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Assembly Passes Farm Worker Safety Act

The ag industry may soon see some changes, now that the Farmworker Safety Act was approved by the state Assembly yesterday afternoon. 

AB 2346 is intended to fight heat illness by requiring water and shade be made available within 200 feet of farm workers, as well as holding employers liable for deaths that occur while working and fining them up to one million dollars for unsafe working conditions. Author of the bill, Congresswoman Betsy Butler, says this policy is a long time coming since deaths continue to occur under current policies of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or OSHA.

"We know that people know that this is happening and it's not right. Young people, and particularly, in the case of Maria Isabela, should not be giving their lives for us to be able to eat. This is the only country and the only state where you still literally can be worked to death."

However, not everyone in California is pleased that the bill was approved by the Assembly. On the contrary, Bryan Little of the California Farm Bureau says OSHA already enforces many of the bill's policies, and some of them will simply be hard to implement.

"If you have to have shade for 100 percent of your crew, which is one of the requirement's of this bill, and you have a crew of 200 people, where are you going to farm? If you have to have shade structures up to accommodate that many people? A lot of the things in that bill don't make any sense, and as a result, I don't think it can be fixed."

The state Assembly passed the bill with a 41 to 27 vote and will go through another debate in the state Senate.

Gabriela Ornelas is a news intern with Valley Public Radio.
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