The Port of Los Angeles and the CMA CGM Group shipping company donated 75,000 respiratory face masks on Monday to California farmworkers coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfire smoke, and extreme heat.
The products are FFP2 respiratory masks, which are the European version of the N-95 masks, according to Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. The masks were distributed to the United Farm Workers of America through the Logistics Victory Los Angeles program.
"This is a group whose members are currently working in very difficult conditions amid the pandemic as well as the wildfires in the state of California," Seroka said. "Farmworkers have played an incredibly important role, helping ensure the reliability and dependability of our food supply chain, especially during this global health crisis. These workers are helping feed not only America but the world."
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Seroka said the Logistics Victory Los Angeles program, also called LoVLA, has so far facilitated the delivery of more than 1.5 million units of personal protective equipment to essential workers and frontline health professionals.
The CMA CGM Group, a shipping and logistics company, donated 200,000 masks to LoVLA earlier this year.
"Farmworkers never take a day off, even in the face of threats to their health and safety, and their determination means there's never a shortage of food on our shelves, in our pantries, and on our tables," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "Delivering these masks to these courageous folks upholds our core commitment to serve our essential, frontline workers as well as they serve us."
Teresa Romero, the president of the United Farm Workers of America, said agricultural workers are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they often live in cramped spaces that may not be sanitized for the virus.
"They're contracting the virus in alarming numbers," Romero said. "Although they must work since they are deemed essential employees and need to feed their families, most fieldworkers receive no federal benefits, including additional unemployment in government checks."
Romero said the UFW conducted a survey recently that found 84% of the state's farmworkers have not been provided with an N95 mask or protective equipment of a similar quality since the pandemic hit California.
Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, said farmworkers also typically work in temperatures that exceed 100-degrees in the middle of the summer.
"These essential heroes of the fields should always have essential (personal protective equipment) available to them, and they must be treated as essential and not sacrificial," Herrera said.
Seroka noted during a media briefing announcing the donation that the Port of Los Angeles may see its most productive August in history, as global maritime trade begins to resume. Seroka said September is also looking promising.