything else if no one chose the food.

Our work is important, but the term “essential worker” is the title we have been given. We should not only have been thanked, but really supported. Especially in the beginning, when everything in the stores ran out. They had big gallons of disinfectant at work and I brought some to keep our house clean.

If what we do is so important, I thought we’d get paid extra. All we got from the government was a check from Covid.

I found another job in landscaping that is a little easier. But I think the field work is incredibly important. It’s not just a tomato. Behind every vegetable lies this long process.

The beauty is getting to know all the other staff, talking to them, learning about their lives and experiences. Many have left their families to put food on the table. I tried to cheer him up and tell him Don’t worry, paisano.

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5. January 2021, 10:20 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:20 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Commercial fisherman, Ventura, California.

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CreditCredit… Adam Amengual’s video…

I have two small fishing boats, a 22′ and a 24′. I live in the Ojai Valley, a 15 minute drive from Ventura, and I take my boats out to the central coast. All the way to Monterey and Santa Cruz, all the way to Oxnard.

I would say 65% of my fish went to a wholesaler. That was for Covid. I remember being on a black fishing trip in the third week of March and discovering 48 hours later that two-thirds of my market had just collapsed. It was over. I was wondering: What should I do?

I have two teenage daughters that I gave birth to alone, and of course they had to sacrifice time with me and help me. I sat down with them, talked to them first and told them I needed help for a few months.

I had this list of 175 people in Ojai that I wrote to that I was going to be a direct seller. People didn’t want to leave their homes, so we wanted to deliver. The first month I was a mess. I went from 175 to 350 orders. It’s like we’ve been heroes for two months.

It was exhausting. I fished 17 hours two days in a row and then processed and delivered within 12 hours. I personally spent six hours cutting 500 pounds of black cod and my hands on deck were delivering fish everywhere. I can feed 1,000 to 1,500 people on a single fishing trip.

If you’re in direct sales, that means a lot of time and work. I know this because I sold direct, but we increased the number three times during the week. I couldn’t do it alone, I knew it. I have fishing gear to repair and build, boats to repair. I have to fish, sell the fish from the list of text messages, phone calls and emails, record all the orders and addresses, label the bags, take the ice, cut the fish and bring them to the site.

My daughter lost her job at an organic market that was closed for two months. I said: You’re 17 years old, you have a driver’s license and you’re sitting at home. I need your help. She wasn’t too happy about it, but we have a pandemic. It’s time to get your act together.

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5. January 2021, 10:19 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:19 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Farm owner, Live organically, Oak Grove, Minn.

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CreditCredit… Jenn Ackerman’s video…

I’m a professor of educational leadership. My primary role is to train specialized teachers for the state of Minnesota. I currently teach in the fall and spring. In the summer months I work as a farmer.

I grow organic fruits and vegetables. I now have 50 chickens for eggs. I produce food for the local schools and for the C.S.A.S.’s. We sold to local people and through partnerships with schools in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Paul and North Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed. We distributed food to this community. As a result of the murder and all the events, the grocery stores are closed.

I’m in business, but I’m also in the field. I have staff and interns and we work together as a team. When I tell people I’m a farmer, they look at me like that: Are you really a farmer? Are you going out? Yes, I do everything.

Since Covid came out, people have been wanting to eat a lot of organic food. We’ve seen the tributary. We had to create an online platform to sell products, and I wasn’t ready for that.

Many people in Minnesota wanted to help farmers because they knew we were being beaten. They were willing to buy local produce and invest in farmers, especially farmers of color.

Minnesota has few minority farmers, mostly African-Americans. I’m still trying to deal with the high stakes after George Floyd’s death. I’ve been doing this for three years now, and the same people I tried to sell to before are now saying: I want to help.

To keep my head above water, I had to grow with the demand. We had to create a safety plan to prevent Covid from spreading through the farm. Two of my interns were white women, and they had never been on a black farm. We’ve done a few markets in predominantly African-American communities, and that’s broken down some of the ways people think.

Before I got into farming, it wasn’t something you were congratulated for. I know the history of slavery. I think of people who have been neglected or who have not been honored and respected in their work. It was needed then, and it is still needed now. It was necessary. We just found out.

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5. January 2021, 10:18 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:18 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Meat processor at a Smithfield Foods plant, Sioux Falls, South Carolina.

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CreditCredit… Chris Machian’s video.

I work nine hours, six days a week, on pig farmers at the Smithfield plant. In the morning I put on my mask, go to the checkpoint, they ask me if you have any symptoms. I go to my locker and get the helmet I put away the night before. I grab my gear and my knife and get to work.

