AB 2346 (BUTLER) BACKGROUND
- Over 400,000 farm workers toil on over 35,000 farms in California.
- These farm workers provide 90 percent of the labor for California’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry – the nation’s largest – that produces everything from grapes and strawberries to lettuce to tomatoes.
- Farm workers in California also work in the extreme heat and tough conditions to feed our nation.
- In California’s summer heat, farm workers face the risk of death and illness.
- The people who feed us should not fear death when they go to work. But, even with a heat related regulation in place, farm workers are literally dying because of no water and access to shade.
- When a farm worker at Giumarra Vineyards, the largest table grape grower in the country, died of heat in 2004, the UFW began a campaign to end heat deaths.
- Then, Maria Isabel Jimenez, a 17-year girl who was pruning a vineyard near Farmington, California died without water or access to shade. This young girl’s case highlights everything that is wrong… the farm labor contractor involved had been caught before not providing water, the farm labor contractor did not call “911”, and when charged with manslaughter the farm labor contractor’s sentence was “community service.” Can any of us imagine a community service sentence for manslaughter committed by someone driving under the influence – it was just such a case that led to the founding of MADD.
- Since 2005, at least 16 farm workers have died due to heat illness. All these deaths were preventable. A similar number of heat illness deaths took place prior to the enactment of the regulation.
- Unfortunately, these heat-related deaths are a reminder that agriculture is one of the few industries in this state and country where a person can be worked to their death.
- Consequently, we have been left with no moral or practical choice but to take legislative action.
- AB 2346 (Butler) is limited to protecting farm workers from preventable heat death and illness.
- AB 2346 (Butler) is minimal protection when compared to Penal Code Section 597, makes it punishable as a misdemeanor or felony for every person who fails to provide any animal with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather.
- Without AB 2346 (Butler), adequate protections will continue to be good intentions.
3/21/2012: UFW News Release: UFW bill lets farm workers enforce heat death prevention rules since state hasn't
AssemblymemberBetsy Butler's web page for AB 2346: "Farm Worker Safety Act"
Landmark Lawsuit Accuses State of Failing to Protect Farm Workers from Heat-Related Death and Illness
Support UFW's new legislation to protect farm workers from heat
Farm workers are still dying from heat. In fact, since California issued its 2005 heat regulations to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, preventable farm worker deaths have continued at about the same pace as before.
Clearly this is not acceptable! A lawsuit by Public Counsel and Munger, Tolles, and Olson on behalf of the United Farm Workers and individual farm workers, exposed Cal-OSHA's inability to protect the safety of farm workers.
Since the state has failed to enforce its heat standards, the UFW is sponsoring AB 2346 , the Farm Worker Safety Act (Butler). This allows farm workers themselves to be able to enforce mandatory shade and drinking water requirements by taking delinquent employers to court in the tradition of a citizen’s arrest. The measure would also make growers jointly liable along with farm labor contractors they hire if contractors fail to supply farm workers with shade and water when temperatures soar. AB 2346 (Butler) does not impose any costs on taxpayers.
"At least 16 farm workers have died since 2005," UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said. "Since all of these deaths were preventable, it's clear the regulation is not being enforced. Evidence exposed by our lawsuit shows the problem is in fact getting worse."
Cal-OSHA’s own records from 2009 show the agency failed to issue citations in more than 140 instances in which its inspections determined serious problems existed with employer observance of the heat rules. Last summer, the UFW filed more than 75 heat illness complaints with Cal-OSHA .
In addition to letting farm workers take employers to court to enforce shade and water requirements, and making growers directly responsible for violations by their labor contractors, AB 2346 (Butler) would also set meaningful penalties for individuals responsible for heat-related deaths. The bill’s proposed penalties are minimal when contrasted with state Penal Code sections when a person fails to provide any animal with the same protections.
The problem of heat-related farm worker deaths must be solved. Farm workers cannot keep having their lives jeopardized due to grower indifference. The bill will shortly be heard by CA's Assembly Labor Committee. Click to e-mail the chair of this committee and tell them to support this critical bill. The people who pick the food we put on our tables surely deserve the same heat protections as animals get.
Farm Worker Stories
I would work all day without taking a break or going for water because I was afraid of getting fired.
--Erika Contreras,farm labor contractor worker
They give us the water they use to irrigate the fields.
--Pedro Zapien,vegetable worker
We have to pitch in money to have clean drinking water.
--Juan Martinez Vasquez, pea worker
Our water has a mossy smell and bitter taste.
--Ramon Mendoza,irrigation installer
The foreman drinks the water we bring ourselves.
--Francisco Villasaña,cotton worker
He treats us worse than animals...We don’t have fresh water.
The company did not provide shade for us to use.
--Juanita Mendoza,grape worker
When someone wants to drink water, the boss gets mad.
--Imelda Valdivia,grape worker
One foreman carries a gun on his side to scare the workers.
-- Alejandro Gil,cotton worker
They would never take us water. We had to take our own water.
--Gaspar Silva,vegetable worker
Sometimes full days would go by and they would never bring the bathrooms.
---Pedro Zapien, vegetable worker
They place the water on top of a box or on a tailgate of a pickup truck and when a worker goes to drink water, the heat is unbearable.
--Eva Zenteno,grape worker
They did have water for us. I got headaches.
--Evelyn Aguilar,grape worker
Last year people got sick and people fainted. They had no water and needed breaks.
--Jorge Rodriguez,almond worker
Being without water is dangerous. We are not camels that can be working without water.
-- Jairo Salin Salosairo Luquez, grape worker
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