As 2015 comes to a closer, we celebrate major achievements for the United Farm Workers. We are very proud of all we did on a slim budget.
As you know, protecting farm workers from heat has been a key priority for years. This year we finally settled the lawsuit farm workers brought in partnership with the UFW against the state of California. This will ensure better enforcement of farm worker heat standards and more effective inspections by Cal-OSHA. We conducted a campaign all summer long to ensure workers knew about these new protections and to confirm they were being enforced. We are sure our work has saved lives.
In addition, our coalition with strategic partners convinced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to update a 23-year old law to finally provide farm workers and their families with most of the protections from toxic pesticides that industrial workers already enjoy. A month later, thanks to your help, the EPA announced a precedent-setting decision to start the steps to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos from the fields.
Farm workers also won an important change to California state law, clarifying that starting on January 1, 2016, employers must pay piece rate workers for rest periods based on workers’ average piece rate earnings—and not on the minimum wage. Workers are eligible to collect millions of dollars in back pay dating from July 1, 2012.
UFW worker leaders negotiated contracts for thousands of workers in the dairy, wine grape, vegetable and tomato industries, including a contract that creates the highest paid tomato workers in the U.S. We are proud we were able to improve each and every one of the UFW contracts we helped workers renegotiate.
The Gerawan workers’ long-running campaign is steadily moving forward. It’s a hard battle as Gerawan believes it is above the law. In September, a state administrative law judge dismissed a grower-sponsored decertification election citing “the employer’s unlawful support and assistance.” It happened after six months of sworn testimony from 130 witnesses. This clears the way for us to continue our campaign to bring the benefits of a UFW contract to the 5,000-plus grape and treefruit workers there.
Let’s do it all again next year and more! Happy Holidays!
Arturo S. Rodriguez, President
United Farm Workers of America