Governor signs farmworker relief bills

Legislation co-authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas

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ESSENTIAL WORKERS Farmworkers in San Benito County and beyond have continued to work in the fields since the pandemic started, increasing their risk of exposure and illness, according to public officials.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 28 signed Assembly Bills 2043 and 2165, two pieces of the California Farmworker Covid-19 Relief Package, the nation’s first legislative package containing Covid-19 protections for agricultural workers.

Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) authored the package. Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) was also a lead author of AB 2043.

AB 2043, Agricultural Workplace Health and Safety, ensures enforcement by California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) of its Covid-19 guidance, and funds a bilingual outreach campaign to educate agricultural workers on such guidance as well as Covid-19-related paid sick leave and workers compensation benefits. It also directs Cal/OSHA to track and report workplace investigations related to the industry.

AB 2165, Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety, expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, as access to courthouses is a problem in many farmworker and other rural communities.

The relief package garnered broad and bipartisan support as it passed the Legislature in August.

“This is a major victory for California’s most vulnerable essential workers—farmworkers,” Rivas said. “I am grateful to the Governor for his signature on AB 2043 and AB 2165, which will help protect agricultural communities against the spread of Covid-19 and ensure workers have access to critical workplace safety information and essential state services during this pandemic.”

A study from UCLA shows Latino deaths have quintupled since May because of their status as “unsung essential workers,” such as agricultural workers.

Garcia thanked Newsom and Rivas for responding to the call for increased farmworker protections.

“Our agricultural farmworker communities have been standing on the frontlines, making extraordinary sacrifices to keep us fed throughout this pandemic,” Garcia said. “I commend Assemblymember Rivas for leading the charge on these critical issues, and we remain committed to ensuring equity for rural regions across our state now and beyond this public health crisis.”

AB 2043 will go into effect immediately, while AB 2165 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

“California’s farmworkers have been a lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic and risked their lives daily to make sure we could put food on the table,” said Pete Maturino, Agricultural Division Director, UFCW Local 5. “UFCW members are proud to have supported AB 2043 to provide our farmworkers with the access to the information they need to protect themselves, their coworkers and their families from infection.”For information about the California Covid-19 Farmworker Relief Package, visit a30.asmdc.org/farmworker-relief-package.

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