CRLA Continues To Shine The Light On The Need For Safe Working Conditions For Farmworkers

September, 2011 / Los Angeles Times / Paloma Esquivel
California farmworker protections not going far enough?

Felipe Flores and his 10-month-old daughter, Kimberly, had to seek  refuge with family members after their power went out at the Hernandez  mobile home park in Thermal. The thermometer over Flores’ shoulder reads  110 degrees in the shade. / Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun

A farmworker carries sprouts in the open field usually working long hours under the sun. California new rules require regular shade, water and rest for outdoor workers. Photo by David Bacon.

Farmworker advocates say adherence to state rules to prevent heat illness remains sporadic at best.

At noon, when the morning breeze had faded and the temperature hit 95, a union representative walked into the sweltering field to check on dozens of farmworkers harvesting peppers.

A middle-aged worker with a T-shirt placed under his cap to absorb sweat approached, whispering: "No hay sombra" (there is no shade).

Only after the union man appeared did two foremen pull canopies out of their trucks and call the workers in for a break.

"There's a law for this," the field hand said. "I've heard it on the news. They have to have water. They have to have shade."

Six years after California became the first state to adopt rules requiring regular shade, water and rest for outdoor workers, adherence remains sporadic at best. Enforcement of the rules governing the state's 35,000 farms and other outdoor operations is sketchy, and many workers don't fully understand the protections they are entitled to.

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