U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney of the Western District of Michigan issued a ruling late Friday denying a request from farmworkers and their employers for an injunction against an emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 3.
Maloney ruled the testing mandate of farmworkers on operations with 20 or more employees called for in the MDHHS order was not discriminatory against Latino farmworkers.
As a result of Maloney’s ruling, the MDHHS order is still in effect, meaning an estimated 75,000 Latino farmworkers are required to be tested by Monday, Aug. 24, under the MDHHS mandate.
“Obviously farmworkers and their employers are disappointed with the judge’s ruling,” according to Michigan Farm Bureau Manager of Government Relations, Rob Anderson. “The MDHHS emergency order has the potential to completely uproot the lives of many Latino agricultural workers and threatens their livelihoods.”
“We’re also hearing, anecdotally, that farmworkers are making the decision that they’re not going to submit to the testing, and that they will seek work in other industries or in other states where this testing mandate isn’t in place to keep their jobs,” Anderson said.
Michigan agriculture has taken COVID-19 very seriously, says Anderson, and has adopted best practices to protect all farmerworkers since the inception of the pandemic, long before the MDHHS emergency order was issued on August 3.