Friday, September 17

After the death of a Mexican who fell into a manure pit, they introduce law to protect farm workers in Colorado

Only 2.4% of Latino workers are engaged in agricultural work. / Archive

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DENVER, Colorado – Two months after the death of a Mexican in a fall in a manure pit on a farm In northern Colorado, two local Hispanic lawmakers on Tuesday fulfilled their promise to pass a law to protect the rights of farm workers in the state, including adequate working conditions.

The new law, SB21-087, was promoted by State Senator Dominick Moreno and by State Representative Yadira Caraveo and, although the proposal had already been presented last February, the death of Juan Panzo Temoxtle on March 30 led to reformulate it, for which the measure garnered broad bipartisan support in both houses of the Colorado Legislature.

Panzo Temoxtle had only six weeks as an employee of the Shelton Diary (a multi-million dollar company in the small town of LaSalle) when asked to drive a truck to a huge cattle manure dump site. For reasons not yet established, the truck fell into the well and the Mexican drowned.

Equalize the rights of farm workers with those of the rest

At the time, Caraveo promised to “equate” the protection of farmworkers with the protections that all other workers in Colorado already enjoy. And that’s precisely what the new law does, for example, by removing exceptions that previously allowed farm personnel to be paid less than the state minimum wage.

The law also authorizes agricultural workers to form their own unions and prohibits working more than 12 hours per day or 40 hours per week without receiving the additional payment for overtime.

In addition, it requires farmers and ranchers to provide their workers with the transportation necessary to reach “service providers” (eg, hospitals, schools, or government offices), and it also requires them to allow their employees to visit.

In direct relation to the Panzo Temoxtle accident, the law requires that certain equipment be used only by certain properly trained personnel and only in certain circumstances, and that workers be provided with the necessary protection in their workplace.

The Colorado Department of Labor must enforce the law

The Colorado Department of Labor and other government agencies will now be in charge of verifying compliance with these standards and responding to complaints of noncompliance, as well as protecting the rights of whistleblowers, be they workers themselves or service providers.

“The workers who put food on our tables deserve the same protection and opportunities as everyone else in Colorado, like being able to negotiate better health and safety conditions, or earn better wages,” Caraveo said after the final vote.

“This law presents a balanced approach that takes into account the variety of producers who are part of the diverse agriculture industry in Colorado. It’s a long-overdue measure that will now improve conditions, keep Colorado agriculture competitive, and protect these essential workers, ”he added.

According to statistics from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, in this state about 50,000 people work full time as farm workers. It is estimated that two out of every three of those workers are of Latino origin and almost half are immigrants.

In addition, another 70,000 are farm or ranch owners, including some 3,500 Hispanics.

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