Healthy Valley Coalition
Healthy Valley Coalition Platform
Public concern over the health and safety of the valley’s low-income workers and residents has increased in the COVID-19 era. Low-wage workers in retail grocery and agriculture, previously deemed unskilled and disposable, are now considered front-line and essential for the nation’s well-being.
Healthy Valley is dedicated to working together with low-wage workers, advancing issues of worker rights and health and safety, protecting public health, and challenging the hardships Central Valley residents face.
If our collective goal is for every resident to be safe and healthy, then we must serve those furthest on the margins. We are connected now more than ever, and our own wellness depends upon that of others. Healthy Valley advocates for public discussion of policy reforms for valley workers, such as farm-to-store sectors: agricultural work, grocery stores, and food delivery. We call for reforms to improve occupational health and safety, paid sick leave, worker retention, and comprehensive food access. Thus, we urge counties and cities to take steps to implement reforms in the following areas:
1. Occupational Health and Safety: There are few uniform health and safety standards in place, and stores have taken a piecemeal and haphazard approach. We propose that essential workers in food-chain sectors, from farm to store (agricultural, retail grocery, drug store, and food delivery workers) be provided with safety trainings, personal protective equipment, access to hand-washing stations with soap and water, paid time for proper hand washing, and a hotline to report employer non-compliance
2. Paid Sick Leave: All workers should be provided 14-day paid sick leave (per Centers for Disease Control guidelines) for workers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. While federal legislation has provided sick leave for workers in companies between 50 and 499 employees, a gap exists in those workplaces with less than 50 employees, or 500 employees or more. We propose extending 14-day paid sick leave to all workers and prohibiting retaliation against those who take it, consistent with the recently enacted H.R. 6201 Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act
3. Worker Retention: Workers laid off during the crisis should be rehired according to seniority, by right of recall. Businesses experiencing bankruptcy, or that are sold during the crisis, should be required to adhere to worker retention policies. Businesses should be required to make good faith efforts to allow workers to adjust schedules resulting from COVID-19-related family needs (i.e. caring for a sick family member, caring for children due to school closures, etc.)
4. Cash Assistance: A substantial number of valley residents lack access to federal unemployment insurance benefits, and many valley households do not qualify for federal stimulus direct payments. Cities and counties should work with foundations and local non-profits to establish a Cash Aid/Relief Fund for workers and households who are:
(1) unable to work due to COVID-19
(2) do not qualify for federal unemployment insurance
benefits or stimulus direct payments
5. Community Food Security: We recognize that hunger will coincide with the pandemic-related economic crisis. Already the San Joaquin Valley has the highest rate of food stamp usage in the state. We recommend the formation of food policy councils to better align government, businesses, farmers, local food initiatives and community to identify food chain problems, limit food waste and direct excess production toward residents who are food insecure.
"We call for reforms to improve occupational health and safety, paid sick leave, worker retention, and comprehensive food access."