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Dairy farms in the Midwest produce millions of gallons of milk each month. The people working on these farms, often immigrants from Latin America, do so while facing a variety of safety risks, often for low pay. Employees are injured in machinery accidents, get trampled by cows, risk exposure to chemicals and face other workplace hazards.
In reporting our story about the death of the 8-year-old son of an immigrant worker on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, we learned that there’s little oversight of worker safety. We’ve interviewed workers who suffered debilitating injuries and were then fired and unable to access medical care. Often, records and interviews show, people are barely trained before they’re sent to work with potentially deadly animals and equipment.
Workers sometimes live with mold-covered walls, holes in the floor, no heat or air conditioning, or in other substandard conditions. In some states, undocumented immigrants are barred from obtaining driver’s licenses, yet we’ve talked with dozens who say they need to drive to get to work, putting them at risk of getting ticketed by police.
We plan to write stories that can shed light on these issues, about farms both in the Midwest and across the country. We would like your help. If you have any insights into the industry — perhaps you’re a medical provider, a state or federal employee, a workers’ compensation lawyer, an occupational safety expert, a researcher, or someone who works or grew up on a dairy farm — we would love to hear from you.