Group asks wineries to provide farmworkers with PPE

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LODI, Calif. (KTXL) — A coalition of San Joaquin County leaders is asking wine grape growers to help protect farmworkers from COVID-19.

“They’re essential workers and that churches, organizations, and just the public in general, we want them safe,” St. Paul Lutheran Church Rev. Nelson Rabell said.

“Soap to wash their hands, to have masks, and to take their temperature of the workers every day,” community organizer Luis Magana said.

Organizers have detailed what they call a humble request in a letter signed by more than 30 organizations, individuals and businesses. They told FOX40 about a dozen workers have confided in them about the lack of soap and disinfectant out in the fields.

“They are not cleaning the toilets, they are not cleaning the places, and that’s our concern,” Magana said.

California Association of Winegrape Growers President John Aguirre said the growers he represents work tirelessly to ensure California Division of Occupational Safety and Health guidelines and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations are followed.

“Water is provided, shade is provided, training on injury and illness prevention programs,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said most of the rules have been set in place long before the pandemic to ensure a clean and safe operation.

“Agriculture is very dependent upon working on a hygienic environment,” he said.

Organizers said the measures they are asking for are guidelines to ensure the success and safety of everyone involved.

“We want the wine industry to thrive but we also want our workers to be safe,” Rabell said.

Organizers said protecting farmworkers at wineries is essential because many of them also work with other crops — the food that we end up seeing on our dinner tables.

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