Legislation by Asm. Rivas to Protect Farmworkers from Wildfire Smoke Passes Key Committee with Bipartisan Support

Legislation recently selected as a California Latino Legislative Caucus priority bill

For immediate release:

Legislation recently selected as a California Latino Legislative Caucus priority bill

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assembly Bill 73, the Farmworker Wildfire Smoke Protections Act by Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), passed the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment with a vote of 7-0. Coming on the heels of the worst wildfire season in California’s history, this legislation will ensure the State’s farm and other agricultural workers will be better educated and protected against the severe health impacts of wildfire smoke.

“I am grateful to the Labor Committee for advancing the protection of our agricultural workers during increasingly destructive and hazardous wildfires,” said Asm. Rivas. “Breathing in toxic smoke has been linked to increased rates of chronic heart and respiratory diseases, and without adequate protective equipment, our farmworkers risk lifelong debilitating illnesses. AB 73 will establish a dedicated stockpile of N95 respirators for our farmworkers and will deploy Cal/OSHA strike teams to ensure employers are in compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations.”

Yesterday, April 7, the California Latino Legislative Caucus included AB 73 as one of their priority legislation for the 2021 Legislative Session. You can view the CLLC press conference here.

Specifically, AB 73:

  • requires Cal/OSHA to establish a stockpile of N95 masks that can be distributed to farmers during a wildfire outbreak;
  • requires immediate deployment of specialized strike teams from each Cal/OSHA regional office during major unhealthy air quality events (wildfires);
  • requires Cal/OSHA to develop and distribute information on wildfire safety to agricultural employees in Spanish and English and also via pictograms.

“While ensuring that we continue to have access to fresh produce throughout the pandemic, agricultural workers statewide have been facing the compounding impacts of climate change, which have introduced toxic hazards such as wildfire smoke,” said Chair of the Committee on Labor and Employment, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose). “California agricultural workers are the backbone of our state's health and wellbeing, and we cannot wait to act on protecting these essential workers during an extraordinarily vulnerable time. I am proud to be a joint author on AB 73, a vital piece of legislation that will help provide critical protective equipment to our farmworkers.”

AB 73, which is joint-authored by Assemblymembers Kalra, Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.