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The Humane Treatment of Farm Workers Act

The problem we have is something Nancy Pelosi said: "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it."

Sep 14, 2012

  

A bill passed by the California Legislature sits on Governor Jerry Brown's desk awaiting his signature. It's called the Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act (AB 2676). AB 2676 requires that farm workers must be given “continuous, ready access” to shade and enough “suitably cool” water for each employee to drink one quart per hour throughout their eight- to 10-hour work shift. That sounds fair enough. No problem. Employers would be guilty of a misdemeanor subject to a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000, increasing to one year in jail and a $25,000 fine if the worker-victim suffers injury.

The problem we have is something Nancy Pelosi said: "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it." Of course, she was referring to ObamaCare when she said it, but it's true of a lot of legislation. A law is passed and it goes to the regulatory agency and they kind of fill in the blanks. What would the blanks be? One quart per hour sounds like a good precise definition, but what exactley is "suitably cool" and who will determine if someone gets fined if it's not cool enough. Employers would be guilty of a misdemeanor subject to a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000, increasing to one year in jail and a $25,000 fine if the worker-victim suffers injury.

What does it mean to provide "continuous, ready access" to shade? Who will determine how much shade and where it will be? Some bureaucrat somewhere will fill in these blanks. And some farmer could be fined $10,000 or $25,000 or spend up to a year in jail.

In our June 18 Newsletter we wrote: "According to this article there are over 400 heat related deaths in the U.S. every year. So, one (1) in all of California agriculture over the past three years doesn't appear to be where the problem lies. The article points out that most heat-related deaths are in athletic/sports activity and that children are more susceptible than are adults. Nothing in this article about heat related deaths in the U.S. mentions farm workers. Why not roofers? Why not road repair? Why not city tree trimmers? Why not letter carriers? How about cooks? Sorry we brought it up. They'll probably be next."

So, we wait to see if the Governor signs AB 2676, and we now know that we have to "pass the bill so you can find out what is in it."

  

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