In March, everyone was afraid. We have seen people praying in lockers and asking for protection. If we went to work and didn’t see anyone, we would ask.

I have coronavirus symptoms in April. The day I got sick, I was working. I got a cold and started coughing and sneezing on the line. I had a headache and a fever. I don’t remember how long it took me to leave. I’m so confused. A colleague approached me and I told him to leave because I didn’t know if I had the virus. It’s been a very bad day.

The day my husband took me to the hospital, I thought I was going to die. I thought this was my last day. My last moments. There was no one in the room but me. I told God: I’m sorry for what I did. My body shook. I’ll never forget that day. I thought of my family, my children.

After my release from quarantine, I felt like I was reborn. I started looking at life differently. We’re so vulnerable. We could die at any moment.

I was home for about a month. You get paid for your time at home if you caught the virus. This work is important to the community. It’s important that the company is always open, but in the beginning they didn’t protect us as much as they should have.

I wrote to HR suggesting that we disinfect the tables in our break room to combat the virus.

When we got back to work, I noticed disinfectant on every table. It felt good to fight with the union to protect our company. We have masks and face shields and monitors that tell us to keep them down. We’re still side by side, but with plexiglass.

We didn’t throw a birthday party for my daughters. At home, I take off my shoes and clothes in the basement and go straight to the bathroom. I’m leaving my husband and children. When we’re around and sitting on the couch, we have to wear a mask.

I am proud to be a key employee. We’re in the front line. We have to help each other. If nobody talks, nobody can help us.

(Kira Lombardo, Chief Executive Officer of Smithfield Foods, said: We quickly took emergency measures to protect our employees when the first wave of public spread of the new coronavirus swept the country from coast to coast. We have exceeded or complied with all applicable guidelines developed by the medical and public health experts we consulted during the pandemic. She went on to say: Plexiglas barriers are installed between workstations to ensure separation – and the required masks and shielding – in accordance with public health guidelines].

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5. January 2021, 10:17 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:17 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Trucker, Greenwood Lake, New York.

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Cinematography

CreditCredit… Video by Kriston Jae Bethel.

I used to drive a truck in the Marine Corps where I was a gunner. I am now a rental driver and I average about 2,500 miles a week. I mean, over 100,000 miles a year.

There’s nothing you can’t touch that doesn’t travel in a truck. Nothing. Everything is in sight: Shoelaces, eye drops, food, clothing, medicine. And I still find it fascinating.

I’m trying to check what I can check. It’s largely due to my comfort and sanity, because my days are ruined.

Sometimes, depending on the customer, you don’t even get out of the truck. They do everything at the security door, they take your papers or driver’s license and clean them. You wear a mask, you don’t have to come in. There’s a place that does everything by phone these days.

I have visited many of those factories, Sioux Falls and the meat factories in Tysons, where people died. I talk to the people at the table and I say: I saw you on the news. I’m sorry to see what’s going on. It’s very frustrating.

People come to the truck stop without a mask, or they come in and say I’m not wearing a mask. On the door, it clearly states that you must have a mask and people will laugh at it. This country has a very strange mentality.

I see bumper stickers on company cars. There’s a guy who showed up with his truck in Trump’s memorabilia. He had a presidential figure, so it looked like he was sitting on a chair. If you’re a business type, don’t add embellishments or political statements. It’s just my old beliefs.

Remember how everyone loved truckers and first responders in March? You’re a hero. All over the country I saw banners on bridges, in courtyards and on farms. The kids waved at you and everything was great. Kids always do that, but now it’s back to normal. You drive too slow, you get in the way. I have the finger again.

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5. January 2021, 10:17 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:17 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Co-owner and director of product development at Bridgewell Agribusiness, Clackamas, Ore.

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Cinematography

CreditCredit… Video by Moriah Ratner.

My job is to oversee the operations of factories around the world. We manufacture products on all continents where production is possible. We work with farmers and factories, and we take the finished product, put it in a shipping container and ship it to the United States or to the country where we ship it.

When Covid struck, strategists thought the U.S. consumer would weaken. They would be home and there wouldn’t be as many big purchases. It’s not a problem. So shipping companies started taking ships out of service – and consumers did exactly the opposite.

They chose to buy everything from materials to renovate their home to – God, it just goes downhill. I mean, it’s just crazy that consumers have completely changed their buying habits, which has led to an extreme shortage of transportation around the world.

Our team, the people who drive the raw material [like the forklift driver above], we work 24 hours a day. Every night it has become a challenge to make sure that the raw materials leave the yard in the first place.

