AB 73 will protect essential farmworkers with PPE and training materials amidst ongoing wildfires and pandemic.
SACRAMENTO – Today, Assembly Bill 73, Assemblymember Robert Rivas’ (D-Salinas) Farmworker Wildfire Smoke Protections Act, was signed by the Governor. California’s wildfire season, combined with heat waves and the COVID-19 pandemic, has helped shine a light on the necessary safety protocols agricultural workers need to remain safe while working in unhealthy air quality conditions.
“Our state is yet again experiencing a catastrophic wildfire season and continues to battle COVID-19. While many of us have had the privilege to work from home, our farmworkers weren’t so lucky – instead, they continue to work the smoky fields to feed the nation and sustain a multi-billion dollar industry,” said Asm. Rivas, Vice-Chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus (CLLC). “I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and Governor Newsom in getting this legislation secured so we can begin protecting our farmworkers NOW.”
Prolonged exposure to wildfire smoke has been linked to increased rates of chronic heart and respiratory diseases. Without adequate protective equipment, outdoor workers such as farmworkers risk lifelong health complications.
Specifically, AB 73 does two things:
- Ensures the state’s stockpile of N95 masks will be available to farmworkers during a wildfire outbreak.
- Ensures farmworkers access to quality and comprehensible training relating to wildfire smoke, including by using pictograms and appropriately accounting for relevant ethnic and cultural backgrounds and education levels.
“Between heatwaves, wildfires, and a global pandemic, California’s farmworkers sacrifice their health and safety every day to keep food on the table for American families,” said Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the Latino Caucus. “During the ever-intensifying fire season, these farmworkers cannot move their jobs inside and can't put their work off until the fires are contained. As a result, they are on the front lines doing backbreaking work while exposed to toxic smoke and ash. With AB 73 now signed into law, farmworkers will be able to access the health and safety protections that they need and deserve as essential frontline workers.”
“In the thick of wildfire season and a deadly COVID-19 variant, we have to advocate for our agricultural workers who, as essential workers, put their lives at risk every day,” said Asm. Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), joint author of the bill. “AB 73 will meaningfully protect the health of workers who sustain our state’s economy, feed all of us, and work long hours in debilitating conditions.”
“Our farmworkers continue to face double jeopardy, working to keep our families fed and food supply chain intact amid wildfires and a global pandemic. We cannot allow these essential workers to risk their lives without equipping them with the resources to shield themselves from smoke inhalation,” said Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), joint author of the bill. “Together with Assemblymember Robert Rivas, we remain committed to improving conditions and strengthening health protections for California farmworker communities.”
“Many of us are privileged to work in air-conditioned offices, safe from the natural elements. Farmworkers do not have that privilege,” said Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), principal co-author of the bill. “They show up to the fields every day to provide fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables to the state, the nation, and the world during wildfire season - even when it is a threat to their health and wellbeing. Providing farmworkers with PPE and wildfire safety education and protection is simply the right thing to do and is long overdue.”
AB 73 was a legislative priority for the California Latino Legislative Caucus and has received widespread, bipartisan support from the Legislature and stakeholders. Additional co-authors of the bill include Assembly Members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), and Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa). Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is an additional joint author. Now signed by the Governor, this bill will go into effect immediately.
For more information on this bill, visit asmdc.org/rrivas.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) 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.