Advocates, labor officials outreach to SoCal farmworkers over workers' rights

OXNARD, Calif. (KABC) -- A group of farmworker advocates are filling bags with information on workers' rights and protection against COVID-19.

The group, along with California state labor officials, will be going to farms in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to educate farmworkers on their rights when it comes to sick time during the pandemic.

"We're here to bring a message to farmworkers that every farmworker has the right to regular paid sick days," said California Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower.

The information will be in Spanish, English and Mixteco, an indigenous language spoken by a large number of Central Coast farmworkers. It's part of an educational plan to explain what rights they have, regardless of immigration status.

According to state and local officials at the event Monday, they've received a few reports from farmworkers not being paid for time off due to COVID infection or being exposed to those who have been infected.

"It's also very important that all employers establish procedures to protect their workers. We have to work as a team. It's very important that we have physical distancing. That we do that evaluation to determine how are we going to protect each other," said Carmen Cisneros with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

There are approximately 40,000 farmworkers in Ventura County. According to health officials, recent numbers show that less than 10% of residents infected with the virus have been farmworkers.

The plan is for state labor officials and farmworker advocates to visit as many farms as they can over the next three to four days to educate farmworkers on their rights.

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