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Gripping heat wave causes extremely dangerous working conditions for Coachella Valley farmworkers

A blistering heat wave gripped the Coachella Valley, setting record highs this week. As people limit their exposure and opt for the air-conditioned outdoors, farmworkers persist while working in dangerously hot conditions under the sun.

"Every worker in every work setting, especially (agriculture), they have to be provided water, shade and there has to be some type of training in place as far as heat exposure and also plans of emergency in case a worker is coming across any symptoms," director of Todec, Luz Gallegos said.

Todec is a nonprofit grassroots organization that provides outreach, legal support and other services for immigrants and their families in the Coachella Valley and the Inland Empire. Gallegos was actively conducting outreach services at farming fields in Chino, CA on Friday. She often does the same in the fields of the eastern Coachella Valley, which are communities predominantly made up of farmworkers.

As of Friday, temperatures in Thermal were expected to reach 119 degrees.

"If we have healthy workers, we have a healthy economy," said director of Todec, Luz Gallegos.

One farmworker told News Channel 3 that while they have water and shade, working in the extreme heat is a challenge-- that's why they enter as the sun comes up around 5 a.m. By about noon, most fields are empty because workers have returned home to escape the hottest time of the day.

"Our crews on a day like this are seasonal labor, we don't work a full day. They only work a 6-hour day," said Tudor Ranch Inc. President George Tudor.

Although workers become acclimated to the heat, they have to undergo heat illness training to help educate them on staying hydrated, and to know when to stop working if they don't feel good.

"We always have mandatory shade when it's over 85, but you have to announce in the morning: This is the temperature today. You would now say please, people have to be aware of the heat. You just try and make it cognizant during the day," said Tudor.

He said they also provide water, and breaks in case someone does not feel well.

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Shelby Nelson


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