Please send your e-mail in support NOW!
California Assemblymember Charles Calderon has written a new United Farm Workers-sponsored bill, AB 2676, that applies criminal sanctions for employers whose mistreatment of farm workers causes their deaths or illnesses from exposure to extreme heat. Longstanding penalties in the state Penal Code apply to anyone who "inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather." Now AB 2676, called the Humane Treatment of Farm Workers Act, says agricultural employers must treat farm workers at least as good as animals or face the same criminal penalties.
Another UFW-backed bill, AB 2346, by Assemblymember Betsy Butler, would let farm workers go to court to enforce state heat rules when growers refuse to provide shade and water in hot weather. Now, with AB 2346, we have two complementary bills by Assemblymembers Butler and Calderon that together will bring about the protections farm workers desperately need.
Farm workers are still dying from the heat. Since California issued its landmark 2005 regulations to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, preventable farm worker deaths are still occurring at a similar pace as before. The UFW filed more than 75 serious heat illness complaints with Cal-OSHA in summer 2011, but as of March 2012, the state work safety agency issued heat citations in only three of those cases.
We cannot allow this to continue! The UFW is sponsoring the Butler and Calderon bills because the state has failed to adequately enforce its own heat standards. And AB 2676 would impose criminal penalties on delinquent employers whose workers suffer heat illness or in some cases heat death. AB 2676's proposed criminal penalties are fair when compared with state Penal Code sanctions for persons who fail to provide animals with the same protections. AB 2676 does not impose any costs on taxpayers.
The problem of heat-related farm worker deaths must be solved. Farm workers cannot keep having their lives endangered due to employer indifference.
AB 2676 will next be heard by the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Please e-mail Chair Senator Christine Kehoe in support of this critical bill.