We’re going to keep the fun going by having our Online Silent Auction up the entire month of August. Get great deals on Clothing, an Ecuadorian Vacation, Gift Baskets, Local Crafts, Art, and so much MORE including delicious local WINE!
Resiliency in a wildfire prone area means following fire safe practices around homes. Important work in protecting homes from wildfires remains to be done. For many years, CAFÉ and SCCA have played a key role in accountability and innovation to ensure our community’s long-standing history of environmental innovation. Our outreach in the fire prevention arena helps local residents understand defensible space and vegetation management options.
August 20th Russian River Canoe Trip: Postponed Due to Fire
Spend an amazing late afternoon paddling a 6-mile stretch of the middle reach of the Russian River with Don McEnhill, our Russian Riverkeeper, and Larry Laba, the host, guide and owner of Russian River Adventures. This is the 11th annual Riverkeeper float that Don and Larry have donated to SCCA. It is always popular, and you will come away with an appreciation of how many different environmental issues affect the jewel of Sonoma County, and what Don is doing, and what you can do.
We’ll meet at Wohler Bridge at 3 pm … socially distant bus shuttling to a private launch site off Westside Road, and we’ll paddle back to Wohler in 2-man SOAR Inflatable canoes. It is usually hot when we launch and cool when we finish, so wear your swim shorts, good hat, sunscreen, and llghtweight layers, a good snack and water. Join us as we celebrate this long partnership between the SCCA and the Russian Riverkeeper.
There is a great possibility of seeing excellent bird life, and over the years of offering the SCCA float, participants have seen bald eagles, river otter and bobcat. Who knows what we will see!
Join us for a very fun and enjoyable paddle with like-minded people who truly care about Sonoma County’s rivers, mountains, corridors, and green spaces.
NOTE: River Trip Limit 30 persons. Sliding scale for kids, students.
Where: Wohler Bridge or Memorial Bridge
(You will be contacted with updates before the float)
Price: $50-$150 per Person Sliding Scale
Traditionally, SCCA has hosted our annual Grassroots Gala to celebrate our environmental successes and raise funds for the issues that lie ahead. Though we can’t gather in person this year, we hope you will support us by joining and sponsoring our…
Virtual Online Auction and Gala July 31st, 7:00pm
Your support today will help us keep our waterways, open spaces, and parks healthy, eliminate toxics from schools, provide access to more affordable housing into our urban cores, and help us elect community leaders who are ready to fight for a more sustainable and more equitable future for everyone.
This year our Grass Roots Gala will be held online and includes Awards, Live Chats, and a Short Film! Ticket holders will receive a link to a Zoom that can be viewed on a device at home. Share freely with friends and family.
For Free Tickets Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsorship Ticket Levels:
Nothing But Blue Sky Over Sonoma $5,000 | Cleaner Water in our Rivers and San Francisco Bay $2,500 | Reduced GHG Emissions for the entire North Bay $1,000 | Local Regenerative Farming $500 | Decreased Demand for Donald Trump Mega-Rallies $300
Individual $25 | $100 with Gift basket
A Huge Thank You to our Early Sponsors!
Nothing But Blue Sky Over Sonoma
Warren and Janis Watkins
Michael Allen and Helen Ross
Cleaner Water in our Rivers and San Francisco Bay
SOAR/Russian River Adventures
Susan Gorin, Sonoma County Supervisor
Reduced GHG Emissions for the entire North Bay
Jackson Family Wines
North Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Local Regenerative Farming
Anne and Brien Seeley
Jake Mackenzie, Rohnert Park City Council and Barbara Mackenzie
Senator Mike McGuire
Julie, Barry and Jerry Groves
Congressman Jared Huffman
Decreased Demand for Donald Trump Mega-Rallies
Damon Connolly, Marin County Supervisor
Lynda Hopkins, Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor
Maddy Hirshfield and Janet Orchard, Former Mayor of Cotati
Willard and Nancy Richards
Barbara Moulton and Tom Helm
Debora Fudge-Committe to Elect Debora Fudge Town Council 2020
Lance and J Barlas
Mark and Cathy Walsh
Memories of SCCA’s 2019 Grass Roots Gala
A DEVELOPER IS PROPOSING A LUXURY RESORT AND EVENT CENTER IN A VOTER-PROTECTED GREENBELT!
- The project violates MEASURE K. In 2016, voters passed the measure by 81%, voting to protect community separator greenbelts, the rural lands between our towns and cities, from more sprawl and intensified development. Now unelected county planners are ready to compromise our open space legacy for the benefit of one luxury developer.
- Project approval would induce more hospitality centers outside urban areas. Thousands of rural RRD parcels are at risk.
