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United Farm Workers Statement on Today’s Updated Washington Labor and Industry Rules

We thank Governor Inslee for his leadership in making these protections happen, and for taking decisive steps towards correcting the deficiencies in previous rules. Over the course of this evolving pandemic, we’ve remained in close contact with many of the women and men employed within the Washington agricultural industry to ensure these changes address their most urgent needs.

Nobody understands the risks to farm workers more than farm workers themselves. UFW views this as an example of worker-driven progress. Throughout this revision process, UFW continued to meet frequently with worker leaders across the state to understand their priorities and address their most urgent concerns. Talking with farm workers will always be more effective than talking for them.

When industry, regulatory and worker voices collaborate, we all have the best opportunity to protect workers, protect public health, and protect our domestic food supply.

Some of the key gains that worker leaders want to highlight in today’s rules:

-Provision of PPE, at no cost to workers, including clean PPE provided on a daily basis.

-Employers’ responsibility to educate workers on their compensation rights, and how to obtain medical leave, paid sick leave and/or workers comp. Employers must also educate workers on their rights to file a complaint and how to contact L&I confidentially.

Handwashing provisions including proximity which improves access to adequate hygiene to minimize contagions.

Comprehensive protections in transportation to holistically minimize risk from housing to worksite and back, including transportation to meet worker grocery, financial and other personal needs.

RULES ISSUED TODAY: [See following page for extended comments]: LINK WHEN AVAILABLE

Expanded comments on rule changes:

OTHER GAINS:

-These requirements prevail over all previous rules and guidelines if there are contradictions. 

Clean PPE must be provided daily. Previous rules only stated a cloth mask must be provided with no guidelines beyond one cloth mask. (Nothing for cleanliness or frequency.)

-Specifies packing sheds must comply with these rules. These rules specifically reflect ongoing work to improve conditions for workers in packing sheds, not just workers in the fields and dairies. 

-When strict physical distancing isn’t possible, other methods (PPE, physical barriers) are required. Packing sheds specifically included.

-Includes transportation in requirements. All transportation- including transporting workers to the grocery store/bank etc. (This is an important gain.)

-Weekly training. Required educational materials includes weekly training on refreshed topics including workers rights to workers comp, medical leave, paid sick leave and must include how workers can file for these compensations.

-Daily screening of worker temperatures, and verbal symptom screening for workers and their families.

-Employers’ responsibilities to provide quarantine and report positive COVID tests and coworkers exposure.

-Housing plan must include best practices such as internet access and grocery delivery to minimize worker interaction with those outside their housing group.

-Tools and equipment cannot be shared without sanitizing between workers.

-Group housing with holistic ‘pod’ mentality. Workers in a group shelter (up to 15 persons) must also work/transit only with each other, to prevent mass exposure between shelter groups.