I won’t name names, but let’s just say it’s a restaurant. In the case of restaurants, I would say that 30% of these ingredients are probably imported. And when the supply chains start up, you don’t see them at the retail level.

The global food supply is truly a finely tuned machine, and there are many parties involved in the appearance of your French cheese in the supermarket. There are many parts to this movement. And if one of those parts of the supply chain fails, as Covid did, it will be completely destabilized.

I worked in the food industry for a very long time. And there’s a saying in the food industry: People need to eat. What I taught my team is that all the turmoil we’ve seen, all the instability we’ve seen, would be magnified many times over if the country felt like it had nothing to eat.

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5. January 2021, 10:16 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:16 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Employee at Amazon Fresh, Avenel, NJ.

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Cinematography

CreditCredit… Video by Timothy Smith.

I work the day shift. I pick and pack orders, scan them and add shipping labels. I’ll get the van that picks me up and takes me home. This information is not provided by Amazon. Sometimes there can be a lot of people, more than 10 people.

I live with my sister who also works at Amazon. My parents and family live in New York and I haven’t seen them since last year. My mom is diabetic, so I don’t want to risk her getting sick.

Before the pandemic, they worked from 6:00 am to 5:30 pm, but now they close 30 minutes earlier so they can do a thorough cleaning and disinfection before the night shift.

There are so-called inter-breaks that contribute to social distance. But they keep hiring people and it doesn’t work. It bothers me because people get sick. I’m a picker, I’m surrounded by people all day.

Not bad work. The way we are treated is bad enough. We don’t get paid enough. We have to be paid for the risk. When the pandemic really started, they gave us a $2 increase, but they took it back.

They tell us we are heroes and indispensable workers and people count on us and we know we are heroes. But you should at least treat us with respect when you come to work every day and put our lives and the lives of our families at risk. We’re not interchangeable.

United for Respect aims to achieve fair labor rights for Amazon and Walmart workers. While we cannot change too much for ourselves, we can strive to do so for future employees. Here’s the deal.

Our safety is our first priority. We have no problem with the job. It’s a misconception that people have. We have a problem with the way we’re being treated. We just want to be treated with respect.

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5. January 2021, 10:15 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:15 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Assistant Customer Service Manager at Bashas’ Diné Market in Tuba City, Ariz.

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CreditCredit… John Burcham’s video.

The nearest grocery store is 75 miles away. Flagstaff is the closest Walmart. Paige, it’s another 70 miles in the other direction. It’s the closest Walmart, the closest Safeway, the closest everything. In fact, there are several communities in our region that we serve. It’s a lot of work.

We’re not getting anything first. When there was the great toilet paper frenzy of 2020, we were not at the top of the list to get the best or the best product. We had long queues like everywhere else. People were already lining up at 5am. I think the longest line was about a quarter mile long.

I’m hugging. With all my little grandmas coming into the store and hugging them. These things have stopped. We really had to put our emotions aside and do what we had to do: keep everyone safe.

Many of the grandparents who used to come to us for their monthly groceries are no longer with us. We have family members of our workers here in the shop, some of whom have died because of Covid. They’re not with us anymore.

When it started, they came in and they were so sad, they were shocked and scared. That was in March, when the masks had not yet been sanctioned. I had over 100 fevers in the last week of March and just a sore throat, but they didn’t do any tests during that time. So if you can’t breathe….

I was told to go home and stay up to 72 hours with no symptoms. I stayed in my room. I’m lucky to have a house with two baths. So, a bathroom was just mine.

The only thing that affects you is the isolation because you are separated, you can hear them laughing, you can hear them talking. But at the same time, my entire family was quarantined with me. No one came out. Nobody bought anything or anything. I’m glad no one in my family got sick.

I have learned more since March than I have in 22 years with Basha. I had to learn to be humble, and I had to learn to be patient. I had to learn to be nicer. And learn the big steps very quickly.

Lately, my voice has been at work: I’m here to protect you. I’m here to make sure we’re safe. We do everything we can to ensure the safety of our community because we are of the Navajo Nation. There aren’t many of us left. We need to make sure we’re safe. That’s what we work for.

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5. January 2021, 10:14 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:14 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Buyer of a handcart, Harrisburg, Pa.

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Cinematography

CreditCredit… Video by Rosem Morton

I started at Instacart about last week in January. I never thought that in a few weeks it would become what it is, that is, so necessary for so many people. Not only that, but all my other work is gone because, you know, Covid. So it has become a necessity, not only for others, but also for me.

I met some great people, other Instacart buyers, and of course, buyers. It’s amazing how you can communicate with someone through a tomato. I live alone. So I couldn’t do anything in my apartment, or I could interact with people in the store.

