Nisei Farmers League Implores Quick Action For Front Line Workers
Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of Nisei Farmers League recently expressed his disappointment in the lack of COVID-19 vaccine that has been made available to our frontline essential farmworkers. (namely Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines)
“There are approximately 629,000 agricultural workers in California that not only feed the United States but also feed the world.”
Mr. Cunha stressed the importance of the recommended 2 doses of the vaccine being made available before May and the summer months when it becomes very difficult for the employer to be without the workers for several days and the worker will not want to take time off to take the vaccine.
Cunha stated “These workers go to the fields, packing houses and processing plants every day and should be given some priority. Farmworkers and farmers do deserve this protection. They have kept us healthy and alive.” We are proud to work with private health clinics, such as United Health Centers and our counties.
We implore our Governor, Secretary of Agriculture, the State Department of Health, and our local counties to implement the recently announced “My Turn Program” and the “Vaccine Delivery Network” to get our farmworkers vaccinated by the promised start date of mid-February.
Farm Employees Must Be Protected During High Temps
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
The cool and rainy weather will eventually turn to higher temperature days, and when high heat returns to the Central Valley, it’s essential that farm employees are getting enough water, rest, and shade. Manuel Cunha, the President of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno told California Ag Today that during hot days, we’ve got to protect employees.
“Training is the first important step to prevent heat illness,” Cunha said. “All employees and supervisors must know about heat illness prevention.”
Water is the next important step in preventing heat stress.
“Employers or supervisors must provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least one quart per hour—or four 8 ounces glasses per hour—and encourage them to do so,” Cunha said.
Shade is the next critical step to prevent heat illness.
“Employees should have access to shade, and they should be encouraged to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes,” Cunha explained. “And employees should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.”
Finally, all ag employers must develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard.
Shade shall be present when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The employer must maintain one or more areas with shade at all times while employees are present that are either open to the air or provided with ventilation or cooling.
The amount of shade present shall be at least enough to accommodate the number of employees on recovery or rest periods so that they can sit in a healthy posture fully in the shade without having to be in physical contact with each other.
The amount of shade present during meal periods shall be at least enough to accommodate the number of employees on the meal period who remain onsite.
The high-heat hazard temperature is 95 degrees or higher. This is when the employees must take a ten-minute preventative cool-down rest period every two hours. Often, farm operations will cease for the day and restart in the morning.
“Farmers, supervisors, packinghouses, farm labor contractors, all of these folks should have their Heat Action Plan ready, and all employers should be aware of it,” Cunha said. “They have to be ready to go, and that crew bosses, managers, foremen are making sure that the workers are getting shade and drinking plenty of water.”
If farm operations need to change their time schedules to accommodate the high temperatures, they need to implement that, as well as making sure that the workers take their proper breaks, and they have a meal.
“Lunchtime is very important for the workers to be nourished and strong,” Cunha said.
When employees are acclimating to the higher temperatures, a buddy system is essential.
“You want to make sure somebody isn’t sweating a lot or beginning to feel nauseated. As workers, they need to be looking out for each other as well. You cannot always depend on the crew boss seeing a problem,” Cunha explained.
In some places, cell phones don’t work, so workers may have to have a two-way radio. Make sure there is a way to call 911 during an emergency. Make sure you have maps posted to where the employees are working, and all the workers know where they’re at.
“If something goes down, they need to call 911, the worker or crew boss needs to say where they’re at—the address, the location, the cross streets,” Cunha stressed.
“The location should be posted on a clipboard to make sure that you have the information there for those employees,” Cunha continued. “That’s very important, to know the procedures.”
“We want all employees to go home safe to their families every night. So farming operations must have heat illness prevention plans in place,” Cunha said.
Farm operations should be sure that a supervisor is in place in all fieldwork and that supervisor must have first aid and CPR training. And if the supervisor leaves the crew for any reason, they must make sure someone is in charge.
First aid and CPR are vital with our farm crews working in the fields or even in the construction industry. Farm labor contractors must be sure that field supervisors are licensed for first aid and CPR.
On April 12, a coalition of agricultural organizations will hold two Heat Illness Prevention Sessions in Easton.
Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of Nisei Farmers League, said, “We appreciate the staff and the efforts of the Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA Consultation with their presentation of the safety message: WATER, REST, SHADE.”
