Gerawan workers are asking your help again over the recent pesticide spraying by a neighboring farmer that occurred at the giant tree fruit company. More than 15,000 UFW supporters signed a petition urging Fresno County’s Agricultural Commissioner to quickly investigate the pesticide incident. The government agency’s reply? The investigation could take up to two years.
Gerawan Worker Augustin Garcia tells us: “I’m frustrated. This is the second time I’ve seen workers poisoned with pesticides while working at Gerawan. My co-workers were clear that Gerawan did not try right away to protect me or my fellow workers. Because of this on March 15, I took part in a demonstration at the office of the Fresno County Ag Commissioner. We gave them a petition that was signed by over 15,000 people asking them to immediately investigate the poisoning. I was one of two workers who was allowed into the office to talk to them.
"I was very disappointed with the Ag Commissioner office’s answer. They told me they were already investigating, that Gerawan wasn’t the one who sprayed the pesticides. Worst of all, they told me that cases about pesticides can take up to two years to investigate. Two years? It’s like farm worker lives aren’t important to the officials who are supposed to protect us. What if this happens again? Next time, it could be me.
"This is wrong and we need to make them move faster. We need to be protected. It’s frustrating. I feel like we’re not important to them -- but if they don’t protect us, who will?”
Nicholas Landa is also frustrated. He was one of the Gerawan workers exposed to pesticides on Feb. 22. Nicholas shared: “This is what happened to me: On Feb. 22, my crew and other Gerawan crews were pruning peaches. Then we were hit by pesticides when a neighboring farm began spraying right by where we were eating our lunch. Instead of moving us away or providing us an opportunity to wash our eyes or change our clothes, the supervisors at Gerawan sent us back into the fields to work again, as if nothing happened. We wanted to keep our jobs so we did as we were told to do.
"It wasn’t until an hour and a half later the foreman told us to leave the field because a car was going to take us to the office. Here we saw a doctor. I told him my head hurt, my eyes burned and I felt sick to my stomach. He checked my eyes, my mouth and my pulse and told me everything was fine since the pesticide that was sprayed was organic and wasn’t dangerous. Afterwards, we were taken back to the fields and returned to work.
"Nobody gave me the names of the pesticides. I asked Gerawan and it took days for me to find out we were sprayed with Regalia, BioLink Boron Fertilizer and Goemar MZ ‘O’. All three of these chemicals have warning labels warning people to get help right away if we breathe them in or our eyes are irritated after coming in contact with them. But Gerawan did not do this. Instead they sent us back into the fields to work.”
Gerawan workers can’t wait two years for the investigation. As Augustin told us, “What if this happens again? Next time, it could be me.” Please help us tell the Agricultural Commissioner of Fresno County to stop the delays and protect Gerawan workers like they are supposed to.
April 12, 2016