North Bay Jobs With Justice is a growing coalition of 32 labor and community organizations working on economic, racial and climate justice. The group is circulating a public call to enhance protections for farmworkers ahead of late summer harvests and the looming threat of wildfire.
"People are working in smoke, in unhealthy air, near fires, in evacuation zones in extreme heat," Executive Director Max Bell Alper said. "They are working in difficult situations and don’t feel that they are being properly compensated, so farm workers are asking to be respected and compensated fairly for the risks they are taking."
Alper says the petition, based on a hundred surveys of farmworkers' experiences in Sonoma County, lays out five categories of concern, including hazard pay, which various essential workers received throughout the pandemic.
"Farmworkers have been working the entire time during the pandemic and have not received any kind of hazard pay at all," Alper said. "And this should be a big concern for all of us."
The petition also calls for having information in Spanish and indigenous languages, disaster insurance for when farmworkers lose work during wildfires, and training of observers to monitor the safety and needs of workers to supplement CAL OSHA inspections. And clean bathrooms and water, a need many women emphasized in the surveys.
"We hope the county will see that these recommendations that come directly from farm workers should be the criteria if employers are going to take workers into the evacuation zone," Alper said. "If it’s that important to harvest these grapes, then we should really make sure the people that are doing that work are safe and respected."