Farmworker tours upstate communities, says working on dairies is dangerous

KOMUnews/via Flickr
May 5, 2014

A Western New York farm worker is on a tour of churches and community centers in Upstate New York to bring attention to the dangers of working at dairy farms.

José Cañas is originally from El Salvador, but he’s worked in New York agriculture for three years.

Cañas says he’s putting his job on the line to let people know about the risks posed to agricultural laborers from slippery floors, large animals, heavy equipment, and chemicals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 55 fatalities on New York State dairy farms since 2006.

Cañas is encouraging more farm laborers to share their experiences and let regulatory agencies, like OSHA, know about their on-the-job concerns.

He says most farm workers are too afraid to speak up

“Es que tenemos miedo a immigration, a la policia, al despido del trabajo. Y si nos despiden del trabajo nos sacan de la casa y no tenemos a donde ir.”

He says: It's because we're afraid of immigration, of police, of being fired from work. And if they fire us from work, we're taken out of our homes and we don't have we anywhere to go.

This July, the federal safety agency, OSHA, will begin a Local Emphasis Program to scrutinize the safety of New York dairy farms. Representatives from the New York Farm Bureau have been training farmers on how to comply with OSHA regulations.