Cunha continued, “the efforts by all our agricultural partners, as well as Cal/OSHA is to educate employers and supervisors about the dangers of working in the heat. We have held many educational sessions, sent out publications, had media events and continue to have ongoing outreach efforts throughout the state. Education is the key to reducing the number of heat illnesses that we see in our fields.”
Attend one of the sessions on April 12 for the latest documents outlining high heat procedures, including additional steps to be taken to ensure our employees’ safety.
Date: Friday, April 12, 2019
Time: Session One in Spanish 10:00 a.m. to noon. Session Two in English 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Place: C.P.D.E.S. Portuguese Hall, 172 W Jefferson Avenue, Easton.
There is no cost for attending these training sessions.
We want to thank our agricultural partners listed below: Nisei Farmers League, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Allied Grape Growers, California Fresh Fruit Association, African America Farmers of Calif., American Pistachio Growers, California Apple Commission, California Blueberry Commission California Olive Growers Council and Sun-Maid Growers of California.
Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of the Nisei Farmers League thanked President Trump for his Executive Order last week, which will streamline federal regulations and improve water reliability.
“We want to thank President Trump, Congressman Devin Nunes, and the entire Valley delegation for their efforts that will improve the lives of many, especially in the San Joaquin Valley,” Cunha stated.
There will be a strict timetable for rewriting the biological opinion that caused millions of acre-feet of water that would have been used in the San Joaquin Valley to be flushed out to the ocean. This action prioritizes building water storage projects that are badly needed.
This bold move is a welcome announcement to farmers, families, and communities throughout California who have suffered through many dry years and have been harmed by the Endangered Species Act, which reduced much-needed water supplies to restore fish populations.
“I would like to thank Mario Santoyo and the California Latino Water Coalition for leading the ‘March for Water’ in 2009 that started the ‘turn on the pump’ effort to bring additional surface water supplies to our Valley. It has taken 9 years to get to this point, but we never gave up,” Cunha said.
It is a good day for California, for our hard-working families, and for our communities.
Nisei Farmers League Opposes Congressman Goodlatte’s Bill H.R. 4760
By Manuel Cunha, President of Nisei Farmers League
Nisei Farmers League strongly opposes HR 4760, the bill known as “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018.”
This amended legislation does not deal with the most pressing issues we had with it. The legislation should not alone deal with agriculture production, but the other industries as well, that are working in our country, our states, our cities, as well as our rural communities.
Those are the people and families we should be trying to help, versus penalizing the employers, penalizing the people that work and provide the taxes, the social security and contribute economically to their communities. Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, the bill’s author, never worked with local communities and local elected officials, and did not receive input from organizations, such as ours.
The legislation does not adequately address the people and their families who are currently working here. Our workers are not criminals. They should not be involved in the touchback process and should not have wages withheld.
This bill has allotments for guest workers, but doesn’t adequately deal with DACA. Congressman Goodlatte is trying to appease the March 5th deadline on DACA with a half-hearted solution.
Until they sit down with the real people who deal with immigration every day, such as businesses, law enforcement, and churches, NO LEGISLATION LIKE THIS SHALL BE PASSED.
We will do everything in our power to STOP IT!!!!”
For comments and questions, call Manuel Cunha, Jr. at 559-251-8468.
Editor’s Note: This letter was submitted by Manuel Cunha Jr. He is President of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League.
Every day, thousands of people wake up before the sun rises, pack their lunches, and drive or carpool their way to work. Some toil underneath the hot sun, while others are inside feverishly packing perishable items to make sure they make their cross country or ocean voyage in time. Six days a week they repeat this routine and how are they rewarded? With the fear that they will not be able to continue this routine.
These are OUR agricultural workers. Who provide us with the safest food that we, our representatives in Washington D.C., and officials in the White House buy at our stores, farmer’s markets, and restaurants.
These workers have children, many born in the U.S., that they must figure out who is going to take them to and from school, practice for sports and other activities, or who is going to care for their child while they’re at work. The same thing that any U.S. citizen parent must figure out.
They pay taxes and Social Security deductions, the latter which they will receive no benefit from.
