"Two new reports draw attention to the scant laws safeguarding farmworkers’ health, including from worsening extreme heat."
"As summer arrives, farmworkers will especially feel the consequences of a warming climate. Amadeo Sumano, a strawberry worker in California, recalled feeling dizzy and experiencing headaches during harvest season, when delivering strawberries onto a motorized, moving table that blows hot exhaust. It’s a double-bind, he explains in Spanish: if he were to position himself farther from the exhaust, it would require lugging the strawberries a greater distance.
Fortunately, Sumano knows his rights, for which he has fought as a member of the labor union United Farm Workers (UFW). He was aware that California’s heat standard requires that outdoor workers receive breaks, potable water, and shade to protect them from the heat. And he brought up the concern with his employer who accommodated it with more rest periods, he said. While this doesn’t resolve structural issues in the agricultural system that can perpetuate unhealthy conditions, it’s significantly better than the protections in most states, as detailed in a new report.
Published by Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS), “Essentially Unprotected” documents farmworkers’ dire lack of critical labor protections from extreme heat and pesticide exposure. A timely examination of the laws in 13 agricultural states and federal regulations, the report reveals dangerous oversights in the laws protecting farmworkers’ health. For instance, only three states—Washington, Minnesota, and California—have any regulations safeguarding workers from escalating temperatures. As the number of unsafe hot days increases, more farmworkers will be endangered without stronger laws and, as the report emphasizes, equally rigorous implementation and enforcement."