By Dennis Rocha
Sacramento, CA — Only two days away from celebrating the 85th anniversary of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez’s birthday, dozens of farm workers and supporters along the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) continued the legacy of Chavez on Thursday, March 29 at the State Capitol, as they lobbied for a union-sponsored bill that will promote fair treatment to all farmworkers.
The Farm Worker Safety Act of 2012 Assembly Bill (AB) 2346 will ensure that water, shade and breaks are provided to farmworkers and will rigorously penalize noncompliance by making growers and farm labor contractors accountable for heat-related illness. “In 2005, the state passed a law that gives farmworkers the right to have access to drinking water, shade and breaks,” said Erica Lomeli, UFW Civic Participation and Policy Director. However, he explained that although we have these laws, the state fails to enforce them.
“It is absolutely abhorrent to think that in this day and age, farm workers are not regularly provided with shade and water,” said author of the bill Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, (D-Los Angeles) in a press release. “AB 2346 will move California’s heat-illness prevention law from being merely well-intentioned to effective in saving lives.”
“Next month the temperatures will be twice as hot as they are now… we have to save the lives of the farm workers, there cannot be a number seventeen,”—according to the Union at least 16 farm workers have died since 2005.
62-year old Antonio Albarengua from Mendota, California was among the nearly 100 farmworkers from throughout the Central Valley who gathered to share with assembly members the story of what is like the everyday life of a farm worker.
“I have worked in the fields for a very long time, in different crops. We are the ones that strengthen our communities, all the fruit that we harvest goes to the tables of many families,” said Albarengua.
Assembly Members Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and other assembly members showed their support towards the heat regulation.
“My family`s story started while working in the fields of the Central Valley,” said Assembly Member Lara, as he related his life to the many farmworkers.
“I represent Gilroy, Watsonville, Salinas, Hollister, areas where there are many farmworkers,” said Assembly Member Alejo. “There are 23 Latinos legislators in California, in November we can reach up to 30, we are gradually achieving the dream of Cesar and the Farm Worker Union, of not only achieving better working conditions in the fields but also the day when children of farmers become the leaders in the medical, education, business and law fields.”