Freezing nights present great danger to farmworkers
OAKLAND, Calif. - As much as bitter cold weather is bad for plants, it's far worse for people with unsafe housing or those who are homeless.
One percent of California's population are farmworkers. Many of them work far more than 40 hours a week and have little or nothing to show for it.
Too many, it's a state and national disgrace.
California Terra Garden, the owner of one of the mushroom farms where a mass shooting occurred in Half Moon Bay, announced it will develop new permanent housing on its property for employees and their families.
Darlene Tenes, founder of Farmworker Caravan that delivers food to farmworkers, says most live in dire poverty.
"These are people who are working 40 to 70 hours a week, full-time, and they are living like unhoused individuals," said Tenes.
They work during extreme weather events.
"It can be freezing, 205to 30 degrees and they're still working.
When we had the wildfires, they were out there working in the smoke," said Tenes.
Of the 400,000 farmworkers in California, 80,000 are in the U.S. on work visas. The law requires that those visa holders be supplied with housing and meals, which they can be charged for. But, the remaining 320,000 farmworkers, the equivalent to the entire population of Stockton, are unprotected.
"The majority of workers are undocumented. So they're not required anything," said Tenes.
"What you saw in Half Moon Bay is not a rarity. It's common and there are much worse conditions than you saw," said Tenes.
Some farmworkers live in cramped housing to share already scrace resources.
Videos showing the living conditions are virtually nonexistent and pictures are rare.
"For three years, we have been trying to get into some of the farmworker housing that is the most atrocious. And we who are working in the industry are unable to," said Tenes.
Some of farmworkers fear that angering their employer could cost them their job and housing, or lead to them being deported.
"They're ashamed of where they're living. They also don't want people to know where they are living because they don't want the government to know," said Tenes.