Over 4,000 farm workers have tested positive for coronavirus in Riverside County.
Farming communities in the Coachella Valley face higher exposure to to COVID-19, but record lower testing numbers.
Rep. Raul Ruiz says, the low testing rates are due to fear among farm workers.
“And one of the fears farm workers have is, if I get tested and I get positive, I will not be able to go to work. Then my children, my grandchildren will go hungry,” said Rep. Ruiz.
Rep. Ruiz says the fears also extend beyond finances.
“Or, even worse, if you’re tested and you’re positive, we will call ICE to come and deport you and separate you from your family,” Rep. Ruiz continued.
In California, it is illegal for employers to threaten employees because of immigration status, but many workers still have concerns.
To help alleviate worries, the California Lab Commissioner’s Office and Todec Legal Center are starting a new campaign to educate farm workers about their rights.
Those rights include paid sick leave, regardless of immigration status.
“It is so important everybody understands you have a right to a maximum of 80 hours if you apply, and your employer meets certain criteria. You have another 24 hours of regular paid sick leave. You have the right to these hours without fear of retaliation,” said Lili Garcia-Brower, the California Labor Commissioner.
Both groups say farming communities are the backbone of society, but admit they can only help the workers who come forward.
“When that’s not happening, what we’re seeing is that our workers are sick, they’re not working and unfortunately in this case, many of our farm workers, Latino origin, are getting sick to the point where the death numbers are increasing. We want to stop that,” said Asm. Eduardo Perez.
Click below for a full interview with California Labor Commissioner, Lilia Garcia-Brower.