Advocacy groups talk workers' rights in Fresno amid the pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dozens of community members gathered at Fresno's Local Carpenters 701 Tuesday afternoon to discuss worker's rights amid the ever-changing pandemic.

"We're having a conversation," Armando Elenes said. Elenes is the Secretary-Treasurer of the United Farm Workers Labor Union.

Elenes says keeping workers informed is more important than ever.

"Especially with COVID, with new laws and new issues coming about, we're dealing with stuff that we've never actually dealt with before."

Elenes says sick pay among other issues, is always at the forefront.

"For example, if I'm exposed directly or indirectly, then I have the right to sick pay," he said.

Sebastian Sanchez is one of the other organizers. He's the Associate Secretary for Farmerworker Liason and Immigrant Services, and echoes much of the same concerns.

"We're in a new phase of the pandemic," Sanchez said. "People are going back to work, people want to know how they can be safe at work and we want to provide them with that information."

Sanchez says farmworkers also may have to deal with retaliation in the workplace, and wants them to know their rights.

"Retaliation can take many forms," he said. "So it can be a worker asks for something that is their right in the workplace and the employer, worst-case scenario, fires them, but it could also be the employer cuts their hours."

Workers also learned about their rights when it comes to masks.

"Even if a place of employment does not require you to wear a mask, you can, however, request one in which case that employer would have to provide it," says Reyes Uviedo. He's with Valley Forward, a local advocacy group.

He tells Action News California is leading the way on workers rights, and is hopeful these conversations can continue.

"We all know that workers' rights have been violated before and after COVID," Uviedo said. "They're going to continue to be violated even way after COVID, so it is essential to keep this framework we have in place."
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