Checking in With Virginia's Latinx Community Following Passage of Workplace Safety Rules

Jul 17, 2020

Liz Zavala at her job in Harrisonburg.
Credit Cat Modlin-Jackson

In May, we brought you the story of a Mexican-American woman whose family was deeply impacted by the spread of COVID-19 in poultry plants.

Zavala has stayed busy since she lost her grandmother to the virus earlier this year. When she’s not at one of her two jobs, she’s advocating for workers’ rights.

Zavala says the new regulations are a beacon for what’s to come.

Read More: The Heavy Toll of COVID-19 on Virginia's Latinx Community

“Yeah, that’s a big step," she says. "I think that took a lot of work for a lot of people and it brings me a lot of hope that there’s going to be more.”

More, she says, like paid sick leave and higher wages.

For some, that’s a topic of conversation. For Zavala, it’s personal.

“I work in fast food and I make more than my mom. And she’s worked there for 11 years,” she explains.

Her mother works at one of the poultry plants around Harrisonburg. After coming into contact with a worker who’d contracted COVID-19, Zavala’s mom had to take two weeks of unpaid leave.

In this era of massive momentum around social justice, Zavala encourages others like her to share their stories.

“As a minority, as someone who is being impacted by injustices, don’t stop," she says. "Because someone will listen. People will listen. There will be change eventually.”

In a few weeks, the rising junior at George Mason University will resume her coursework. Zavala’s major? Government and international politics.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.