Your Safety at Work

You have the right to a clean and safe work place. Agriculture employers should provide and maintain a bathroom near the work site. The employer should provide a place where you can wash your hands after using pesticides and to drink clean water in disposable cups. It is very important to drink a lot of fluids during the workday.

Most states require certain employers to have workers' compensation insurance. If you are injured at work, workers' compensation, or "workers' comp," will pay for your medical expenses, a portion of your wages while you are recovering and a final lump sum payment if you are permanently disabled. If an employer has insurance, all employees are eligible for workers' compensation regardless of how long they have worked with that employer and regardless of their immigration status.

If you are injured at work, follow these five steps:

1. Report the accident, injury or illness to your supervisor. It is best to do this immediately. Different states have different time limits for when an injury must be reported.

2. Write down the names of all witnesses, including their addresses and telephone numbers if you can get this information.

3. See a doctor immediately. In some states you have the right to choose your own doctor, but in other states you must select a doctor from a pre-approved network.

4. Take notes for yourself after the accident, injury or illness occurred. Write down exactly what happened, who was present, how your supervisor responded, and what actions you took.

5. Contact a local workers' center, your union representative, or a qualified workers' compensation attorney in your area.

Your rights under workers' compensation vary from state to state. You should consult a workers' center, qualified workers' compensation attorney or a union representative to find our more about your rights when you are injured at work.


Ernestina and Silvia
The poultry plant in Morristown, TN, where Ernestina and Silvia worked had a lot of problems. Pay was low and work conditions were hard. Workers weren't allowed to use the bathroom during their shift. The line that moved the chickens through the plant was too fast and there were many accidents. Most of the workers are immigrants from Mexico, and they asked a union to come and advise them about their rights. At the first meeting, Ernestina and Silvia volunteered to join the union organizing committee. Their courage motivated other workers to stand with the union and not to be intimidated. They worked hard to convince workers and other community members to support the union, speaking out at local churches and community events. Their efforts paid off and workers voted by 97% for the union. They also organized a group of workers to file complaints with the state occupational health and safety agency because of the dangerous conditions. The plant was fined thousands of dollars and issued 7 citations for serious health and safety violations. Conditions at the plant have changed so dramatically that the plant even closed in honor of the pro-immigrant rallies held on May 1, 2006.