After carefully monitoring developments over coronavirus COVID-19, the United Farm Workers has sent an open letter to all agricultural employers and organizations urging them to take “proactive steps to ensure the safety of farm workers, protect buyers and safeguard consumers.” Those steps include extending “state-required sick pay to 40 hours or more,” removing “caps on accruing sick pay,” ending the 90-day wait period many employers require before workers can claim sick time and ceasing to ask them for letters from doctors when field laborers use sick leave.
“By joining together we can better combat and mitigate this crisis that the experts predict will only worsen,” states a joint letter from UFW President Teresa Romero and union Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes. “Agricultural employers have a duty to help all farm workers feel confident as they address their own health needs as well as those of immediate family members.”
The UFW has already “started with our own house,” according to the letter, by “individually contacting each unionized employer with urgent appeals to take these steps. We ask [non-union employers] to do the same.” Most non-union farm workers do not have health coverage.
The UFW continues “monitoring breaking developments” as well as “all guidelines” issued by local, state, national and international agencies. In order “to ensure all workers are provided training and written information on best practices to keep them healthy during this time,” the union asks employers to implement common-sense steps, from regular proper hand washing to “cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces multiple times daily.”
A just completed UFW poll of farm workers on its popular Spanish-language social media platforms showed more than 90 percent had not been advised by their employers on best practices to resist the virus or been provided any information at all.
The full text of the UFW’s open letter to the agricultural industry is available here.