Mónica Ramírez: A Day in the Life of a Female Farmworker

January 7 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Time's Up Revolution

The other day I heard a college student declare, “I’m poor!” It was misguided to say the least, as he had just devoured Chipotle and was going to hit up Starbucks. Let’s talk about real poverty. I keep hearing about low-paying jobs in the news but never examples. Laundry and dry-cleaning employees are the lowest paid in the United States, followed by service and food prep workers among others. The next time you’re complaining that you have “no money,” ask yourself if that’s really true. And maybe give the cafeteria folks a sincere thank you while you’re at it.


There’s no doubt in my mind that the people who clean up after the slobs in hotels are underpaid. To do that kind of physical labor and not hate society requires super-human strength that I don’t possess. Women of color make up nearly 50 percent of the low-wage workforce. Add on top of that the pay gap, it will be the year 2224 before Latinas are paid equal.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Mónica Ramírez, Founder of Justice for Migrant Women

If you’ve ever worked a low-wage job or two, you know that the few moments you’re not working are spent resting, taking care of family and handling other responsibilities. A girl doesn’t have time or energy to advocate for equal pay and rights. That’s why women like Mónica Ramírez are so essential.

Mónica started Justice for Migrant Women five years ago. Her life-long activism has culminated in this organization. Raised in a farming community in rural Ohio, Mónica made history a decade or so ago when she created the first legal project focused on ending harassment against female farmworkers. Called the Bandana Project, Mónica’s mission is well-documented. In the 1980s, 90 percent of female farmworkers surveyed said they’ve faced harassment. These women use hats, bandanas and other layers of clothing to protect from unwanted advances and even violence. The Bandana Project has now gained traction through social media, community events and bandana-decorating parties.

Now, through the Justice for Migrant Women, Mónica assists in representing low-paid immigrant women who have survived workplace sexual assaults. Mónica shares that that part of her advocacy includes pushing for more Latinas in office and more Latinas in the spotlight. She recalls that growing up, no one in her community had that.

Mónica collected data and surveyed rural Latinas about their political interests. Most felt they couldn’t afford to campaign, didn’t have any inner-circle connections and felt generally untrained to run for public office. These doubts and obstacles are exactly why these women must run. As Mónica puts it, elected officials need to represent every community, our differences and all.

In 2017, Mónica was at it again. As the co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, she and her team published a letter in TIME magazine. Entitled “Dear Sisters,” it sympathizes with actresses who have declared #timesup. Like the Hollywood folks, Mónica says that female farmworkers are preyed upon by those in power and their harassment and assaults are silenced.

It can feel overwhelming to tackle workplace sexual harassment or immigrant rights. Choose what you know, choose what calls your passion. Follow Mónica’s lead—find your niche and go, go, go.


Today’s quote is anonymous:

“A women who knows what she brings to the table is not afraid to eat alone.”

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