STOCKTON, Calif. — In a squash field just east of Stockton, Luis Magana is doing what he does best: helping farmworkers with anything they may need.
In this case, handing out bandanas and sanitizer to protect against the coronavirus.
"We are taking materials to the workers. It's free for farmworkers," said Magana, as he grabbed a bag full of bandanas, sanitizer, and brochures with information about the coronavirus.
Magana came to Stockton from Michoacan, Mexico with his parents and seven brothers in 1967 when he was 12. Soon, he was picking peaches, tomatoes and asparagus. He learned right away how difficult the work could be.
"For me in the beginning it was very hard. And, on Sunday I wake up at 4 a.m., 5 a.m. ‘Hey, wake up! You are able to work!’" Magana recalled
For nearly 30 years he worked the fields, but quickly witnessed what he terms as the "injustices" of low wages amongst workers.
He organized three strikes for tomato pickers that he says successfully led to increased pay.
"For the years, I develop a trust in workers. And they respect me, and I give information and they continue to be in contact with any question about the material that I [have] given here in this place," added Magana.
Magana comes out to the fields about three times a week. Sometimes he's welcome by the bosses, sometimes he's not.
Javier Solis has worked the fields for a year. He welcomes Magana.
"It's good. Good for the community. Nobody else does it," said Solis.
Magana also walks neighborhoods, not just handing out COVID protection, but helping with all kinds of issues impacting workers and immigrants in general.
"Somebody collapse and die, or somebody don't get paid, or the conditions...they don't give me [a] break. So, I take note, ‘Where are you working?’" said Magana.
And now at 65, Magana has no plans on slowing down.
"Every day I feel [stronger] to [come and help]. And they inspire me to do this. And this is my office. This is my work," Magana said.
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