LatinaLista — On the day 63-year-old Maria de Jesus Alvarez died, the temperature was hovering above 103 degrees. This mother of nine, along with 150 other farm workers that day at the Anthony Vineyards, was being pushed to pick table grapes faster.
Maria de Jesus Alvarez attends a United Farm Workers gathering.
Yet, Maria wasn’t feeling well. Her head ached and she had been vomiting and feeling nauseated off and on. Not having any shade made things worse and when Maria started feeling really sick, she nor her co-workers recognized that she had symptoms of heat stroke.
If Maria had known that her symptoms were a sign of something severe it might have saved her life. As it is, she died August 3.
Another victim of a preventable cause.
If the farm labor contractor, Manuel Torres, who employed Maria had followed state guidelines, he would have made sure his workers had shade and had received training in heat stroke prevention and precautions like state law mandates.
When a reporter from the Press-Enterprise newspaper in California pressed Torres, via telephone, if he had supplied his workers with such training, Torres hung up.
Maria’s funeral was this past Monday and with her death the uneasy question of how many more will come after her dying from preventable causes?
Unlike so many pressing issues today, this one issue of preventing the needless deaths of farm workers is within everyone’s grasp to change. It just seems there is a lack of political will to enforce the laws that are on the books and a lack of moral conscience to provide the basic necessities for any person working in a 100+ degree heat.
California legislators need to hear beyond their constituents that allowance of such conditions won’t be tolerated.
Farm contractors and farmers/vineyard owners need to understand that their blatant disregard for the safety and wellness of their workers won’t go unpunished.
Farm workers need to understand that just because they do backbreaking work in the sun, they have a voice â€” and they deserve to be heard.