Farmworker mourned amid push for safety reforms
Loved ones and farmworker advocates gathered yesterday to mourn the death of Efraín López García, a 30-year-old worker who died earlier this month after experiencing heat exhaustion.
Driving the news: Advocates say López García's death could have been prevented by proposed reforms that would require heat training, plus shade and water breaks for farmworkers.
- It comes as Miami is in its worst heat wave on record.
Zoom in: López García, an immigrant from Guatemala, was found dead on July 6 during his shift picking fruit at a Homestead farm.
- It is the second confirmed heat-related death in South Florida so far this year, according to the Farmworker Association of Florida, which organizes on behalf of the state's agricultural workers.
- López García had been feeling ill earlier in the day but didn't want to take a sick day, advocates said.
Between the lines: Speakers at the vigil, including a local farmworker, told reporters that workers avoid taking days off and often go without water because bathrooms are not accessible.
- They say workers fear being singled out by their bosses or losing out on pay, especially in light of new statewide immigration laws.
- "He must have been scared. He must have wanted to continue working. And unfortunately we lost him because of that," Elena Contreras, of the Farmworker Association of Florida, told reporters about López García.
The latest: This week, the Miami-Dade Commission took an initial vote to require heat-safety programs, access to drinking water and regular breaks for agricultural and construction workers.
- The ordinance broadly defines an employee to include an independent contractor and farm labor contractor.
- Advocates have long fought to get a state law passed with similar protections for outdoor workers, including landscapers.
What they're saying: Yvette Cruz, who works with the Farmworker Association, said yesterday they received an unconfirmed report of a third farmworker death of the year.
- "We are scared because a lot more people are saying they are fainting, they are feeling the symptoms," she said. "We really need to prevent more deaths."
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