Victories in Health and Safety Enforcement in NYS

The NYS Dairy Workers’ Organizing Campaign is proud to announce that dairy farmworkers have won several victories in their fight for the most fundamental human right: the right to stay alive. Last week, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Director David Michaels wrote a letter to Congressman Richard Hannah denying Hannah’s request to indefinitely delay surprise, random inspections of dairy farms in NYS, a component of the OSHA Local Emphasis Program (LEP). In the letter, Michaels wrote: “The LEP was initially scheduled to take effect in October 2013, and OSHA delayed the start date to July 2014… The LEP does not impose any new obligations on dairy farmers, but rather sets forth an initiative to ensure compliance with existing standards.” Congressman Hannah has unapologetically advocated on behalf of farmers and the powerful farm bureau lobby for OSHA to back off the agricultural industry in New York State. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries to work in, and dairy farms represent the largest sector of New York’s thriving agricultural industry, with profits soaring 18% in 2013 according to the Albany Times Union. As dairy production ramps up to meet the demand for milk that new dairy processing plants across the state require, workers have increasingly been exposed to dangerous working conditions. Since 2006, there have been 55 work-related fatalities on NYS dairy farms, an alarmingly high rate by any standard. “We come to this country to work hard, and make a life for ourselves. Not to lose it” said farmworker Salvador Peralta. The Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York applaud OSHA for pursuing the planned inspections. We also applaud Congressman Dan Maffei (D-NY 24) for reversing his support of the indefinite delay of inspections, which was a direct result of our meetings with him. In March and April, farmworkers and their allies educated him about the grave dangers workers face, and our concern with his stance with republican representatives who opposed health and safety enforcement. The urgency of the situation was highlighted on the day of the first meeting with him: the co-worker of two of the farmworkers at the meeting had been killed on their dairy farm in Marietta, NY only three hours prior to our meeting. Click here to access Maffei’s statement in Washington in support of our campaign.

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