BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
Two farm worker safety bills that target growers and labor contractors, subjecting them to lawsuits, criminal charges and stiff penalties have been vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.
SB 2346 would have allowed farm workers to enforce the state's heat regulations themselves by suing employers who fail more than twice to comply with mandatory shade and drinking water requirements.
AB 2676 would have made it a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by jail and fines of up to $200,000 if appropriate water or shade are not provided.
Employers could also pay restitution of up to $1 million to the worker's family.
"We're obviously appalled. These two bills were obviously important in protecting farm workers in the fields. We were hoping Governor Brown would see the need for these bills," said UFW spokesperson Maria Machuca.
Machuca says the biggest problem is not the regulations but the enforcement.
"The problem is that we do not have enforcement. The government has been unable to enforce these laws so without enforcement these regulations are ineffective. Now the contractors and growers know there is no punishment for them if they violate these rules," said Machuca.
While the UFW is disappointed by the veto, local growers 23 ABC spoke to are relieved.
"This is the outcome we were hoping for. The adequate laws that are in place now are sufficient enough. There have been a lot of fines a lot of pressure being put on growers as is with the current legislation. We feel that more stringent regulations and lawsuits were not needed in this point and time," said Greg Wegis of Wegis & Young farms.