On January 31, after Towards Justice’s advocacy in coalition with farmworkers, farmers, organizers, and advocates around the state, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment enacted safety rules that provide Colorado farmworkers with some of the strongest health and safety protections in the country.
Farmworkers confront deadly working conditions that have only worsened as temperatures rise and air quality worsens because of fires. Yet, for far too long, health and safety protections have failed to do nearly enough to protect these important and vulnerable workers. As the federal government begins a prolonged process to consider new standards to protect workers from heat-related injuries, Towards Justice is proud that Colorado has become one of the nation’s leaders on this important, life-or-death issue. Colorado’s new rules:
- require employers to provide breaks every two hours when temperatures reach 95 degrees
- encourage workers to take cool-down breaks when temperatures reach 80 degrees
- require increased breaks when workers are confront increased risk conditions like poor air quality, long workdays, or heavy clothing
- require that workers have access to shade and potable water and that employers maintain communications among workers to ensure everyone is monitored for signs of heat stress
- ensure that workers can access key service providers either at the worksite or by phone and internet, which is especially important for workers who can work 80-90 hour weeks often live on their employer’s property
- require paid breaks to facilitate access to service providers when work hours extend beyond 60 hours in a week
In collaboration with Project Protect Food Systems, Colorado Legal Services, Frontline Farming and other partners, Towards Justice advocated for strong rules that CDLE created under the Agricultural Labor Rights and Responsibilities Act, which Governor Polis signed into law in the summer of 2021. This law, supported by Towards Justice in partnership with a broad coalition of advocates from across Colorado, offers long-overdue protections for our state’s farmworkers, including minimum wage, overtime, and collective bargaining protections. Although the march towards justice is long, these rules are an important victory in the fight to advance justice for agricultural workers.