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 Sacramento, Calif. – A bill by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to make it easier for California’s farm workers to choose a union passed by the state Assembly today. The vote was 51 -25. SB 104, the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, would allow workers to organize by using the option of a “majority sign-up” method of voting in addition to the alternative of voting at a polling place.

Today’s Assembly vote on SB 104 was in honor of farm worker Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, 17, the pregnant Lodi teenager who died on May 16, 2008 after collapsing from heat exhaustion two days before in a vineyard east of Stockton after laboring more than nine hours without accessible shade or water in violation of the state’s heat regulation. 

Fifteen workers, including Maria Isavel, have died from heat-related illnesses since the state heat regulation went into effect in 2005. SB104 is designed so workers can better protect themselves by fairly choosing whether or not they want union organization free from the overt threats and coercion that employers often exert when field laborers vote on ranch property.