SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Monterey County is under a shelter in place order, but farm workers will still report for work.
They are part of what’s considered “essential services” that are allowed to continue operations. Workers were out tending fields Wednesday in Salinas.
“We want to make sure that we have a steady and reliable food supply for all fresh products that are very important to a healthy diet and in order to do that, we have to continue growing and producing the crops as well as harvesting and processing them,” Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director Norm Groot said.
But some farm workers are concerned about going to work during the coronavirus outbreak.
Cold season vegetables are being harvested, like broccoli, but workers KION spoke with who did not want to go on camera say they’re concerned about the spread of the virus as the lettuce season begins. Some vegetable packers say their hours are being reduced.
Farm workers typically work in close proximity to each other and ride buses in big groups.
“If you’re really among a lot of people, there’s the possibility that someone can be infected and through that person, others can get infected, so that’s the concern,” United Farm Workers Regional Director Lauro Barajas said.
The labor union, United Farm Workers, is asking business owners to extend sick pay, remove accrual caps and offer paid leave if a worker contracts the coronavirus or to care for a sick family member.
“Pay the person, so that person doesn’t feel the pressure to go to work to get the money to survive,” Barajas said.
The Monterey County Farm Bureau is working with employers to make sure workers are safe, recommending social distancing and considering increased field sanitation.
The Farm Bureau says if someone is sick, they should not be fearful of staying home because there are strong protections in the state and through employers.