California Farmworkers Launch Bill of Rights

February 11, 2016 -- Partnership for Working Families

Farmworkers in two of America’s most productive agricultural counties are taking a step toward greater rights and protections on the job, thanks to Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and its campaign for a Farmworkers’ Bill of Rights. Last week, that campaign launched with events in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The campaign is being led by a coalition of local organizations representing farmworkers, including CAUSE, the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project, Lideres Campesinas and the United Farm Workers. Over 80 organizations, elected officials, and businesses have signed on in support.

The campaign launch follows the release of new research by CAUSE. After conducting more than 600 in-person interviews with farmworkers, the group confirmed the presence of extreme challenges faced by farmworkers and their communities, including wage theft, extreme overwork, toxic pesticide exposure, worker injuries and inadequate safety, rest and facilities on the job.  

The proposed Farmworkers’ Bill of Rights would bring new policies and programs to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to change these conditions, including strengthening enforcement of wage requirements, protecting workers’ ability to take real rest breaks and ensuring workers have access to clean bathrooms in the field. The bill would create new programs to reduce the use of toxic pesticides, which threaten workers and surrounding communities. The counties would also provide grant funding to local service organizations to conduct health and safety education with farmworkers on issues ranging from pesticide exposure and heat illness to injuries on the job. In particular, the bill focuses on some of the challenges faced by women farmworkers and would provide a new ability to take leave during pregnancy to avoid reproductive health harms from pesticide exposure as well as strengthening programs to stop sexual assault.