I'm sure you remember the horrific story of 17-year old Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez who died of heat stroke in 2008 while laboring in the scorching grape vineyards near Stockton. Her body temperature reached 108.
Maria's death is so hard to accept, because it didn’t need to happen. The labor contractors did not even observe the most basic heat laws. This was not a onetime occurrence. In 2006, Merced Farm Labor was fined for failure to have a written heat stress prevention plan and training for workers. They never paid the fine. Yet under a plea deal opposed by tens of thousands of petition signers, the contractor and safety supervisor responsible for her death got away with just community service and a tiny fine.
The United Farm Workers has won solid laws to protect CA farm workers who provide more than half of our nation's produce. But with over 400,000 field workers migrating among 80,000 farms, these laws have not and cannot be enforced by the state of California.
Our vital bill, the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act (SB 104) has passed the CA Senate and Assembly and now is on its way to Governor Jerry Brown.
The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act will ensure the laws on the books do become the laws in the fields. This new law will make it as easier for farm workers to have a union and thus have the opportunity to speak up and protect themselves. Maria Isavel’s uncle, Doroteo, has worked tirelessly to secure the passage of this bill, which would provide the protections for farm workers that could have saved his niece’s life.
Without this bill, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. Many workers don't have access to basic things like shade, water, heat training or even breaks during the hot summer days. And nothing will change. Wage and hour violations will continue. Over-exposure to pesticides will go unchallenged. Sexual harassment will remain rampant and the health crises caused by a lack of sanitation and lax safety standards will continue to plague farm workers.
You can help change these conditions today. Maria Isavel was not the California first farm worker to die due to inhumane labor conditions, but she should be the last. Sign our petition to tell CA Gov. Jerry Brown to sign this bill into law as soon as he receives it. Let's give CA farm workers, who feed our nation, the basic protections every worker deserves.