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Pesticide applicator ordered to lie

A message from the United Farm Workers:

IMG_0019 AMA pesticides“When it comes to pesticide safety we work hard to create laws and regulations to protect both consumers and workers who labor in the fields. But what happens when the people we trust to respect the law lie?

That’s what happened at Gerawan Farming, producers of Prima-brand plums, peaches, nectarines and grapes, according to pesticide sprayer Angel Garcia Davila. Angel has been working on Prima peaches since 2011, as a pesticide sprayer. Workers became ill after entering a field he sprayed. When the Fresno County agricultural commissioner representative investigated the poisoning incident, the Gerawan foreman ordered Angel to lie about what happened. (The county agricultural commissioner enforces state pesticide protection laws.) Angel needed to keep his job, so he followed the foreman’s order and lied to the agricultural commissioner’s investigator.

But the truth kept eating away at him so, when the UFW asked him what happened, Angel told the truth. Here is the real story he told us:

[We] were spraying Block 13A. We finished a little before 6 a.m. A bit later, the crews went in to pick peaches and nectarines. I don’t remember the type of chemicals we used but a lot of the workers started feeling sick because of the chemicals.

Someone from the state came… A few days later, our foreman, Pedro Rosas, spoke with us three [pesticide applicators] and said that someone from the state was going to come and to tell that person that we sprayed at 3 a.m. Later, a person from the state came and we signed a paper that said the time the foreman told us to say [that the pesticides were sprayed at 3 a.m.]. I signed the paper knowing it wasn’t true because of fear that the foreman would take my job away.

One of the workers who entered the field tells us, “As soon as we entered the block we smelled a strong odor of pesticides…. After 5 to 10 minutes I felt dizzy and started vomiting … After that they moved us to the other end of the block and we continued working. The rest of the day I felt the dizzy sensation and urge to vomit.”

Workers called the UFW, asking for help. We called the agricultural commissioner’s office and made a report on behalf of the workers. A year has passed and all the agricultural commissioner’s office has told us is that the case is still being investigated. After we spoke to Angel, who told us about the lie the foremen made him tell, we shared this information with the agricultural commissioner.

Send the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner an email today and tell him to stop delaying. It’s time to make a decision and hold Gerawan accountable. A supervisor at this company that grows Prima fruit ordered employees to lie to a government agency. This is absolutely unacceptable. Gerawan is not above the law and the agricultural commissioner needs to act so such behavior is not tolerated.”

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