As devastating fires burn across the West Coast, some of the most vulnerable people are farmworkers — many of whom are undocumented. Despite the risks of the pandemic and the climate-fueled fires, many feel they have to keep working even if that means working inside evacuation zones. The state of California has repeatedly allowed growers to continue harvesting despite evacuation orders putting workers at great risk. Estella Cisneros, legal director of the agriculture worker program for California Rural Legal Assistance, says farmworkers who speak out against unsafe working conditions risk losing their jobs. “Farmworkers have continued to work during this whole time, despite fears of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, despite fears of getting heat stress while they’re at work, and now despite fears of the dangers that wildfire smoke brings,” Cisneros says.
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