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United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

As California Temperatures Soar, UFW urges passage of the Preventing Farm Worker Climate Change Heat Injury, Illness or Death Act (SB 1299)

Sacramento, CA – As temperatures across California reach consecutive days of triple digits, UFW President Teresa Romero released the following statement urging swift passage of SB 1299, the Preventing Farm Worker Climate Change Heat Injury, Illness or Death Act of 2024, authored by Senator Dave Cortese and co-authored by Speaker Robert Rivas, in the California State Legislature. Recently, UFW President Teresa Romero also testified before the California State Assembly in support of the SB 1299.

“Too many farm workers are working during these dangerous temperatures without access to the water, shade, and rest that California nominally guarantees farm workers under its existing outdoor heat safety regulations,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “These existing regulations save lives – but only if they are truly complied with. As temperatures continue to rise, California should adopt Senator Cortese and Speaker Rivas’s innovative approach to compliance with the existing outdoor heat illness regulation, which has already received extraordinary support in the Legislature. SB 1299 affirms California’s leadership role in addressing the impacts of climate change.”

According to a recent UC Merced Study, nearly 50% of farm workers report experiencing agricultural workplaces not in compliance with California’s outdoor heat safety regulations requiring access to shade, water, and rest during dangerous temperatures. The 2022 UC Merced “Farmworker Health Study” funded by the California Department of Public Health found that 43% of employers “never” provided a heat illness prevention plan, 15% “never” provided shade, and 22% of employers “never’ monitored their workforce for heat illness. SB1299 does not create any new heat regulations or requirements for employers, but encourages employer compliance by requiring employers to prove compliance with existing requirements in the event of a workplace death or injury during dangerously high temperatures.

“No employer already in compliance with existing outdoor heat safety regulations has any grounds for concern,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “Meanwhile, thousands of California farm workers have every reason for concern as they go to work in unsafe and dangerous working conditions that are in violation of California’s existing outdoor heat safety regulations. If this bill can save even one farm worker life, then it deserves all of our urgent efforts to pass into law.”

“SB 1299 will unequivocally save people’s lives,” said SB 1299 lead author Senator Dave Cortese. “It reflects our commitment to ensuring safer and fairer working conditions for the people who form the backbone of our agricultural industry. If you’ve felt the heat at all this month, you know why we’re doing this.”