FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A press conference and vigil were held Wednesday in Homestead at the Farm Workers Association. They are calling for more protections for farm workers amid this heat wave.
It comes after a South Florida Farm Worker recently died. Those who knew him believe it was due to heat exhaustion.
Jeremiah Lopez Garcia talks about his brother, Efrain, a 29-year-old from an indigenous community in Guatemala working at a farm when he began not feeling well.
Minutes later, his peers found him dead, not far from where he was.
In Spanish, Jeremiah says, “Like all those who come over here for a better future, they work day to day in the heat, but unfortunately, he died. And so did his dream.”
Now the Farm Workers Association is asking for more to be done. In Spanish, Claudia Gonzalez with the association shares, “Imagine someone working in the fields, the hours they are working, in a climate that’s extremely intense and on top of that the rigorous labor of the job.”
Farm Workers Association is asking the owners or bosses of these farms to give those employees much-needed breaks, shade, and water.
“Why does this community have to feel afraid to ask for a break to drink water, to not go to the bathroom because they don’t want to go to the supervisor and ask the supervisor, ‘I have to go to the bathroom,’ and then they tell you ‘No, you have to keep working.’ That’s the stories we hear in Homestead,” shares one speaker at the press conference.
After weeks of protests, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed the first step in an ordinance to create a ‘heat standard’ for outdoor workers. That includes employers requiring access to drinking water, having a mandatory heat exposure safety program, giving workers shaded recovery periods, educating employees on their rights, and enacting violations for employers who do not abide.
Those who work in the fields say they need more protections, so they can begin to prioritize their health and well-being.
In Spanish, a worker in the fields named Antonia shares, “It’s difficult to work in the fields, and that they don’t value us. We should be grateful for those who work in the fields and in agriculture. Many people have to eat, but we don’t have a fixed income. We work a day. That’s the day we get paid. We lose a day. That’s the day that we don’t have enough even for rent.”
“He must have been scared, he must have wanted to continue to keep working, and unfortunately, we lost him because of that,” shares an employee with the association.
Miami Dade’s proposed heat ordinance has a committee hearing in September, and then it will go back to the full commission for final passage.