(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2009) With language to exclude farmworkers from coverage, on July 10, 2009, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced Senate Amendment 200 to the Affordable Health Choices Act, the health care reform bill being considered in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). According to the advocacy group Farmworker Justice, her amendment would exclude from the definition of “employees” any “temporary or seasonal agricultural workers ”¦ for the purposes of determining the size of an employer.” Agricultural employers of seasonal farmworkers would not be required to participate in the system because they would be considered to be too small. Seasonal farmworkers would be denied health care coverage.
“There can be no good explanation for why Senator Hagan thinks it would be a good idea to exclude seasonal farmworkers from access to affordable health care coverage, other than that she is pandering to agricultural employers and upholding the long tradition of excluding some of America’s lowest paid and hardest working employees from the benefits that other workers receive,” said attorney Kate Woomer-Deters of the North Carolina Justice Center.
Farmworkers in the U.S. earn an average of $12,500 to $15,000 per year. They work in some of the most physically demanding and dangerous jobs, and suffer injuries and illnesses at high rates. They suffer from exposure to pesticides, nicotine poisoning during the tobacco harvest, extreme temperatures and are constantly stooping, bending, and lifting. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds the pesticide poisoning incidence rate among U.S. agricultural workers is 31 times higher than the incidence rate found in all other industries combined. The study, “Acute Pesticide Poisoning Among Agricultural Workers in the United Sates, 1998-2005,” was published in the December issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
Take Action: Call the Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121, and ask for Sen. Hagan’s office. Ask Sen. Hagan to withdraw her amendment number 200 to the health care reform bill because farmworkers and their family members need health care coverage and health care reform.
Please also call your Senators on the HELP Committee. Ask them to oppose the Hagan amendment in the Senate HELP Committee to the health care reform bill, amendment number 200 that would deny seasonal farmworkers coverage under the new health care system. It is unfair, immoral and economically counterproductive.
HELP Committee Members
Democrats by Rank
Edward Kennedy (MA), Christopher Dodd (CT), Tom Harkin (IA), Barbara A. Mikulski (MD), Jeff Bingaman (NM), Patty Murray (WA), Jack Reed (RI), Bernard Sanders (I) (VT), Sherrod Brown (OH),
Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA), Kay Hagan (NC), Jeff Merkley (OR).
Republicans by Rank
Michael B. Enzi (WY), Judd Gregg (NH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Richard Burr (NC), Johnny Isakson (GA), John McCain (AZ), Orrin G. Hatch (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Tom Coburn, M.D. (OK), Pat Roberts (KS).