Farmworkers Can’t Escape Life-Threatening Heat At Work And At Home

"One morning this summer, several days into temperatures above 110 degrees in this farming community, Socorro Galvez, 53, began to feel weak as she picked grapes in the suffocating heat. The green vines suddenly looked yellow, her sweat turned cold and she felt like she was going to faint. It happened again, just before the end of her shift. Each time, she sat for a while and got back to work.

When she returned home to her mobile home that afternoon, exhausted and dripping in sweat, the window air-conditioning unit in her living room was barely working. It didn’t help that her husband, daughter and five grandchildren were all gathered in the same small room, relying on the same unit, praying it wouldn’t trip the breaker. There was no relief.

“You couldn’t feel the air,” she said.

Grapes, dates and other crops have been made to flourish in the dry, searing heat of the eastern Coachella Valley. But farmers and civic leaders never built the basic infrastructure needed to shelter the workers who live in such a harsh region. So as climate change pushes temperatures to increasing extremes, many workers are being exposed to dangerous heat for hours during the day only to return home and struggle to find any respite in trailer parks where the power supply is unstable, air conditioning is minimal and water is often unclean."

Paloma Esquivel reports for the Los Angeles Times with photography by Gina Ferazzi August 16, 2023.

Source: LA Times, 08/17/2023