Fifteen people suffered heat-related deaths in the fields of California in recent years. But yesterday -- with Labor Day fast approaching -- Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that could have saved their lives, had it been state law.
With one year left in his term, we can't count on Gov. Schwarzenegger to change his heart or his mind. But the five declared or likely candidates for Governor -- Jerry Brown, Tom Campbell, Gavin Newsom, Steve Poizner, or Meg Whitman -- can be pressured to pledge to sign this bill when the Legislature passes it again.
Farmworkers routinely work in triple-digit temperatures in the Central Valley, harvesting the crops that feed Americans. Because of the toxic pesticides used in the fields, workers wear heavy clothing and gloves to protect themselves -- increasing the risk of death due to heat exhaustion. When they ask for water breaks, they are often denied. And when they speak up, they risk being fired.
By vetoing the California Employee Free Choice Act -- the bill that would give farmworkers the right to speak up and do something about these unsafe conditions -- Governor Schwarzenegger put the lives of thousands of farmworkers at risk yet again.
We can't wait until the next Governor is elected to take action. That's why we are asking the Courage Campaign community to help the United Farm Workers build a new movement -- signature by signature -- that holds the next Governor accountable for the lives of farmworkers.
To launch this campaign, community organizer Marta Evry created a short online video for the Courage Campaign that tells the heartbreaking story of Audon Felix Garcia -- who died in a field near Bakersfield in 2008.
Please watch "Heat" now and then sign our petition asking Jerry Brown, Tom Campbell, Gavin Newsom, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman to promise to protect farmworkers' lives and sign this bill if they win the 2010 gubernatorial election.
DEADLINE TO SIGN: Labor Day.
Labor Day is about honoring workers and reminding ourselves how important their rights are to our society. That's why we need to make this bill -- and farmworkers' lives -- an issue in the 2010 campaign.
By signing this petition and telling your friends to sign it as well, you will be calling out the next Governor of California to take a public position on this life-and-death issue.
Thank you for honoring the lives of these California farmworkers this Labor Day weekend.