Sixth Farm Worker Dies from the Heat this Summer in California. A Call for Action.

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I have been writing about this story since May.  (after the fold are links for diaries for background).  Yet another farmworker has died from the heat. This is the sixth this summer.

Maria de Jesus Alvarez, 63, mother of nine, died from heat exposure in the fields on August 2.  Her death makes six farm workers who died of heat exposure since May and the 15th farm worker heat death since California Governor Schwarzenegger took office.  Even one is too many.  Six this year is a tragedy.  These deaths show that the state of California is unable to protect farm workers.  

We must act.  We must force action by the state to allow farm workers to protect themselves.  For there are no others to do so.

If you care, join me after the fold.

(also On Daily Kos)…

I have been writing for months on the deaths of farm workers in California from the heat.  You can follow the details of this continuing tragedy here.

Another Farm Worker dies. Does anyone give a damn?  The Netroots Do.

United Farm Workers Calls for Manslaughter Charges Against Company in Death of 17 Year Old  

How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker’s Family We Care

“How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?”

As UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez:

How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?

Yet another has fallen, a 63 year old woman, working in the fields.  Would people ignore her death if this were their mother or grandmother?  She’s somebody’s mom and somebody’s grandmother.  She has value in herself. We all do and this should not happen to anyone.

Here’s the story of her final hours:

Maria de Jesus Alvarez, 63, mother of nine died on August 2. Maria had been picking table grapes for Anthony Vineyards and was employed through farm labor contractor Manuel Torres during the afternoon of July 15. She began feeling ill and went home. According to witnesses, she was working in a crew of 150 workers and they had no shade nor had they received training in heat stroke prevention and precautions as mandated by state law. According to, the high that day was 111 degrees.

After Maria’s condition deteriorated, she was taken to a hospital on July 19. The doctor determined she was severely dehydrated and had suffered heat stroke. After being treated and admitted by two different hospitals, Maria died Aug. 2.

Maria’s death makes six farm workers who died of heat exposure since May and the 15th farm worker heat death since CA Governor Schwarzenegger took office.

These recent deaths make it clear the state does not have the capacity to protect farm workers. As California’s summer sizzles we must do everything we can to ensure that no more farm workers fall victim to the heat because the laws written to protect them are not enforced.

Speaker Emeritus Fabian Nunez has introduced secret ballot legislation which has moved out of the assembly and which is now in the state senate. The bill, “Secret Ballot Elections for Farm Workers”, protects farm workers’ right to a secret ballot election and will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that the state cannot enforce.

Please take action immediately and click to send a e-mail to  California legislators and tell them something needs to be done NOW.

It’s time to put a law in place that will allow farm workers to protect themselves!

A sixth farm worker died of heat stroke

Go to United Farm Workers.  Sign up to get emails.  Keep informed.  Donate what you can.

Your donation will help us keep the pressure on by launching a media campaign, lobbying the politicians, pressuring the growers, marching in the street, and doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again.

Governor Schwarzenegger came to Maria Isabel’s funeral and said he would do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.  But 5 more have died since then.  E-mail Gov. Schwarzenegger today!

If you know of any heat violations on California farms please call the United Farm Workers at 1-800-894-0746.

There are political and moral aspects to this, and they intertwine.  The moral aspect is we simply cannot call ourselves civilized human beings and let this continue.  Not In Our Nation.  

The political aspect is that we can help make it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields:

This governor issued the heat regulation in 2005, after three previous governors refused to act. Yet Governor Schwarzenegger is well aware of the limits of government. One of those limits is that even legal protections issued by a well-meaning governor mean little if we cannot give farm workers a way to use our good laws to protect themselves.

Our union has always believed that given the chance, farm workers could solve their own problems by organizing themselves and winning UFW contracts.

Where farm workers are protected by union contracts, the laws are honored.

And when growers know it is easier for farm workers to organize and bring in the union, employers are much more careful about obeying the law because they don’t want to give the union an advantage.

So the answer, sisters and brothers, is self-help-making it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields. Then more important human beings like Maria Isabel won’t have to die.

Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers of America, Honoring Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, June 4, 2008-State Capitol, Sacramento

The netroots can do what it does best here.  Spread the word.  Pressure politicians.  Speak up loudly.  Make this issue your own.  


Yesterday we mourned,

Today we act,

Tomorrow we will gain justice.

Please help.  It really is a matter of life and death.


Skip to comment form

    • TomP on August 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    workers.  Please do all you can to help.

  1. These workers are performing essential work, without which food would not be delivered to our tables.  They deserve to be protected.  They deserve the right to organize.  

    I’m 3000 miles away from California’s grape fields, but I feel strongly that we need to support these workers and the UFW.  So whenever I am reminded of this situation I make a donation to UFW.  I just did so again now.

    This is the internet.  If enough of us donate small amounts, $10, $20, $25, $50, amounts small enough that we don’t even feel it, the money accumulates to be large amounts, amounts that will support the UFW in organizing and protecting these workers.  Please click this and give what you can.  It feels great and it will make a difference for these workers.  Thank you.

    • TomP on August 14, 2008 at 4:29 am

    buhdydharma, for promoting this.  It helps spread the word.


  2. for continuing to alert us of the dreadful plight of these farm workers — it’s very heartbreaking knowing that employers have such callous disregard for their workers extending to resulting in literal deaths.  Unbelievable, really!  Wonderful, capitalistic Amerika!

    I have just made a donation to JFW.

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