They are the backbone of an industry where, in California alone, farmers sold almost $50 billion worth of food in 2013. Yet, between 2002 and 2014, the number of field and crop workers in the state declined by about 85,000, leading to a drop in the number of entry-level workers available for difficult jobs like hoeing, harvesting, and planting. While technology is often touted as a cure for every economic ailment, when it comes to delivering California’s crops to the nation’s kitchen tables, there is no app for that. Instead, we need skilled farmworkers, along with smart land and water use, to maintain our agriculture rich history.
On October 2, 2017, Congressman Goodlatte introduced H.R. 4092, it provides a pathway for our undocumented agricultural workers to obtain an agricultural work visa (H-2C visa). It also provides for a system, instead of our broken H-2A program, to bring in more agricultural workers into the U.S. to make up for our shortfall. By October 25, 2017, the bill had been amended to the detriment of our current agricultural workers. There are many flaws with the legislation, especially the deduction of 10% from these worker’s wages which was to be put in a trust account. The purpose of this is to provide “a monetary incentive for H-2C workers to return to their country of origin upon expiration of their visas.” To receive the money that they already earned, they must apply and establish that they have complied with the terms and conditions of the H-2C program. They then have return to their home country to obtain the payment.
Did we not learn anything from the Bracero Program, implemented between 1942 to 1964, that also withheld 10% of the worker’s wages as an incentive to return to Mexico? They never received those wages, and the workers of the proposed legislation may have received the same fate.
The inability by Congress to provide legislation for our undocumented agricultural workers living in the U.S. and a workable guest worker program has led to more members in my industry clamoring for more H-2A workers. This is a betrayal to the hardworking men and women who work for them.
Some have been living and working here for over 25 years, hoping that Congress passes legislation similar to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 – the last time Congress passed meaningful immigration legislation for our undocumented agricultural workers. Instead of meaningful legislation, some want to give them pink slips. These are skilled, hardworking people that are vital members of our communities and some want to toss them aside. What will become of them, their children, our communities?
Not only has Congress failed to protect our undocumented agricultural workers, but they seek to punish them. Congressman Lamar Smith recently introduced H.R. 3711. The bill would make mandatory and permanent requirements relating to use of an electronic employment eligibility verification system, more commonly known as E-Verify. It is a federal program that allows businesses to check a new employee’s immigration status within a matter of seconds. It will replace the current system, where the new employee fills out Form I-9 and present documents that they are eligible to work along with an identity document. The employer must take the documents at face value.
This would decimate our agricultural workforce, along with the hospitality industry, and in California, the building industry. It won’t just effect businesses, but more importantly, it will hurt families. Families that go to our schools and churches.
It is time for Congress and for all the members in my industry to get behind some of the hardest working members in our society and provide them with legal status. These are the people who make America great!
Manuel Cunha, Jr., President, Nisei Farmers League
On Wednesday afternoon, November 9, the Who’s Who of Agriculture will gather at the long-standing celebratory Annual Ag Awards Luncheon in Valdez Hall at the Fresno Convention Centerto commemorate the achievements of an individual and a company in the County’s agricultural industry.
Nathan Ahle, president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, said, “We are very excited about this. This is the 33rd time the Fresno Chamber has presented the Agriculturist of the Year Award, and the 21st time the Fresno-based CPA firm Baker, Peterson and Franklin has presented the Ag Business of the Year Award. We recognize that Ag is really the life-blood of our economy. This event is an honor to do and something we take great pride in.”
This year’s Agriculturist of the Year Award recipient is Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. “Everybody knows Manuel Cunha—a legend in Valley Ag as president of the Nisei Farmers League for two decades,” Ahle said. “ This gentleman is a force to be recognized with when it comes to fighting for our farmers, fighting for water, fighting for anything and everything that has to do with agriculture in the Central Valley.”
Nisei Farmers League, established in 1971, informs grower members about ever-changing regulations and policies and provides legal assistance for labor and workplace-related issues. The league’s leadership and staff maintain a close working relationship with local, state and federal agencies and legislators to assure grower interests are adequately understood and defended.
The League also collaborates with other grower and agricultural organizations in California and other states to help provide a powerful and unified voice for the agricultural community. The Nisei Farmers League is all about strength, clear focus and growers looking out for growers and farmworkers.
This year’s Ag Business Award recipient,Booth Ranches, is a premium San Joaquin Valley citrus grower. Otis Booth, Jr. founded Booth Ranches in 1957 on 40 acres by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range near Orange Cove.
