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Thursday, September 15, 2011

California's Farmworker Protection Laws Aren't Being Enforced

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 8:38 AM

Not pictured: heat stroke.
  • Not pictured: heat stroke.

Yesterday, the LA Times ran a great piece checking up on how strongly the state was enforcing six-year-old regulations requiring farms to provide shade, water, and rest periods for their workers so they don't die of heat exposure. The answer: not well.

While many farms do erect moveable shade canopies, not surprisingly, many farm workers don't know of their rights, and cash-strapped agencies aren't investigating reports of abuses within the quick timeframe required to catch offenders.

Earlier this week, Ruth Reichl told Inside Scoop that she thinks the next big food issue will be "social justice for [farm] workers." But this isn't necessarily a social-justice issue. Laborers like the ones who furtively talked to the Times reporter may fear for their jobs if they complain, but with illegal immigration from Mexico plummeting, many states are hurting for farm workers. If farms don't protect the workers they have, they might some day find themselves without enough workers to protect.

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