AB 73 Will Ensure Farmworkers’ Access to PPE, Training Materials
SACRAMENTO - Asm. Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) joined members of the Legislature, advocates, and community leaders to urge the Legislature’s passage of Assembly Bill 73, the Farmworker Wildfire Smoke Protections Act. As California faces another dangerous wildfire season, this legislation will better equip both agricultural employers and workers with tools and resources to reduce the harm caused by the hazardous conditions associated with wildfire smoke. AB 73 faces a critical vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, followed soon thereafter by final votes in the Senate and Assembly before heading to the Governor’s desk.
“We must act now to make sure the wildfires ravaging our state don’t have devastating effects on the health of our farmworkers,” said Asm. Rivas. “Whether the air is clear or filled with smoke, farmworkers must keep working—their jobs and our food supply depend on it. They put their life on the line to feed the nation, and now it is our job in the Legislature to protect them. That is why we must secure a dedicated supply of personal protective equipment and N95 masks and provide adequate wildfire safety training.”
Prolonged exposure to wildfire smoke has been linked to increased rates of chronic heart and respiratory diseases. Without adequate protective equipment, outdoor workers such as farmworkers risk lifelong health complications.
Specifically, AB 73 does two things:
- Ensures the state’s stockpile of N95 masks will be available to farmworkers during a wildfire outbreak;
- Requires Cal/OSHA to develop and distribute information on wildfire safety to agricultural employees in Spanish and English and via pictograms.
“Between heatwaves, wildfires, and a global pandemic, every day California's farmworkers sacrifice their health and safety to keep food on the table for American families,” said Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. “During the ever-intensifying fire season, these farmworkers cannot move their jobs inside and can't put their work off until the fires are contained. As a result, they are on the front lines doing backbreaking work while exposed to toxic smoke and ash. While we've made initial strides to protect this vulnerable workforce, we need to push even further with bills like AB 73 that will give farmworkers more access to the health and safety protections that they need and deserve as essential frontline workers.”
“In the thick of wildfire season and a deadly COVID-19 variant, we have to advocate for our agricultural workers who, as essential workers, put their lives at risk every day,” said Asm. Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), joint author of the bill. “AB 73 will meaningfully protect the health of workers who sustain our state’s economy, feed all of us, and work long hours in debilitating conditions.”
“Many of us are privileged to work in air-conditioned offices, safe from the natural elements. Farmworkers do not have that privilege,” said Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), principal co-author of the bill. “They show up to the fields every day to provide fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables to the state, the nation, and the world during wildfire season - even when it is a threat to their health and wellbeing. Providing farmworkers with PPE and wildfire safety education and protection is simply the right thing to do and is long overdue.”
"Our farmworkers continue to face double jeopardy, working to keep our families fed and food supply chain intact amid wildfires and a global pandemic. We cannot allow these essential workers to risk their lives without equipping them with the resources to shield themselves from smoke inhalation,” said Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), joint author of the bill. “Together with Assemblymember Robert Rivas, we remain committed to improving conditions and strengthening health protections for California farmworker communities.”
AB 73 is a legislative priority for the California Latino Legislative Caucus and has received widespread, bipartisan support from the Legislature and stakeholders. Additional co-authors of the bill include Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), and Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa). Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is an additional joint author.
For more information on this bill, visit asmdc.org/rrivas.
Below are links to audio, photos and video from today’s news conference:
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) represents California’s 30th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities and towns of Aromas, Big Sur, Chualar, Gilroy, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, King City, Morgan Hill, Salinas, San Martin, San Juan Bautista, Soledad, Spreckels, and Watsonville.