Lawmakers approve new protections for farm workers
Farm and ranch owners would be required to provide their workers with shade and cold water under legislation approved by the Assembly on Thursday.
The Assembly passed the bill 44 to 28, sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown. It was already approved 24-12 by the Senate on Aug. 21.
The bill, AB 2676, says employers who cause injuries by violating the rules could be sent to jail for a year.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) shared the story of a young farm worker who collapsed on the job and died of heatstroke two days later.
“Almost all farmers do care about their workers," he said. "But there are those rare circumstances where it ends up in a tragedy.”
Democrats pointed out that there are rules about providing water and shade to animals but not to farm workers. Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Ceres) objected, saying new rules would be insulting to workers by suggesting they can’t think for themselves.
"Maybe we should have a bill to put leashes on all of them so they don't run off like a dog,” he said.
Other Republicans were concerned that the bill could unfairly turn farm and ranch owners into criminals.
Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda) said the bill “puts a gun to the head of every farmer and rancher in the state.”
It was the last bill sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon (D-Whittier), who is leaving the Legislature because of term limits, and some Republicans praised him even when voting against his proposal.
"He's got a terrible bill on the floor but he's been a great gentleman," said Assembly Kevin Jeffries (R-Riverside).
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Farm workers weed strawberry rows on a field outside Salinas, Calif., in 2011. Credit: Gosia Wozniacka / Associated Press