united farm workers

Union Claims Unsafe Coronavirus Conditions for Farm Workers

Advocates have been pushing growers across the state to provide their workers with proper protective equipment amid reports of unsafe conditions.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Farm workers are one of the communities hit hardest by the coronavirus in California. Not only have they seen some of the highest number of positive cases, there are also a growing number of claims of mistreatment.

The United Farm Workers on Tuesday filed a labor grievance, claiming unsafe work conditions and retaliation by a company in the Central Valley town of Wasco.

Advocates have been pushing growers across the state to provide their workers with proper protective equipment amid reports of unsafe conditions.

"Workers are complaining about a lack of social distancing," said Armando Elenes, UFW treasurer and secretary. "Lack of information regarding exposure to COVID-19 and a lack of being paid for being out due to COVID-19."

Primex has not returned messages from NBC Bay Area seeking comment and it is worth noting the UFW does not represent the Primex workers. But the union said it started digging and found that 99 Primex employees tested positive and infected extended family members.

One of the workers said its human resources department told her there was no personal leave with the company and that if she was worried about exposure, her only option was to quit.

Dr. Amy McEntee runs a Watsonville clinic for farm workers. She said one of the biggest issues is that farm workers are afraid of getting tested for COVID and the impact of what happens if they test positive.

"One of the problems is you have to quarantine for 10 to 14 days," McEntee said. "And that can mean lost wages. And then people don't want to get tested and they continue to spread."

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday committed $52 million for COVID testing and support in eight Central Valley counties in part because of this issue.

Some agencies like McEntee's clinic also provide funding so farm workers can afford to quarantine if they get coronavirus.

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