Voices united for farmworker safety! | Pesticide Action Network
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Voices united for farmworker safety!

Margaret Reeves's picture

Six months after EPA published its long-awaited proposal for improving the federal rules protecting farmworkers from pesticide exposure, we’re ready to celebrate a tremendous show of farmworker solidarity. Next week is the deadline for telling EPA to ensure the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) rules are at least as strong as those protecting other workers. If you haven't yet, it's not too late to add your voice.

From unions to faith leaders, public health agencies and chefs (this past spring) the demonstration of unity in our collective call for better protections for farmworkers and their families is heartening.

Accumulated stories from farmworker communities of on-the-job poisonings, high rates of cancer, unprecedented incidence of birth defects, and learning disabilities in young children all show that current laws and their enforcement are not good enough.

Farmworker safetyCombine this growing body of science and human stories together with a burgeoning food movement in which consumers care not only about what they feed their families, but also what pesticide-intensive agriculture means to the workers and communities in which the food is produced, and we’ve got a powerful collective engine for change. And that too is heartening. 

Worker protections needed

From now and until EPA issues its final version of the WPS, our collective voice will continue to call for:

  • Parity with safety rules provided to workers in non-agricultural industries
  • Improved and more frequent safety training for workers
  • Easily accessible and complete information about what pesticides are used where and when, and the associated health hazards
  • No children under 18 years of age allowed to handle hazardous pesticides
  • Strict adherence to no-entry rules for areas recently treated with pesticides
  • Improved protections and safety monitoring for pesticide handlers

United in action

After 13 years of ongoing pressure on EPA to improve the farmworker safety rules — the federal Worker Protection Standard — EPA finally released their proposed changes. PAN, together with farmworker unions, farmworker advocate organizations, healthcare providers and many, many more have successfully raised the bar. By August 18 and the close of EPA’s public comment period we — all of us together — will have:

  • Posted thousands of individual and organizational comments on EPA’s online docket representing labor, environment, health, faith, food, public health agencies, and farmers
  • Collected over 100,000 signatures on petitions to be presented to EPA next week
  • Brought dozens of farmworkers from AZ, CA, FL, NC, NJ, OH and MN to Washington, DC, to join advocates in well-received meetings with congressional representatives and representatives from EPA, USDA, The White House's Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Labor
  • Created and circulated a congressional letter to EPA director McCarthy with more than 70 signatures
  • And raised public awareness

We know they're listening.

A heartfelt thank you to all PAN partners and supporters! We could not have made it this far without all your support, hard work and thoughtful contributions. Although by next week we will have passed the August 18 milestone, the work is not yet complete.

You can rest assured that we’ll keep you posted as we continue organize our collective voice to pressure EPA to ‘do the right’ thing and issue the strongest worker protection rules possible.

Margaret Reeves
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Margaret Reeves is a PAN Senior Scientist with expertise in agroecology and soil ecology. As a long-time farmworker advocate, Margaret serves on the Board of the Equitable Food Initiative and works with partners around the country to ensure worker-protective federal and state policy. Follow @MargaretatPAN