We only have one action item this week - because it's that important!
It's only June and the UFW has informed us of another tragic farm worker death here in California from extreme heat. Maximo Lopez Barajas died last Friday while pruning in a pomegranate orchard. According to the Fresno Bee Maximo "collapsed in heat that exceeded 100 degrees that day." Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for the state Department of Industrial Relations, said emergency crews were called and the man was taken to Coalinga Regional Medical Center, where he died.
Even though California issued emergency 2005 regulations to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, preventable farm worker deaths like this continue to occur at a similar pace as before. Not only that, but when Cal-OSHA, the state work safety agency, finds violations of its regulations, reports shows the state often does not issue citations, go back to recheck violators and make sure the violations have been corrected.
Since the state has clearly failed to adequately enforce its heat standards, the UFW is sponsoring AB 2346, the Farm Worker Safety Act by Assemblymember Betsy Butler. This crucial bill will let farm workers enforce mandatory shade and drinking water requirements by taking delinquent employers to court. It will also make growers jointly responsible with farm labor contractors they hire to ensure that farm workers on their properties are given shade and water when temperatures soar. In addition, AB 2346 will set meaningful penalties for employers responsible for heat-related deaths.
Legislators are being inundated with opposition from growers who complain that there are "crippling fines” for violations attached to this bill. Are they kidding us? If employers simply comply with the law, there are no penalties at all and workers like Maximo stay healthy.
The bottom line is that we can't let farm workers continue to die needlessly. AB 2346 just passed the California state Assembly. It will be heard next in the Senate Labor Committee. Please take action NOW by clicking on this link to support this crucial bill. After you sign the petition, share this information with everyone you know by clicking here. Even a bill as sensible as this one might not make it through if we don't let our representatives know that we are demanding their support.
For more information on Assemblymember Betsy Butler's life-saving legislation, click here.