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Farmworkers invited to 'air grievances' at town hall meeting

Farmworkers harvesting fennel near Santa Maria, CA.

Central Coast farmworkers are invited to a town hall meeting Monday night in Santa Maria. Santa Barbara County supervisors Janet Wolf and Salud Carbajal are hosting the meeting, and they say the public workshop is intended to be a space for farmworkers to “air grievances” and describe living and working conditions in the area’s agricultural industry.

Listening to the farmworkers will be a panel of county and state officials involved in agriculture, such as Santa Barbara Agriculture Commissioner Cathy Fisher, attorneys with the county’s District Attorney’s office and California Dept. of Industrial Relations among others.

Wolf says she and her colleagues have been hearing about a wide range of problems faced by the region’s farmworkers.

“A lot of it has to do with health, safety and wage-related issues,” Wolf said. “And what we’ve decided to do, because there are so many issues, we thought it would be a good thing to have an opportunity for farmworkers or interested stakeholders who may have questions to kind of just be in one place and have a forum where these questions be addressed.”

Farmworker advocates, including the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), have been calling on area county officials to create a ‘Bill of Rights’ to establish better protections for workers and improve wages and housing.

The town hall will take place Monday, December 5, in Santa Maria at the Betteravia Center from 6 to 8 p.m. The meeting will also be live video streamed to the Santa Barbara county administration building. Translators in Spanish, Mixteco Alto and Mixteco Bajo will be on hand in Santa Maria; in Santa Barbara, there will be Spanish/English interpretation available.

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