(KTXL) – California wildfire smoke is causing problems for the state’s 800,000 farmworkers.
While millions of people have been able to work from home during the pandemic, that hasn’t been an option for those who work outside in the fields.
California consistently ranks No. 1 in the nation for agricultural receipts which, according to the latest figures, totals to $50 billion per year.
To protect the workers responsible for those revenues, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 73 with 78 votes to zero on June 1.
Later this week, the measure will be heard in the state Senate.
If passed, the bill would ensure farmworkers have access to California’s stockpile of N95 masks during a wildfire outbreak and would require Cal/OSHA to provide them with wildfire safety information in Spanish, English and via pictograms.
According to a co-author of the bill, Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, the effort is one of the things that can be done for those who grow more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts under very trying conditions.
“They’re trapped in a cycle of poverty here in California,” Rivas explained. “They suffer from higher rates of chronic illness. Their housing is deplorable.”
“They’re out there putting food on our tables,” said state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, and chairwoman for the Latino Legislative Caucus. “They’re not just another step in the supply chain of food that gets to our tables. They are human beings that need us to do the most we can to protect them.”
The bill is up for consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.