Farm workers in California do not have the automatic right to unionize and protect themselves. And boy, do they need it.
When I heard that farm laborers are actually dying on the fields during work because they don’t have shade to rest in or water to drink I was appalled—not shocked, but definitely appalled.
But shouldn’t things like this shock us? Are we so jaded and so desensitized in this world that we start to remain unaffected by the sight and sound of our fellow human beings dying at their own place of employment? Wasn’t that what the worker’s rights movement—which brought us weekends, forty-hour work weeks, benefits and fair wages—was all about in the first place?
Farm workers are also being poisoned on the job. While we fret and rabble about the pesticides in the food we buy and try to get the FDA to make it stop, do we stop to wonder about the people who actually have to touch the stuff directly day in and day out? I have to admit that I haven’t. But they’re being poisoned. And apparently they’re also being sexually harassed to boot.
Len Welsh, the California head of OSHA, even admits that Cal-OSHA is “maxed out.”
Well, the Farm Bill, or the “CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers,” also known as SB789, is currently sitting on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk. Schwarzenegger has previously stated that he won’t even think about the bill until it’s sitting on his desk; now, it’s there.
But this bill will allow workers to unionize. Did you know that no union farm workers have ever died from heat stroke? The more than 500,000 workers on 80,000 farms could really benefit from having the chance to be represented by a union that will stand for their rights.
We’re so focused on getting people jobs in the first place these days that it seems like we forget about those who have them and remain unsafe. What good is a job if it ends up being your death? When you bravely sign up as a police officer or a soldier, you know and accept the risks that come with the position; farm workers aren’t exactly meant to encounter such deathly circumstances on a daily basis. The odd accident with a tractor, sure—but poisoning? Death by heat? Harassment?
It’s time to take care of our own and help give people the right to defend themselves. No one should have to work in conditions so harsh that they end up dying as a result. To implore Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the bill once and for all, click here. You can customize your message, which makes it eve more powerful, or simply use the one generated there already to take action.