CALIFORNIA FARM LABOR CONTRACTOR ASSOCIATION
"Providing Jobs That Feed The World"
Things are always changing in agriculture. This page should help answer some of your questions. E-mail us here if you have questions (that may be added to this page).
HEAT ILLNESS PREVENTION – SHADE, ETC.:
Warm and even HOT weather is here, and Section 3395 of Cal OSHA regulations requires employers to have shade present when temperatures exceed 80 degrees in sufficient amount for all workers on recovery, rest or meal periods. But with social distancing of six feet between workers recommended, this becomes much more shade than before. Cal OSHA has established guidelines for employers to address COVID-19 prevention as part of their IIPP implementation. Their guidelines include this language:
Agricultural employers should use the following physical distancing measures to stop or slow down the spread of COVID-19:
· Physical distancing should be practiced, whether outdoors, in vehicles, or in structures.
· Stagger break and lunch times.
· Provide additional seating and shade structures to allow employees to take breaks while staying at least six feet apart.
The critical words here are should, not ‘shall’, or ‘must’. Shade for 100% of crews, and staggering breaks, and adding more shade is not always possible or even safe. However, employers should use and implement whatever practices possible, including additional pop-up shade structures where possible.
Also, please continue to implement all aspects of your Heat Illness Prevention Program as possible, especially documented worker training, provision of ample amounts of readily accessible drinking water, emergency response procedures, and your high heat procedures if you’ll continue working in temperatures of 95 degrees or higher. Plenty of info at the Cal OSHA Heat Illness Prevention page.
RESPIRATORY PROTECTION – N-95s – Re-Use Procedures?
An interesting piece from UC ANR – it includes, “Before the pandemic, 10% of N95 respirators from 3M went to health care, but that number is now 90%...” and “Carl Atwell, president of Gempler's, an online distributor of worker supplies…. estimated disposable respirators will become available in the fall and other PPE supplies in August.” With many agricultural operations now preparing for, or engaged in pesticide application season, these shortages are now hitting home.
There is information available that I believe also apply to and provides some relief to Ag employers – the CDC has guidelines for decontamination and re-use of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), such as N-95s. These guidelines include:
“One strategy to mitigate the contact transfer of pathogens from the FFR to the wearer during reuse is to issue five respirators to each healthcare worker who may care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The healthcare worker will wear one respirator each day and store it in a breathable paper bag at the end of each shift. The order of FFR use should be repeated with a minimum of five days between each FFR use.”
So, if you have a few N-95s for each worker, and paper bags for each, and document on them the days in between use, and name of the user, you can likely stretch your supplies for a while.
Also, please closely read the PPE requirements on each pesticide label. Very few pesticides require the use of any kind of respiratory protection, including N-95s. I see them commonly used where it makes no sense, such as with many herbicide applications. READ YOUR LABELS!
WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE:
Over the prior weekend of April 17th, CFLCA was informed by our partners at Zenith Insurance, that Governor Newsom has been considering issuing an executive order to change the workers comp insurance rules to allow COVID-19 workers compensation claims for all essential workers. Such claims would not even need to have a positive test result to verify the worker is ill from C-19, nor that the illness was caused by the work environment. CFLCA members have joined many other ag and other industry associations in a campaign to reach out to the Governor’s office to voice our concerns about the drastic impacts such a change would create. We’re hopeful this campaign was effective, as of Thursday, April 23, no such executive order has been announced.
There have been more than a few news stories portraying farm workers as victims during this COVID-19 pandemic, with FLCs and growers depicted as uncaring exploiters of labor. It pains me to think that any agricultural employer in California or elsewhere would not take needed extraordinary steps to protect their workers. From what I’ve heard from our members, the opposite of what these stories depict is closer to the truth.
Among some of the ways FLCs are taking care of their workers:
I’m sure there are many, many more stories of how FLCs are going the extra mile to show his/her appreciation for their essential workers. Most of these employers note that their workers are overall very happy to have a job and a paycheck. These workers understand the predicament of many immigrant workers in the food services, hotel, and domestic services and other non-essential industries who find themselves out of work.
At CFLCA we’re also going into fundraising mode for our annual Farmworker Scholarship Fund. This is one of the many ways we help represent the industry and our people who find ways to give back to these hardworking farmworker families. We have helped raise and distribute over $160K in scholarship funds over the past four years. And the need continues. Please go to our Scholarship page found under Programs on our website. It’s another good thing you can do to show appreciation for our workers.
Today, I was informed that Assemblyman Robert Rivas had introduced a new set of bills to supposedly protect farmworkers from the impacts of COVID-19. See his website announcement at: https://a30.asmdc.org/press-releases/20200409-assemblymember-rivas-introduces-california-farmworker-covid-19-relief and also Modesto Bee Article at:
I was asked by a media person for a comment on this legislation, and here was my response:
We recognize and value the essential work provided by California farmworkers. They are a major factor in keeping fresh fruits and vegetables in our markets. We also value the incredible sacrifices made by our health care providers, and public safety officers in facing real, proven COVID-19 hazards on a daily basis. This includes low-wage workers employed in nursing homes, such as those who walked out of a facility in Riverside County.
