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General Assembly to Consider New Legal Requirements for Farm Workers

Dave McLear / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/dmclear/4935228492/in/photolist-8w7kuq-oDFm1Q-osGy9p-cYZbSm-oiNbpf-oMsucd-88iv6e-p3YcNH-QZJEVX-fA1Kou-5jhfU6-f8MABz-6W5mfc-8KEUz4-8C5pCb-aQ1KPi-KzL5st-AZaxJL-2MThFW-5aqUwM-nTqEnD-Vh55GJ

Later this month, lawmakers in Richmond will consider a bill meant to help farm workers.

Working on a farm is not easy. And Rachel McFarland at the Legal Aid Justice Center says farm workers in Virginia need some new legal protections.

"There's no requirement in Virginia to provide anybody a break, even in high-heat environments," McFarland says. "And so giving periodic breaks, either in air conditioning or in the shade, just basic things that really make doing your job livable."

So she's working with Senator Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat from Richmond. She's introducing a bill that would set new legal requirements for people who employ farm workers.

"Making sure that there is adequate shade and are opportunities for workers to rest and recover under the shade and also that they have access to plentiful water and get sufficient breaks in order to rehydrate," Hashmi explains.

Her bill will ask the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board to adopt regulations setting standards to protect workers from heat illness. Hashmi had a similar bill in the last session that was unsuccessful, and she says she's making changes aimed at gaining the votes necessary to get the bill to the Senate floor this year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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