11 a.m. display of ‘Lifeline’ water bottles on Capitol’s north steps
Tom Steyer joins farm workers, UFW’s Rodriguez, Bishop Soto by raising alarm over 100°-plus temps in summer harvest seasons
Sacramento, Calif.—With summer harvest seasons well underway and temperatures often topping triple digits, business leader and philanthropist Tom Steyer joins farm workers, United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez and Catholic Bishop Jaime Soto at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at a state Capitol display of more than 1,000 of the insulated “Lifeline” water bottles being distributed to farm workers across California. Some loved ones of farm workers who perished from the heat will also be present.
The bottles are printed with information about workers’ rights under the state’s updated rules to prevent heat deaths and illnesses. They cite the heat standards updated last year by Cal-OSHA requiring employers to provide adequate water, shade and rest breaks during hot weather. Steyer will announce plans to produce thousands more of the insulated bottles to keep water cool the UFW is helping distribute throughout the state.
Many lives have been saved through the nation’s first state heat rules the UFW convinced then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue in 2005. More than 1 million California farm workers have been protected by these standards that serve as a model for other states. More effective, timely and consistent inspections of farms to enforce the heat standards resulted from settlement of lawsuits in May 2015 between the state of California under Gov. Jerry Brown, the UFW and farm workers.
Who: Businessman/philanthropist Tom Steyer, farm workers, UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez, Bishop Jaime Soto.
What: Sounding the alarm over extreme heat next to a large display of “Lifeline” water bottles as summer harvest seasons bring triple digit weather.
When: 11 a.m., Wednesday, June 29, 2016.
Where: State Capitol north steps, corner of 11th & L, Sacramento.
Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President
United Farm Workers of America
‘Sounding the Alarm’ over triple digit heat
June 29, 2016—state Capitol, Sacramento
Thank you Marichel.
The summer harvest season is now upon us in earnest, with farm workers doing tough physical labor on consecutive days of triple digit heat across the Central Valley and in other major agricultural regions of California.
We are here to sound the alarm. Farm labor—feeding America and much of the world—is honorable and important work. So farm workers shouldn’t risk death or illness from extreme heat when reasonable measures demanded by the state of California can easily prevent such tragedies.
The UFW helped convince Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue the first standards in the nation in 2005 protecting farm and other outdoor workers from dying or becoming sick during extreme temperatures. A spate of farm worker deaths from the heat produced that action. However, despite the ease of prevention if the rules are followed, dozens of farm worker heat deaths continued after 2005.
One of those fatalities was Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, only 17 years old when she needlessly died after being stricken in a vineyard near Stockton because her employer ignored the state heat rules. Her uncle, Doroteo Jimenez from Lodi, is with us today.
Doroteo has been tireless in marching testifying and advocating for changes—turning his family’s grief into an extraordinary effort to make sure these tragedies do not happen again.
We know from Cal-OSHA that some employers still don’t obey the heat rules—updated last year by the state. They require growers and farm labor contractors to provide adequate water, shade and rest breaks during hot weather . . . plus have plans in place to summon emergency medical care.
Protections for workers also improved last year through joint and mutual efforts by the state of California and the United Farm Workers as a result of settlement between the Jerry Brown adminisration and farm workers partnering with the UFW. Those settlements mean more effective, timely, and consistent inspections of farm and other outdoor worksites.
We will continue working with the Brown administration to ensure the heat standards are properly enforced.
We are also gratified by the efforts of a number of Catholic dioceses around California that through their parishes are helping educate farm workers about their enhanced rights and protections under the state heat rules. One of the most active dioceses has been right here in Sacramento through the leadership of Bishop Jaime Soto.
And we are grateful to Tom Steyer and the organization he heads, NextGen, by partnering with the UFW to educate farm workers by producing thousands of these insulated “Lifeline” water bottles we are distributing to farm workers across California. The bottles list the rights of farm workers and Tom and NextGen have become important allies and friends for farm workers.
We feel the heat now on the steps of the state Capitol. Imagine what hard-working farm workers toiling under the sun since 6 a.m. are enduring—and will endure through the afternoon hours—under very difficult conditions in the fields. The water bottle campaign informing workers of their rights will play an important role in saving farm worker lives this summer.
Many of us with the UFW have too often had to comfort farm worker families—such as the Jimenezes—mourning the needless deaths of their loved ones from exposure to extreme heat in the fields. We don’t want to have to repeat those experiences.
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