Agricultural workers are covered under the FFCRA for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded FMLA. That is on top of the three days of paid sick leave available from the state of California. They are not required to work if they are sick, they are not caring for sick workers. Employers are directed to send any sick workers home to self-quarantine. And the agricultural employers we work with are implementing social distancing, more hand-wash facilities, and more frequent sanitizing of common-touch surfaces, such as bathroom door handles, water spigots, and rest area tables and chairs. California law already gives all workers, including agricultural workers annual increases of one dollar in the minimum wage, which will soon hit $15 per hour. Yes, agricultural work is hard and has its hazards. I did that work as a young person and have first-hand knowledge.
Many workers might need to survive on low wages, such as those nursing home employees, but employers need to remain within their budgets. Some employers pay more than others based on a variety of factors. Likewise, some agricultural work pays better in some areas than in others, based on a variety of factors. Unfortunately, growers and other agricultural employers are not price makers, they are price takers for the commodities they produce and sell. CostCo, WalMart, and other big buyers set the price, and agricultural producers try to find a way to manage their production budgets, which includes the price of labor. That's probably why we don't grow very much asparagus in California any more. CostCos and others can buy it at a lower price and for a longer season from South of the border.
If agricultural producers and employers could get a better price for their product, it would be possible to pass on some profits in the form of raises to farm workers. As it is, we all need to stay within budget to remain sustainable. I'm not sure where Assemblyman Rivas expects the extra money to come from. Will our legislature also provide a rescue package to agricultural employers like the federal CARES Act - PPP to subsidize these extra costs in wages? If there is an employer relief package that comes along with the temporary wage increase for workers, then employers would likely be fine with this. Otherwise, they will find other ways to reward their workers for their loyalty and efforts.
April 6, 2020
Welcome to CFLCA’s newest way for us to keep our members and others in the industry informed. With so much more than usual going on and everybody trying to keep up, we felt that providing more frequent communication via this blog would be helpful to many. This is the inaugural version of our blog – we hope it provides helpful information – if you have things you’d like us to add, or questions, please send them via email to: Lupe@calflca.org
The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing out some of the best, and also some of the worst, and some of the uniformed practices. Our governmental agencies here in California and at the federal level are moving quickly to manage this crisis to minimize economic impacts to workers and businesses while also protecting workers from potentially harmful exposures. It’s been hard to keep up but here are some things to consider:
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT – PRICE GOUGERS: We are all too aware of the shortage of certain types of PPE, in particular the N-95 dust/mist respirators. I have been interviewed and quoted by multiple media sources regarding COVID-19 issues, including the challenges of providing effective PPE to our workers. As a result, I’ve been contacted by three different vendors offering to sell N-95s in bulk quantities and at outrageous prices compared to six weeks ago. I have no problem with anybody making an honest buck or more, but it is illegal in California for companies or individuals to take advantage of an emergency situation such as this to take advantage of consumers – I reported two of the price-gougers to the Attorney General’s office and hung up the phone on the third – learn more and how to report at: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/pricegougingduringdisasters
DO WORKERS, INCLUDING PESTICIDE APPLICATORS NEED N-95s? Confusion these days because of recommendations to cover our faces when out in public. However, covering your face can be accomplished with a bandana or scarf. We want to protect our employees, but generally, most workers don’t need the protection of an N-95 respirator. Even the vast majority of pesticide applications can be performed safely without the need for this level of protection. Unfortunately, many employers and their employees have grown accustomed to freely using N-95s all kinds of pesticide applications. Yes, there is some chemical use that requires such protection such as Gramoxone Inteon Herbicide – Danger Poison category 1, requires use of ‘A dust mist NIOSH-approved respirator with any N, R, P, or HE filter. Yes, and N-95 fits that category.
Many of the more hazardous pesticides have been phased out of use and no longer registered here in the U.S. The pesticide use lists I see these days rarely have a category 1 chemical like Gramoxone – I see mostly category 3 pesticides with the Caution signal word, or Category 2 with the Warning signal word. Few of these indicated in the PPE requirements the need for any kind of respiratory protection – in fact, most indicate applicators and other users must wear long sleeve shirt, long pants, shoes and socks, chemical resistant gloves and eye protection – that’s about it.
We need to reserve the N-95s for our warriors on the front lines, the doctors and nurses who are putting their lives on the line in the war on COVID-19. Our workers can mostly live without them...
FEDERAL PAID SICK & FAMILY LEAVE DOCUMENTATION: We have received inquiries from members about the documentation requirements under the new federal law FFCRA. Unlike California’s more limited paid sick leave requirements, employers, especially those who will request reimbursement or tax credits under CARES Act and PPP, will need to have documentation of the employee leave requests and reasons for such. We have found a great form on the SHRM website which we downloaded, formatted, and translated to Spanish – you can find these forms on our COVID-19 page on this website.
We’ll have more to report to you in the coming days. If you have comments, suggestions, or questions, send them to me at Lupe@calflca.org.
Many thanks for reading, and stay safe
Copyright by California Farm Labor Contractor Association (CFLCA) 1809 S Street, #101-246 Sacramento, CA 95833
Phone 916-389-1246 Fax 916-239-6541
CFLCA is a 501(c)(6) non-profit corporation Tax ID # is 26-4017806