Tag Archives: heat death

This Water is for Display Only

(The California EFCA would provide easier access to unions for farmworkers. It will pass out of the legislature, the question is whether Arnold will sign it. He should. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Another Reason for the California Employee Free Choice Act

Supposedly we have the water available, we have the shade available, we have bathrooms available but dare not use them for fear of being fired. It was as if we had none at all.

— Rigoberto Ramirez, Blueberry worker

We’ve shared stories with you about farm workers who’ve had no water to drink. Now we want to tell you about workers who do have water, but don’t have the opportunity to drink it because of the pressure put on them by the companies they work for. Please read their stories and then take action to help them by sending Gov. Schwarzenegger and your legislators an e-mail today.


The following is from a May 26th complaint the UFW filed on behalf of workers at Munger Farms, where 3 farm labor contractors employ more than 40 crews and 1,000 workers to harvest blueberries. Pickers are working hourly, but have a huge quota of 5 boxes a day–which forces them to work through their breaks, not drink water or go to the bathroom for fear of losing their jobs. This is not an imaginary fear. It happened to about 60 workers on May 26. The workers were promised 3 days of work. They were fired after one day before they even had the chance to acclimatize themselves to the brutal pace demanded. Here is the story of an experienced blueberry picker, Guillermo Cruz:

We started working at 8 am and we were asked to pick 5 boxes of blueberries for the day which is a total of 65 pounds of blueberries. I did everything that I could to meet the quota. Company supervisors were constantly on top of us and yelling at us if we dropped any blueberries on the ground which made us very nervous and confused on what to do. Workers could not afford to go to drink water or even go to the restroom because of the tremendous fear of losing their jobs. Some workers even worked through their lunch breaks to try to meet the quota. The company would not even allow us to take our third break. Many workers were running and going as fast as they could to try to meet the goal. I was one of the few that was able to make 4 boxes and could not understand why I would be fired if I had done everything in my power to meet the quota. The time we worked we saw crews of 60 workers going and coming because of the tremendous pressure to meet the quota and the company was firing workers every day.

Some of the workers are still waiting for their pay checks.

KERO Ch 23, 6/1/2009 UFW Prepared To Press Charges – UFW Representatives May File Against Munger Farms

DELANO, Calif. — Last week, dozens of blueberry pickers were protesting against unfair working conditions in Delano. Monday night the United Farm Workers Union said that they are ready to press charges against the berry farmers. Dozens of field workers said they were fired and never paid. MORE

This is not the only incident. On May 26, the UFW filed charges on behalf of Giumarra vineyard worker Francisco Farfan. Francisco was suspended and sent home for the day after the foreman said Francisco had gone too many times to drink water. He was keeping up with the workload demanded. It was hotter than 100 degrees that day. Francisco believes he was suspended for taking safety measures that did not impede his work performance and to which he is legally entitled.

Two days later the UFW also filed charges on behalf of vineyard workers at Sunrise Agriculture. Again, the about 100 workers there did have water. The problem was they were not allowed to drink the water unless they were on an official break–10 minutes every 4 hrs–or at lunch. These workers also did not have shade to protect them from the sun and were not trained in heat safety as required by law.

Such incidents show that workers need the ability to speak up without being afraid of losing their jobs. It’s why SB789 CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers is so vital. This bill will make it easier for farm workers to organize, speak up to improve working conditions and help enforce the laws that CA’s government cannot enforce. SB789 passed the CA state senate and will next be heard in the assembly and then go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Please take action today and tell them to pass SB789, a bill that will give farm workers the power to protect themselves.

Farm workers can not wait. Violations occur every day and little is done. Complaints regarding lack of drinking water, shade and work breaks to make use of these simple but lifesaving measures are an everyday occurrence for farm workers (worker stories). Last year six farm workers died of heat-related causes. Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004.

If you get time, this short documentary made late last summer is worth watching.  It’s 20 minutes long.  California’s Harvest of Shame is narrated by Speaker Emeritus Nunez, himself the son of a migrant farm worker, and includes a prologue and epilogue by actor and activist Martin Sheen.




Help farmworkers: Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes AB 2386, secret ballot election reform

(It was disappointing, but not particularly surprising, to see Arnold axe AB 2386. It should have been signed. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Photobucket Image HostingWe need to share some very disappointing news with you and then ask you to e-mail Gov. Schwarzenegger and let him know how you feel. Last week, the Governor vetoed AB 2386, a vital bill to reform secret ballot elections for farm workers. With this single stroke of his pen, the governor denied farm workers the tool they need to protect themselves. While we are disappointed with the Governor’s veto, sadly we are not surprised.

When the governor vetoed a bill with similar goals last year, his veto message said:

“I am directing my Labor and Workforce Development Agency to work with the proponents of this bill to ensure that all labor laws and regulations are being vigorously enforced, and to make it absolutely clear to all concerned that my veto is premised on an expectation that agricultural workers receive the full protections of the law.

Tragically this has not happened. During the black summer of 2008, as many as six farm workers died due to heat-related causes.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s enforcement has not saved lives. And his administration has not “rigorously enforced” the law. In May of this year, 17-year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez died of heat illness, working for Merced Farm Labor. The Associated Press reported that the state ignored collecting the fine on Merced Farm Labor for not complying with heat regulations back in 2006.

Associated Press – 5/29/08

A division official said Jimenez’s employer, Merced Farm Labor, had been issued three citations in 2006 for exposing workers to heat stroke, failing to train workers on heat stress prevention and not installing toilets at the work site.

The Atwater company has not paid the $2,250 it owes in fines, said agency spokesman Dean Fryer.

Sacramento Bee – May 30, 2008

The labor contractor that employed a teenage farmworker who died after working hours in a hot vineyard was cited in 2006 for failing to provide employees with training to avoid heat stress, Cal-OSHA records show.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health also cited Merced Farm Labor contracting services in 2006 for not having an injury-prevention plan for its workers or enough toilets for them to use, agency spokesman Dean Fryer said Thursday.

The company was fined $750 for each of the violations and was told to fix them by December 2006.

Company representatives told Cal-OSHA it had corrected the problems, and staff members “felt comfortable the abatement was done and didn’t make an actual field visit,” Fryer said. “That’s not unusual. Usually, we get great cooperation from employers.”

Consequently, young Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez died while working at a company that provided no shade, did not have adequate water, and had no emergency plan in place. All due to the same type of negligence Cal-OSHA had fined the same company for in 2006.

After Maria Isabel’s death, the Governor boasted that enforcement was at its highest level. Yet sadly, the lives of five more farm workers were lost this past summer.

In last week’s veto message, the Governor says he can enforce the laws.

As I indicated last year in my veto of SB 180, I remain committed to ensuring that agricultural workers receive all the workplace protections that our labor laws afford. To that end, I am calling for the creation of a dedicated funding source to facilitate enhanced oversight and education in the agricultural industry. I am directing my Labor and Workforce Development Agency to work with the proponents of this bill and all stakeholders to develop a proposal which will create such a program in a fiscally responsible way, for the ultimate benefit of both agricultural employees and employers.

Gov. Schwarzenegger words ring hollow after he promised simular things in his veto message last year and still as many as six farm workers died due to heat-related causes.

The support of poor farm workers means so much less to him than the support of big money agricultural interests. We also know that had it not been for the Governor’s fundraising agenda, or had we been a rich organization the Governor may have been willing to sign a bill for farm workers.

Please e-mail the Governor today!