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Farmworkers sue state for failing to enforce heat protection laws

The state has failed to protect farmworkers from heat illness and death, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California charged in a lawsuit filed in state court in Los Angeles this morning. 

“Farmworkers cannot have confidence that when they go to work, they will come home alive at the end of the day,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant legal director at the ACLU.

The suit, on behalf of five farmworkers, alleges that the state and the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has violated laborers’ rights by failing to enforce the law that exists and to pass laws that would better protect workers. 

California requires that employers provide water to all employees and access to shade and rest when workers feel ill. The regulations, which took effect in 2005, also mandate training on heat illness.

According to the United Farm Workers, 11 laborers have died of heat-related illness since 2005. United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez said the lawsuit came after months of failed negotiations with the state. 

"It hasn’t been ignorance,” he said. “It has been neglect that has resulted in the deaths of farmworkers.”

Cal-OSHA’s deputy director of communications Dean Fryer said the agency is encountering fewer violations and more compliance. 

“This lawsuit is misguided,” Fryer said in a prepared statement. “California is the first state in the nation to implement a regulation to protect workers from the summer heat and we still have the strongest regulation of the states who have now instituted a heat illness prevention standard. Cal/OSHA has done an effective job of preventing heat illnesses and fatalities.”

One of the plaintiffs, Margarita Alvarez Bautista, who picks citrus in the Coachella Valley, said she wants the state to protect her and her fellow workers. Her mother, Maria de Jesus Bautista, died on Aug. 2, 2008, two weeks after becoming ill while picking grapes in Riverside County in extreme heat.

“I don’t want other families to suffer like my family has,” she said.

-- Anna Gorman

Comments () | Archives (10)

No the farmworkers didn't sue. The ACLU sued in their never ending quest to clog the state's courts and open our borders. If any organization deserves to be labeled a terrorist organization, its the ACLU.

ya basta - Please enjoy thinking about people dying to pick your grapes. I am sure it will appeal to you.

The reason there are only 5 people named on this law suit is because they are the only ones who are probably here legally. Illegals have NO rights here. They chose this life by living a life of crime. I came here legally and had to wait to get a job.

Wrong busta, if it weren't for the ACLU our country would still be stuck in the Industrial Age. When child labor, long hours without breaks and third world working conditions were the norm. If there is truly organizations that terrorize, its the fat banks, big oil and greedy corporations that have lined the pockets of politicians and have them do their bidding. Great job ACLU and the fight Alive.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” James Madison

It is far past time to take the United State's Government and Force it to Serve the people and stop taking bribes from the Corporate interests. First Big Business will InSlave the Poor and the illegal ( who Big Business lobbies to allow in our Country ) and the powerless, it will trickle up and InSlave YOUR children and grandchildren and maybe even YOU.

To ya basta,

Obviously in your ingorant little life you have never even bothered to learn what the ACLU actually does, if you knew you would not not think they open the borders. They fight for the rights of all.

I feel bad for the people who lost their lives...

California has many work related deaths'' Heat Illness is one of them, The Employer has the resonsibilty to provide and make avalible fresh drinking water to employees.. supervisors should be held accountable for this.. cal o.s.h.a. works on enforcing this safety standard.. companys have beed cited for non compliance.. that old saying you could lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink it'',

@Sophia - This case is about Cal/OSHA failing to fulfill its legal duty to protect workers. That duty requires it to enforce the law against employers who BREAK THE LAW by putting their employees at risk. Where is your anger at these lawbreakers? This law, and this moral obligation to protect workers, would exist regardless of whether the workers are documented or not. But you are wrong, both legally and morally, when you say that undocumented workers have no rights. They have the right to minimum wage, overtime, workers' compensation, and a safe and healthy workplace, among others. If they did not have these rights, employers would have even more incentive to employ people that they could exploit.
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." Abraham Lincoln

Back in my day, posters reminded college students of the perils farm workers faced. One in particular, "There's blood on those grapes" was popular during the UFW grape boycott. Sadly, we sill have blood on those crops we consume.

I was a farm worker during weekends and summers as a college student in Fresno. I know first-hand the demeaning conditions endured by these workers. I for one appreciate the ALCU and the UFW working to keep workers safer.

PS, Sophia, re-read your US Constitution--all are protected, without regard to citizenship.


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