In the California community of Porterville, the temperature has consistently been hitting triple-digits throughout the scorching heatwave hitting the west. A respite is expected this weekend, when rain comes on Saturday. Even then, it’ll still be 87. Throughout this, farmworkers like Patricia have continued working. "As a daughter of a farmworker, I’m proud of my mother, Patricia,” Paola said in a tweet shared by United Farm Workers (UFW). Her mom, a grape picker, was already facing intense heat even in the morning hours.
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“She works very hard everyday in the hot sun,” Paola said. “She's 59. Here she is this morning packing grapes in 93° temperature.” She said temperatures in Porterville, located in Tulare County, were expected to hit 109 on Wednesday. Carlos and Maritza were seeing even more brutal heat in Richgrove, also located in Tulare County. “It was 112° at 2 pm when Maritza sent us this photo from the grape harvest,” UFW wrote.
“Farmworkers, who are a majority migrant and Spanish-speaking workforce, die of heat-related causes at a rate of 20 times more than other professions,” Civil Eats reported last week. “In 2004, a worker in the valley died from heat stroke after he spent 10 hours picking grapes in 105-degree weather, prompting California to enact the first heat standard in the nation. It requires employers to provide water and shade when temperatures climb above 80 degrees.” But UFW has said it can be a struggle to get employers to adhere to rules.
“Elena has harvested broccoli in Salinas CA for 30 years,” UFW wrote in another tweet. "It is difficult for us right now with the heat wave that's happening,” Elena said. “Yesterday the heat reached 95°. This is difficult, as living on the coast we are not used to to working in this high heat." Yesica Balderrama previously reported for Prism how heat-related injury can follow workers long after they’ve finished the day’s work. “Sometimes you get headaches, but there is nothing else to do but to keep going,” one worker said in the report.
Supporters have also continued a vigil in the state’s capital, urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to pass into law legislation strengthening farmworkers’ union rights. But despite endorsements from the nation’s leaders, Newsom has not yet signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. Sacramento broke a nearly century-old heat record this week when the temperature in the downtown hit 116 on Tuesday. The last time the area saw heat that intense was 1925, when the temperature hit 114, The Sacramento Bee reported.
But as of Thursday morning, there’s been no word on the status of the bill. Newsom vetoed a version of it last year, and again expressed concerns over the version just passed by California lawmakers. But despite winning many of the changes he requested, the bill remains on his desk. "We want @CAgovernor Gavin Newsom to sign #AB2183 so that workers don’t feel intimidated by their bosses when they ask for better working conditions,” said Susana, a farmworker from the Delano area. Farmworkers are doing their jobs. The governor should do his, too.
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