Joined by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Rivas calls for urgent action to protect farmworkers and avoid disruptions in food supply
SALINAS, April 9, 2020 - With California farms facing labor shortages, grocers experiencing empty shelves because of logistical bottlenecks, and many of the state's up to one million farmworkers lacking access to health care, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) today introduced legislation to protect the health, safety, and economic security of agricultural workers and prevent disruptions to the nation’s food supply.
The five-bill "California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package" proposes to expand paid sick leave for farmworkers, provide supplemental hazard pay, extend a tax credit to farmers who offer overtime work to their workers, fund an outreach campaign to educate workers on personal protection practices, and help expedite temporary housing to mitigate overcrowding and allow for social distancing. The bills were conceived following consultation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture as well as members of the agricultural industry and farmworker community.
“California’s farmworkers play a critical role in our state’s $50 billion agriculture industry, and in our nation’s food supply,” said Rivas, who grew up in farmworker housing. “Governor Newsom has rightly designated agricultural workers as an essential infrastructure workforce. But as we ask our farmworkers to continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take action to protect their health, safety, and economic security. Protecting farmworkers is not just our moral duty, it is also critical for preventing disruptions to our food supply.”
Agriculture and farm workers currently face unprecedented demand for food products as residents of California and elsewhere stock their pantries to ensure they can “shelter in place.” Yet even as they work to meet this demand, farmworkers often lack access to adequate healthcare, and they live and work in crowded conditions that can leave them vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
“Protecting our farmworkers is especially important as they step up to the plate, placing themselves at risk, to feed our families and keep our food supply intact during this challenging time,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella).
Assemblymembers Robert Rivas and Eduardo Garcia represent agricultural districts, home to tens of thousands of farmworkers in the Salinas and Coachella Valleys.
“My grandfather was a farmworker, and I saw how tirelessly he worked under difficult conditions," said Rivas. "Farmworkers are the unsung heroes who help keep our country fed. I feel a personal responsibility to make sure we take care of them, just like they take care of us.”
The California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package
AB 2915: Farmworker COVID-19 Health and Safety Act (to be amended)
-- Expands paid sick leave for farmworkers from 3 days to 2 weeks
-- Provides for supplemental hazard pay, to compensate farmworkers for increased health and child care costs
-- Directs subsidies to county, employer, and private child care providers, who provide care to farmworker children
-- Codifies comprehensive Cal/OSHA guidance on how agricultural businesses should protect and train agricultural workers vis-a-vis COVID-19, including by providing them face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE)
-- Funds an outreach campaign of public service announcements and workplace signs, in both English and Spanish, to educate farmworkers on the Cal/OSHA guidance
-- Provides temporary housing for agricultural workers, to mitigate overcrowding and allow for appropriate social distancing
-- Authorizes a comprehensive survey of farmworker housing conditions, including labor camps and H-2A housing, resulting in statewide recommendations to ensure the health and safety of farmworkers
AB 2956: Agriculture Labor Shortage and Overtime Act
-- Provides an agricultural overtime tax credit, to mitigate the industry labor shortage by subsidizing the cost of businesses paying overtime to existing workers
AB 2164: Telehealth and e-Consult Services Act
-- Deploys telehealth and e-consult services for rural and community hospitals
AB 3155: Moderate Income Housing Act
-- Streamlines the approval process for smaller unit housing developments, to benefit farm workers as well as other lower income residents
AB 2165: Access to Justice and Electronic Court Filings Act
-- Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to courthouses is a serious problem in many farmworker communities