Marylanders who are employed in the food or agriculture sector would be able to work under strengthened protections during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, under legislation introduced in the General Assembly.
Sponsors said Thursday that some workers are forced to choose between their paychecks and their own safety and health by being forced to work while sick, or are subject to application of pesticides. Advocates for migrant workers also said they often stay in cramped, substandard living conditions.
The bills are designed to provide farm and food employees with safer and cleaner conditions, hazard pay, adequate sick leave and access to free testing for coronavirus.
“Food and farmworkers are providing an essential service to all Marylanders in this pandemic,” Senator Malcom Augustine, D- 47th, said. Augustine is sponsor of the Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act. “It benefits all of us for essential workers to have safe and hygienic workplaces, hazard pay, sick leave and access to free testing.”
“Maryland’s food and farmworkers should not have to choose between their paychecks and their safety,” Delegate Kris Valderrama, D- 26th, added. “Right now, these essential workers have no mandatory and enforceable workplace protections to keep them safe, but my legislation requiring Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard would finally change that.”