I often shop for a family that is still completely isolated at home and has large orders. I think the last thing I bought her was 115. It took me three or four carts to make these. But I really love this family, I love helping them because I know they are still in total isolation.

We lost my mother in Covid – it was early May, and I ended up leaving and staying with my sister for about three and a half weeks. So I went shopping in the Philadelphia area. I don’t live with my sister. I’ve been as busy as I can be. Our mother lived in a nursing home; she had been confined since the second week of March. We couldn’t get in. That’s the worst part, there’s no point in closing your eyes. He hits you sometimes. You want at least one last hug, you know? They never understand.

I have another client that I bought and have a relationship with. She left me a bag of soap and hand sanitizer, which was very nice. She told me she appreciated me, but the reason she appreciates my services so much is because she has a son with special needs. They try to be very careful because if he had to go to the hospital, it would be very difficult for her and her husband.

I have picked up her order a few times and she is very nice, very sweet. In these times of unprecedented strangeness and isolation, there is not much interaction between us. This kind of interaction is everything to me – and unexpected in a wonderful way.

I never thought to be a thank you to the person who did me a favor. I understand why it’s important. I was excited because I wanted to work and I had to work. I was very grateful for that.

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5. January 2021, 10:13 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:13 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Cafeteria worker, Big Sky, Mont.

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Cinematography

CreditCredit… Video by Janie Osborne.

Schools closed in mid-March and went virtual in two days. Then at the beginning of this school year, in late August, we switched to the 50-50 model.

We also provide lunch for the children at home. They can sign up for lunch and pick up their bag the day they are gone or the day before to take it home.

We scratch a lot more. Today, for example, there was soup, salad, cookies, fruit and milk. Soup and cookies are made from scratch and salads are assembled. The brown bags contain all of these things, plus silverware, towels, etc., and the brown bags contain all of the other things. So he explained it all and built everything up. I take these lunch boxes, backpacks, boxes or whatever we have; I have a little airplane cart and I push it into every elementary class.

They wear masks and stand three feet apart, and there aren’t many, but they were so excited about the school lunches. You’re very kind. I see them going out the door. How can you..: Oh, lunch is coming! Lunch is coming!

Some students used to eat outside when the weather was nice, but now they usually eat in their classrooms, and there are a few other places in the school where they can eat.

My kids are in grades two and five and I asked them what they thought of the new breakfast system. Both were absolutely certain. They have more time for lunch, they don’t have to wait in line for a hot meal, and their classrooms are quieter. It’s easier for them to talk to their friends. Teachers, especially in the lower grades, will include music or short videos. They love it. I haven’t talked to many students, but I don’t think they really like it.

I don’t know if I consider myself a regular worker, like health care workers or people who actually get food where it’s needed. But it’s a pretty important part of our community. I’m very happy to be able to do this and help you.

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5. January 2021, 10:12 a.m. (Eastern Time)

5. January 2021, 10:12 a.m. (Eastern Time)

The New York Times

Baker Support Hotline Specialist for the King Arthur Baking Company, Norwich, Vt.

Video

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CreditCredit… Video by Kelly Burgess.

We take calls and answer emails from amateur bakers who are involved in the bakery in any way. On average, I make 30 to 40 calls a day. Baker’s hotline grew from 104,000 calls in 2019 to 134,000 calls in 2020. Some calls only last a minute and thirty seconds; they have a question and want to hang up immediately. Other calls last 50 minutes or more.

Since many people have lost their jobs or income due to the pandemic, they are very careful not to waste ingredients. If they can save a prescription that may have gone wrong somewhere by calling us and asking us how to fix it, they certainly will.

They usually call us because they need help changing an ingredient or they want to know if a certain pot works, even if it’s not specified in the recipe.

Very early on we experienced a shortage of supply, simply because the number of people cooking at home was much higher than normal at that time of year. With a particular interest in sourdough, a major consumer of flour, many of our calls first sounded like this: Where’s the flour? How do I get flour? When will the flour be available again?

What was missing then was yeast, which is a key ingredient in making bread, so there were a lot of questions about how to make yeast-free bread, and it goes back to yeast, and it’s kind of a cycle.

Some of the longest conversations are just people wanting to reach out to someone to talk to. I think the pandemic is largely isolated and a significant number of our customers are in the 60-80 age group. As a result, many of these people have been voluntarily isolated or quarantined. Being available by phone is an excellent way to establish a human connection. So it’s a field not limited to bins.

Often people call back in a week and say I talked to you last week and it was great. Thanks for the tip. It went well, I’ll call back.

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