Today, Booth Ranches is still family owned and operated on acreage from Orange Cove in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to Maricopa in Kern County to the South. Pasadena-born, fifth-generation farmer Loren Booth currently manages Booth Ranches which boasts premium Navel oranges, Valencia oranges, Cara-Caras, Minneolas and W. Murcott Mandarins that are distributed worldwide.
The selection panel went through a tough selection process, according to Ahle. “Those who have been in the Valley longer than I have tell me this is the strongest group of candidates for the award that we have ever had. I think it just speaks to the great passion that we have for Ag in this community, and Manuel Cunha and the team at Booth Ranches are great, great recipients.”
Nisei Farmers League and African American Farmers of California Discuss Disastrous AB 1066 in Sacramento Today
EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE TEDX TALK VIDEO BELOW OF WILL SCOTT, JR., PRESIDENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FARMERS OF CALIFORNIA.
TODAY,Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League and Will Scott, Jr., president of the African American Farmers of Californiaare meeting in Sacramento with members of the California Assembly to explain the disastrous consequences of AB 1066, referred to as Agricultural workers: wages, hours, and working conditions, on small and minority farmers.
The effects of this legislation, particularly the Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016, will be detrimental not only to the farmworker who counts on the extra hours, but to the farmer who, with the increasing costs of regulations and the lack of water, will be forced to cut back on crops and their workforce, according to their joint press release.
“The small and minority farmer will be adversely affected by this ill-conceived legislation,” said Manuel Cunha Jr. “The small farmer works hand in hand with their workforce in the fields and [is] in a better position —with direct input from the workers—to determine schedules rather than politicians in Sacramento looking for a soundbite,” he explained. “Without meeting with our small and minority farmers and farmworkers, these politicians pass legislation that will cost our workforce money, our farmers crops, and the residents of California the fresh fruits and vegetables they enjoy everyday.”
Both Manuel Cunha Jr. and Will Scott believe the Legislators need to consider the small and minority farmers when casting their votes. “We are confident that after we meet with the Assembly members,” said Will Scott, Jr., they will understand how harmful this legislation is to our farmers and farmworkers. It is our hope that by educating the members, they will understand the importance of this bill and vote No on AB 1066.”
The League continues to inform grower members about ever changing regulations and policies providing legal assistance for labor and workplace related issues. Our leadership and staff maintains a close working relationship with local, state and federal agencies and legislators to assure grower interests are adequately understood and defended.
The NFL also collaborates with other grower and agricultural organizations in both California and other states to help provide a powerful, unified voice for the agricultural community.
Grower members are kept informed through meetings, seminars, newsletters and special bulletins.
Strength, clear focus and growers looking out for growers and farm workers… that is what the Nisei Farmers League is all about.
The Fresno-based African American Farmers of California organization has doubled its membership since it opened a 16-acre demonstration farm in Fresno County, which serves as a testing area where new farmers can get hands-on experience growing a variety of produce.
One of Scott Family Farms primary goals is to reintroduce Southern specialty crops, part of the traditional African American diet, into black communities, to help stop the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Crops include: black-eyed peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, field peas, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard, corn, tomatoes, okra and sweet potatoes.
“The nutritional value of this food was passed down the generations,” said Will Scott, Jr. “It helped build our immune system; kept us healthy and strong. We hope to pass it on to sustain the next generation.”
Professional Boxer Jose Ramirez Helps SJVWIA Fight for Water
(Updated from an earlier version 8/5/16)
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Jose Ramirez, a 2012 Olympian and current World Boxing Conference Continental Americas Champion, spoke at a special event TODAY at the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, where in the name of the City of Avenal—a community member agency of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), Ramirezpresented a $3,300 check to the SJVWIA. SJVWIA, in turn, is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and many Valley counties, cities and water agencies to coordinate and complete the Temperance Flat feasibility studies and prepare the necessary bond funding application.
Ramirez, whose remarkable boxing record includes 17 fights and 17 wins—with 12 wins by knockout—grew up in Avenal, California (Kings County) with his parents working in the fields. “I knew those jobs were important to my family because they gave me a future; they gave my brothers and sisters their future; my friends, their families, their future; they brought food to the table,” he said.
