Female farmworkers in California’s Central Valley cover their faces with bandannas and wear long sleeved hooded sweatshirts up, despite the intense heat. It is a uniform for the workday that will protect them against the sun, and according to recent reports it will also protect them against unwanted advances from their supervisors.
However, the largely female workforce appears to be getting official help since the ‘Rape in the Fields’ investigation revealed the problem of sexual abuse last year. A combination of local government, community organisations and the growers have come together to instigate projects to tackle the problem head on.
One focus has been to increase the accountability on the middlemen who provide the growers with the seasonal workers they need in order that crops are harvested. A bill has been passed in the American Senate which will see contractor’s licenses revoked if they hire someone who has been found guilty of sexual harassment in the previous three years.
The bill also requires that all workers have to take an annual training programme on the prevention on sexual harassment. It has also added questions on the subject to the state licensing exam for contractors which needs to be undertaken before they can work in California
Another project was to get support workers into the field to talk to the emplyees so that they could be made aware of procedures that would help if they were in a difficult situation; to train them how to spot and report any abuse. The program is known as ‘Campos Seguros’ or Safe Fields is the first to involve the co-operation of one of the major growers.
Its good to safe that even now procedures can be put inplace to make the workplace a safer environment, but it is surprising that these procedures weren’t already in place.