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MDCR Director Issues Statement on Governor Whitmer's Executive Order Protecting Farmworkers

June 2, 2020

LANSING, MI--Mary Engelman, Interim Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, today issued the following statement in support of Governor Whitmer's Executive Order 2020-111, which provides additional requirements and procedures to keep agricultural workers and the food supply safe from the effects of COVID-19. 

"The Michigan Department of Civil Rights commends Governor Whitmer for issuing an Executive Order protecting the people who harvest and sort our food. Though farmworkers may not be who initially comes to mind, they are, in fact, essential workers. They are entitled to the same safeguards at work that we provide to others."

"The farmworkers who work in Michigan’s fields often come here with few belongings and depend on the farms they work for to provide food and lodging. These workers have a right to know that their living conditions do not expose them to the risks presented by COVID-19 any more than is necessary."

"It is important that migrant farmworkers know of these protections in advance, or they may decide to go elsewhere.  Agriculture is too important to Michigan’s economy to allow this to happen.  We do not applaud the Governor’s action only because it is economically sound; we applaud it because people should not be valued by the color of their skin or the work that they do.  Finding the right balance between permitting essential work to continue and protecting those who do it is difficult, but it must be done."

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights serves as the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The Department is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law.  For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to

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