With anguish Maria Irma Escobedo described witnessing a coworker die from covid 19 after contracting the virus at a primex farms packing plant, where they both worked in Kern County.
Escobedo also said, “The unsafe working conditions could have easily been prevented if the company would have offered proper protective equipment.”
While this incident happened hundreds of miles away, the story resonates with those in the eastern Coachella Valley.
Local activists say it’s only a matter of time before a field worker here dies from the disease.
Leydy Rangel, a Coachella Valley native, who works for United Farm Workers said “They do not feel protected, when it comes to COVID-19.”
Throughout the pandemic she has witnessed the growing concerns inside the working conditions of field workers.
The UFW have filed a labor grievance, claiming they are enduring unsafe working conditions. They say workers lack access to hand soap and protective masks, all while working in tight quarters.
On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced relief will be coming for farm workers, but he has not yet given specifics.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who represents the 30th Assembly District, which encompasses the Pajaro and Salinas valleys of the Central Coast, said “The state needs to do more, we must take action to ensure that our farm workers are protected, especially if were going to avoid any disruption to our food supply.”
That’s why Rivas introduced a COVID-19 farmworker relief package,which would expand access to testing and personal protective equipment and provide safe agricultural housing.
“Deeming farm workers as essential workers, that must come with the protection that essential workers deserve. That includes hazard pay and proper protective equipment,” said Rangel.