SACRAMENTO — Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Latino Legislative Caucus Chair Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) called on Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the Nation’s first legislative package to protect agriculture workers against the coronavirus, known as the California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package, Wednesday, September 16. Assemblymembers Rivas and Garcia first announced the package in April, soon after the pandemic hit, and its three principal bills passed out of the Legislature at the end of August with broad support, according to the press release. The legislators were joined by farmworker advocates, Pete Maturino of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 and Irene de Barraicua of Lideres Campesinas.
“This package of bills has been a true bipartisan and collaborative effort,” Assemblymember Rivas said. “We have worked with Republicans, Democrats, growers, farmworkers, advocates, state agencies, and industry representatives. Together, we have crafted prudent — and what we believe to be life-saving — legislation that can truly make a difference in people’s lives now.”
According to a recent study, agriculture workers in Monterey County are three times more likely to contract the coronavirus than those in the general population, and Latinos in the County account for 93 percent of COVID-19 cases, while representing 61 percent of the population.
“The 700,000 farmworkers in California are in jobs that were risky before the pandemic and are now facing unbearable, life-threatening risks to put food on our tables,” said Pete Maturino, Agricultural Division director, UFCW Local 5. “UFCW is proud to support AB 2043, the marquee bill of the Relief Package, because it is essential that California's farmworkers have access to the information needed to protect themselves, their coworkers, and their families.”
AB 2043 has also been endorsed as a priority bill by the Latino Legislative Caucus.
The governor has until September 30 to sign or veto the legislation. Governor Newsom has already enacted several policies initially proposed as part of the California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package, including expanded sick leave, temporary housing for sick or at risk agricultural workers, and prioritization for and expanded access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“I am grateful that Governor Newsom has already advanced many important protections for agricultural workers, who are among the most vulnerable for exposure to COVID-19,” Assemblymember Rivas said. “But our job is not done until farmworkers are guaranteed the comprehensive relief provided by the California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package. The time for action on these bills is now, and I hope the governor will act quickly to sign them into law.”
California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package
AB 2043: Agricultural Workplace Health and Safety (R. Rivas, E. Garcia, L. Gonzalez) – awaiting governor’s signature
— Ensures enforcement by Cal/OSHA of its COVID-19 guidance, funds a targeted bilingual outreach campaign to educate agricultural workers on Cal/OSHA guidance, as well as COVID-19-related paid sick leave and workers compensation benefits, and directs Cal/OSHA to track and report workplace investigations related to the agricultural industry
AB 2164: Telehealth for Rural and Community Health Centers Act (R. Rivas, Salas) – awaiting governor’s signature
— Expands telehealth services for rural and community health centers, to the benefit of farmworker and other marginalized groups that have difficulty accessing medical care
AB 2165: E-Filing and Rural Access to Justice Act (R. Rivas) – awaiting governor’s signature
— Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to courthouses is a problem in many farmworker and other rural communities
Request for Temporary COVID-19 Housing for Agricultural Workers (R. Rivas) – governor acted
— After formal requests in March and April, followed by a $25 million budget request in May, to expand the Administration’s Project Roomkey and Homekey programs, Governor Newsom announced the Housing for the Harvest Program in July to provide safe, temporary isolation spaces for sick or at risk agricultural workers
Request for Prioritization of Agricultural Workers for PPE and COVID-19 Testing (R. Rivas) – governor acted
— After formal requests in March and April, Governor Newsom announced in May that his administration would be ramping-up testing availability for rural and other under-served communities and again in July that both testing and PPE access would be improved for agricultural workers
For more information on the California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package, visit: https://a30.asmdc.org/farmworker-relief-package