March forward with farm workers in 2015

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Legislation is going to be key in 2015. The political environment is changing fast and you can be with farm workers on the front line as they fight for their rights. 2015 has just begun and already the growers have fired their first shot. In Washington State, growers are trying to outlaw our efforts to share with you the unjust working conditions and animal abuses reported at Darigold dairies and other lawbreakers. House Bill 1104 would prohibit workers, media and reformers from taking photos and videos at Washington farms and to publicize those working conditions. We plan to do everything we can to fight this terrible bill because if it passes, taking photos and videos would become a criminal act. Workers and organizations like the UFW could be fined thousands of dollars for taking pictures like those we shared with you last year concerning the horrific mistreatment of cows at Darigold member dairies.

Things are also breaking on the pesticide front. The UFW continues to promote protection from harmful pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos and chloropicrin. Just this month, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) issued disappointing new “recommended” restrictions on the use of chloropicrin. Their “recommendations” would allow Californians to be exposed to a cancer-causing pesticide at a level 25 times higher than their own scientists recommended.

In addition, last fall, after more than ten years of review, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation finally released proposed new guidelines on use of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. But the new “restricted use” guidelines will be entirely voluntary and don’t do enough to protect children. Fortunately, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is just now also looking at restricting its use to protect both workers and drinking water, although the EPA is not acknowledging the risk to children. We’ll keep fighting for worker and consumer safety on these pesticides and others.

That’s not all we have to work on. This year, the UFW intends to win improvements in the ALRB. For 30 years the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board has been in shambles. Numerous cases stayed on the books without resolution literally for decades. Without enforcement of the law, farm workers have suffered tremendously through lost wages, unjust firings, and a devastating loss of faith in the law. 

We also will continue to defend President Obama’s executive order offering millions of immigrants, including at least 250,000 farm workers, relief from deportation. But there is still more to be done. We urgently need a new immigration policy. Farm workers, who play a crucial role in our nation’s economy and in feeding our nation, are still too often vulnerable to abuses because of their immigration status.

With your help we did so much in 2014. We were instrumental in passing legislation to protect farm workers from sexual harassment; ensure they get paid for heat recovery periods; entitle them to paid sick leave; expand their opportunities for health insurance coverage; and hold companies accountable for wages and benefits paid to workers even when they are supplied by labor contractors.

We can do even more in 2015. Please continue to stand with farm workers at the forefront of their struggle. Your gift of any amount could make all the difference.