SACRAMENTO – Tonight, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2043 and AB 2165, two key pieces of the California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package by Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) was also a lead author of AB 2043. It is the nation’s first legislative package to protect agricultural workers against the coronavirus and garnered broad and bipartisan support as it passed the Legislature in August.
“This is a major victory for California’s most vulnerable essential workers – farmworkers,” said Assemblymember Rivas. “I am grateful to the Governor for his signature on AB 2043 and AB 2165, which will help protect agricultural communities against the spread of COVID-19 and ensure workers have access to critical workplace safety information and essential state services during this pandemic. I am proud to have worked with such a broad coalition of supporters to make this a reality. We brought everyone to the table, including Republicans, Democrats, growers, farmworkers, advocates, state agencies, and industry representatives to craft this prudent package of legislation which will save lives.”
According to recent studies, agricultural workers in Monterey County are three times more likely to contract the coronavirus than those in the general population, and Latinos in the county account for 93 percent of COVID-19 cases while only representing 61 percent of the population. Similarly, a study from UCLA shows Latino deaths have quintupled since May because of their status as “unsung essential workers,” such as agricultural workers.
“Thank you, Governor Newsom, for responding to our call for increased farmworker protections,” said Assemblymember Garcia, coauthor of the package. “Our agricultural farmworker communities have been standing on the frontlines, making extraordinary sacrifices to keep us fed throughout this pandemic. I commend Assemblymember Rivas for leading the charge on these critical issues, and we remain committed to ensuring equity for rural regions across our state now and beyond this public health crisis.”
AB 2043, the marquee bill of the package, will go into effect immediately, while AB 2165 will go into effect January 1, 2021.
“California's farmworkers have been a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic and risked their lives daily to make sure we could put food on the table," said Pete Maturino, Agricultural Division Director, UFCW Local 5. "UFCW members are proud to have supported AB 2043 to provide our farmworkers with the access to the information they need to protect themselves, their coworkers and their families from infection.”
California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package
AB 2043: Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety (R. Rivas, E. Garcia, Gonzalez) – passed with bipartisan support, signed by Governor
—Ensures enforcement by Cal/OSHA of its COVID-19 guidance, funds a targeted bilingual outreach campaign to educate agricultural workers on Cal/OSHA guidance, as well as COVID-19-related paid sick leave and workers compensation benefits, and directs Cal/OSHA to track and report workplace investigations related to the agricultural industry
AB 2165: E-Filing and Rural Access to Justice Act (R. Rivas) – passed with bipartisan support, signed by Governor
—Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to courthouses is a problem in many farmworker and other rural communities
Request for Temporary COVID-19 Housing for Agricultural Workers (R. Rivas) – Governor took executive action
—After formal requests in March and April, followed by a $25M Budget Request in May, to expand the Administration’s Project Roomkey and Homekey programs, Governor Newsom announced the “Housing for the Harvest” program in July to provide safe, temporary isolation spaces for sick or at risk agricultural workers
Request for Prioritization of Agricultural Workers for PPE and COVID-19 Testing (R. Rivas) – Governor took executive action
—After formal requests in March and April, Governor Newsom announced in May that his Administration would be ramping-up testing availability for rural and other under-served communities and again in July that both testing and PPE access would be improved for agricultural workers
AB 2164: Telehealth for Rural and Community Health Centers Act (R. Rivas, Salas) – passed with bipartisan support, vetoed by Governor to allow his administration to evaluate “its global telehealth policy to determine what temporary flexibilities should be extended beyond the COVID-19 pandemic”
—Expands telehealth services for rural and community health centers, to the benefit of farmworker and other marginalized groups that have difficulty accessing medical care
For more information on the California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package, visit: https://speaker.asmdc.org/farmworker-relief-package
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) represents California’s 30th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities and towns of Aromas, Big Sur, Chualar, Gilroy, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, King City, Morgan Hill, Salinas, San Martin, San Juan Bautista, Soledad, Spreckels, and Watsonville.