Washington, D.C., Feb. 05, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Washington, D.C.— Former United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez urged the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to enact legislation protecting farm workers from dying or becoming ill from extreme heat. It is similar to first-in-the-nation heat rules the UFW pushed through that has saved the lives of countless California farm workers and prevented heat illness among many more. The UFW, working with U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.)—then a California state legislator— convinced Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue the first comprehensive standards in the nation protecting California farm and other outdoor workers from the heat. The union worked with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to strengthen the rules and their enforcement in 2015. The rest of the nation has yet to find a solution to excessive heat that plagues field workers and other outside laborers. Rodriguez testified at the hearing on behalf of farm workers who are at the frontlines of heat illness. He was accompanied by Pablo Martinez, a UFW Foundation member and former farm worker who labored in the fields of Monterey County for 16 years alongside his parents, harvesting and cultivating grapes, lettuce, strawberries, broccoli, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Having toiled in California fields both before and after the heat standards existed, Martinez has personal understanding of the impact on farm workers of legislation aimed at preventing workplace fatalities. "When I was laboring with no heat standards in California around 2003 or 2004, farm workers were dying because supervisors were not equipped with training to prevent heat illness with things like water, shade, and learning how to recognize the symptoms," said Martinez. "Heat preventative standards should not only exist in California but rather be implemented through all the United States. We want to work but we deserve being treated right. I'd like people to image not only standing in extreme heat but also not having basic shade and water and clean restrooms. These are all basic standards but workers die when they're not implemented."

Leydy Rangel
UFW Foundation