Most Viewed Stories
UFW leader: Heat to blame for farmworkers' deaths
Fatality: Latest death occurred in Delano.
BAKERSFIELD — Scourging temperatures have been the cause of several farmworkers’ deaths, and United Farm Workers leaders said Thursday there should be more done to prevent these deaths.
The latest victim is 42-year-old Abdon Felix Garcia of Delano, who died Wednesday — allegedly of a heatstroke while working at Sunview Vineyards, UFW president Arturo Rodriguez said during a news conference Thursday at La Campesina Radio.
Felix was driving a company vehicle, Rodriguez said, and became unresponsive. Whether his death is the result of a heat stroke suffered while in the vehicle will be determined by an autopsy.
“This is a very sad day for all of us United Farm Workers,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, 12 farmworkers have died during the past four years because of heat during the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and three have died this year as a result of the heat.
“It was completely unexpected; he wasn’t sick, no drugs, no alcohol,” his brother Raudel Felix said.
Rodriguez was informed that the truck had no air conditioning and that was a key aspect of Garcia’s death. He said he believes that if the truck did have air conditioning, it would have given Felix the opportunity to cool off after working in intense heat all day.
According to the Associated Press, California Labor Authorities are investigating the death of a 64-year-old farmworker named Jose Macarena Hernandez, who died on June 20 while harvesting butternut squash in triple-digit weather. The AP also said that state officials were investigating the death of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a pregnant farmworker who died of a heat stroke on May 14 after working in a Stockton-area vineyard.
Rodriguez said the government is not doing enough to help with the safety of the farmworkers.
“We have lost our confidence in the ability of Gov. Schwarzenegger,” he said. “These are situations where extra precautions should have been taken.”
Raudel Felix sent a message to all farmworkers and their employers telling them to “protect [the farmworkers] instead of trying to make them work more.”
Rodriguez said the farmers’ employers should treat them better in order to protect their safety, and that the workers should be educated about the extreme heat conditions that they have to work in.
According to the AP, state officials have started a new voluntary program that allows licensed farm contractors to be educated about how to protect their workers.
The UFW planned “special meetings” with farmers in Delano on Thursday and Lemont on Friday to discuss what to do to prevent future heat-related deaths.
-- Contact Ebony Bailey at 784-5000.