“When you’re a kid growing up in a small town like Avenal, you grow up with such innocence. There are a lot of questions that you don’t ask. There are a lot of things you don’t understand. I was just a kid who was happy to have any type of toy,” he said. “I didn’t have the privilege of having electronic games or the best clothes, but I had just enough to survive, just enough to have fun. I was very active.”
One day Ramirez asked his dad, why he bought his children sweaters instead of jackets. His dad replied, “Well, because jackets are expensive.” Ramirez reflected, “As a kid, you don’t really understand the way he managed his financials, but everything was given because of those jobs working the fields. Everything was given because of the agriculture in Central California.”
The “Fight For Water” boxing series, developed to help bring attention to the dire water issues in California, particularly in the Central Valley, has featured Ramirez in five victorious bouts to date. Despite an average year of precipitation, contracted federal water deliveries to many farmers in the Westlands Water District, for instance, have been cut by 95% thus far, this year alone, and the remaining 5% is now in jeopardy. Deliveries for the previous 10 consecutive years, were: 100% (2006), 50% (2007), 40% (2008), 10 (2009), 45% (2010), 80% (2011), 40% (2012), 20% (2013), 0% (2014), 0%(2015).
“We got in contact with Mario Santoyo and Manuel Cunha, from the Latino Water Coalition, and it has been an honor working with them. The experiences—I have really matured myself as a person,” Ramirez said. “Besides a fighter, I have learned so much. I have become more passionate about this issue. I want to continue fighting for the water. I want to continue fighting for what’s right for the people, for what’s right for my family, for what’s right for my friends’ families and for other families where I grew up,” he said.
“I am happy to work with the City of Avenal. I want [Avenal] to stay involved as much as they can. I want them to be a part of the programs, because I know Avenal is a good community,” he said. “They’ve done great with all the kids there.”
“It’s because of Avenal, I am who I am,” Ramirez said. “The opportunities that they’ve given me I will never forget. This is why I’m here, to make sure that they stay involved, to help them, to raise what needs to be raised and for them to be part of the team that we’re making, because I know that team is created by leaders, and I know that Avenal will do a good job being a part of it,” he said.
“I’m happy to say I will do as much as I can to make that happen. We’re going to continue fighting for the water, because I know that this is our future,” Ramirez said. “Being a father, I have to think about the future of my kids. And I have lots of friends who are fathers too, so I’ve got to make sure that they’re set, or at least have hope,” he concluded.
The Nisei Farmers League informs grower members about regulations and policies through meetings, seminars, newsletters and special bulletins.; provides legal assistance for labor and workplace related issues; maintains a close working relationship with local, state and federal agencies and legislators to protect grower interests; and collaborates with other grower and agricultural organizations in California and other states to help provide a powerful, unified voice for the agricultural community.
Manuel Cunha Jr. Fires Off Letter RE: Supreme Court Ruling on Immigration
The following is a letter that Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League sent out about the Supreme Court ruling on immigration TODAY:
“As the president of the Nisei Farmers League, board member of the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C., chair of the Insure America Project, and as a farmer myself, I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling that was announced TODAY. Their ruling provided no guidance nor direction to this Congress and ignored the safety of those affected by the ruling.
The 4-4 deadlock leaves in place an appeals court ruling blocking President Obama’s immigration plan. His plan would have allowed parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program that would spare them from deportation and provide them with work permits.
Dignity, integrity and justice is what this country believes in and has made this country great. This country was built and strengthened by immigrants. Many of us today realize it was our parents and ancestors from other countries that brought us here. However, there are those that have forgotten, many of which are currently members of Congress.
This decision does not move us closer to immigration reform, but allows Congress to repeatedly refuse to support bipartisan legislation to update immigration laws. Congress continues to not deal with Immigration, but rather deal with their own party politics.
Millions of families will remain in limbo, and our system remains broken. The attention now turns to Senate and House Republicans to provide leadership on this issue. What is their solution to our broken immigration system? This escalates many of the problems that currently exist. Drug and human trafficking will continue, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids will not go away. Millions of immigrants living in the shadows is not the answer. Deportation of the people that clothe and feed us is shameful and not the answer.
We must remember that the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” DACA (Dreamers), is untouched. We need to focus on providing alternatives to the children who were brought here and have grown up here as Americans and identify themselves as Americans. The DACA program is still in play and we need to encourage those that are eligible to apply.”