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3-day caravan focusing on Central Coast farmworker rights

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Jul 28, 2021

A three-day caravan focusing on farmworker rights is underway on the Central Coast.

With the help of entities like the California Labor Commissioner's Office, Cal/OSHA, and many others, local organizations like Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) and Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) were able to get a team together to visit local fields and talk to farmworkers.

"To ensure to create that opportunity that the workers understand they do have rights and we are here to help them understand what it means to actually exercise them,” said California Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower.

This effort is part of the COVID-19 Workplace Outreach Project, a statewide initiative sponsored by the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).

"Having access to their paid sick leave has been like a challenging thing for the farmworkers. We have farmworkers having a hard time getting access to those hours,” said MICOP Community Organizer Fernando Martinez.

According to Martinez, farmworkers across the Central Coast feared retaliation from employers and were not aware they could get paid sick leave for COVID-19 and be protected against retaliation.

"There are laws that protect these workers from heat illness, particulate matter, and COVID-19 infection,” said Cal/OSHA Program Manager Brandon Hart.

Recently, local farmworkers have also been calling for better wages.

Martinez says they've informed workers they have the right to ask for better wages but he understands it's a tough situation for employers as well.

"We are not necessarily asking them to go on a strike, we are just letting them know that they do have the right to ask for these types of raises,” Martinez said.

The three-day caravan will be in Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and on Friday make its way to the Paso Robles area.

KSBY News reached out to multiple local farm employers who've had workers strike for better wages but they told us they would prefer not to comment at this time.