SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2043 and AB 2165, two key pieces of the California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package by Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) was also a lead author of AB 2043. It is the Nation’s first legislative package to protect agricultural workers against the coronavirus and garnered broad and bipartisan support as it passed the Legislature in August, according to the press release.
“This is a major victory for California’s most vulnerable essential workers — farmworkers,” said Rivas. “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. I am proud to have worked with such a broad coalition of supporters to make this a reality. We brought everyone to the table, including Republicans, Democrats, growers, farmworkers, advocates, state agencies, and industry representatives to craft this prudent package of legislation, which will save lives.”
According to recent studies, agricultural 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 only representing 61 percent of the population, according to the release. Similarly, a study from UCLA shows Latino deaths have quintupled since May because of their status as “unsung essential workers,” such as agricultural workers.
“Thank you, Governor Newsom, for responding to our call for increased farmworker protections,” said Garcia, coauthor of the package. “Our agricultural farmworker communities have been standing on the frontlines, making extraordinary sacrifices to keep us fed throughout this pandemic. 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, the marquee bill of the package, will go into effect immediately, while AB 2165 will go into effect January 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.”