UFW delivers cool relief to area farmworkers

Martha, at left, is a UFW member who joined the Farm Worker Heat Protection Caravan in Sunnyside to respond to the heat emergency in the fields. She was not working Tuesday, but if she was, her union contract ensures she stops work if temperatures reach 94 degrees. “Chateau Ste Michelle (winery in Woodinville) consistently puts people over profits,” Martha said.

Dozens of volunteers delivered colds drinks and heat awareness information to farm workers throughout Sunnyside this past Monday and Tuesday as part of the Farm Worker Heat Protection Caravan organized by the United Farm Workers organization.

“We reached hundreds of farmworkers with potentially lifesaving supplies and information as temperatures reached 115+ degrees in some areas,” said Victoria Ruddy, Pacific Northwest regional director at UFW.

“Washington does not require employers to provide [farmworkers] with the heat protections needed to save lives. This must change,” according to a Twitter post by the UFW Monday, June 28.

Chelsea Dimas, candidate for Sunnyside City Council District 4, was among the volunteers. “The same stuff that my family and different people fought for when I was a child is still the same fight today,” she said. “We actually ran out of water and had to call in other volunteers to bring more supplies.”

Dimas, who began picking cherries at age 13, comes from a long line of farmworkers, including her parents and siblings.

“Everything seems exactly the same. I literally walked back into my old life when I was 13 years old.”

Farmworkers continue to work in fields across the Lower Valley and Washington State this week among the rising temperatures.

The National Weather Service in Pendelton, Oregon issued an excessive heat warning in place through Sunday, July 4, with dangerously hot temperatures of 105 to 111 expected. Extreme heat significantly increases the potential for heat related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.

Sunnyside had a record-breaking temperature Monday, June 28 at 109 degrees. The record was 104 degrees in 1896.

Ileana Martinez can be contacted at 509-837-4500 ext 115, or email imartinez@sunnysidesun.com

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