- NOT NOW! We face the COVID crisis, a dangerous wildfire season, economic uncertainly and political unrest when most voters are not able to participate in the public process. Just one Zoom meeting! Don’t move forward now on a totally non-essential luxury resort and event center in the protected greenbelt.
- The project is the middle of the Tubb’s burn zone and will put more people and property at wildfire risk.
DRAFT A LETTER!
SEND BY July 6, 2020 TO:
Sonoma County Conservation Action, its board of directors, staff, and many of our members have been tuned into recent events in our nation and country that have pushed our communities to take action and protest. We mourn for the lives that have been lost at the hands of police violence and brutality, and we offer this statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and all the groups and individuals working for a more just and racism free society.
Racism is wrong, it is short sighted, and it must not be tolerated, not for one more moment, and not for one more exception. We can no longer remain silent, or we shall become the Spring without songbirds.
We cannot allow white dominated power structures to continue to shape our society, our law enforcement response, our public policy, our political discourse, or even our ability to enjoy and protect nature. As an environmental organization, it is incumbent upon us to look at the whole of the ecosystems we seek to steward and protect, including the human beings within those ecosystems, and find the courage and insights to tend the system to enable it to flourish at it’s best possible harmony. Allowing racism, bigotry, and hatred to persist is simply put, totally unacceptable.
Environmental Justice is a call to action as minority and low income communities often bear the brunt of industry outsourcing while white, wealthier businesses spread their pollution on the way to profit. Dumping of toxic chemicals in the water, noise and air pollution from asphalt or manufacturing plants, and many other examples of dumping our waste on those unable to defend themselves exist in our country, and in Sonoma County, right here in our backyard. Our work on environmental justice issues and our own organizational evolution over the years is significant, but must continue to move forward and expand. We must reach out to our brothers and sisters in the social and environmental justice movements, and meaningfully engage the Latinx, Native American, and Black communities locally to work for a more just and equitable social and environmental condition. If we work together, we are all stronger as a result, and we can accomplish much.
Conservation Action stands in solidarity with people of all colors seeking justice and equity in our democracy. Our organizers and the people we serve have hearts that beat and have the ability to love and heal and nurture and evolve. At this time, and since the founding of this nation, racial privilege has been reserved for white citizens and, as uncomfortable as it may be, we must challenge our norms and power structures to ensure that we eradicate implicit and explicit racism in every institution.
Please join us in protest and action. Educate yourself on how race and privilege affects you and your community. Have difficult conversations with your friends and family to discuss how you can materially support racial justice. Contact your congressperson, state representatives, local county and city leaders,and ask them what they are doing to move the scales of justice into balance. Tell them you are with them in the fight for social equity and a more just society. Tell them that addressing racism goes beyond eradicating profiling and brutality in policing and that it requires examining how our institutions impact racial minorities and their life outcomes. Let them know that we need to value the lives and contributions of each person in our community and that only by working together and addressing racial disparities in every area of our work, can we truly move forward.
By rolling back EPA Clean Air standards the Trump administration is delivering yet another blow to Americans at a time when the highest priority of the government should be to lessen the health and economic risks that we all face due to the Corona Virus pandemic.
Clean Air regulations are one of the strongest strategies available to fight the global climate crisis. Don’t stand by and do nothing as the air quality of our county and country worsens. Environmental pollution also damages human health and can exacerbate a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing.
Act now and we can avoid this rollback from taking effect!
Trump administration has aggressively pushed ahead with an inefficient, needless, and dangerous rollback of the environmental and public health agenda.
It is not time to reduce regulations that keep billions of tons of climate-disrupting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!
By Martin J. Bennett
Last year the trade publication Wine Enthusiast recognized Sonoma County as the ‘Wine Region of the Year,’ and the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association announced that 99 percent of the county vineyards achieved their ‘sustainability’ certification. But the county’s farmworkers–who produce the wealth of the wine country–are mostly invisible to the public. Winegrowers and the media rarely recognize the actual value of their labor, and their contribution to the local economy is seldom acknowledged.
Most county farmworkers do not earn a living wage or receive employer-provided health insurance, lack access to affordable housing, and confront dangerous health and safety conditions on the job. A just, equitable and, sustainable recovery from the 2017 and 2019 wildfires must include new public policy and grower initiatives to improve the economic security and general health of farmworkers.
Nine out of 10 Sonoma County farmworkers are employed in the wine industry. Farm labor analyst Don Villarejo examined the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2017 Census and calculated the average hourly wage for a county farmworker employed directly by a farm operator for at least 150 days was $15.43 an hour; the weighted annual average income of all farmworkers who were used by growers and farm labor contractors was $21,920–these figures are likely slightly higher today due to recent increases in the minimum wage and new overtime requirements for farmworkers.
The Department of Labor National Agricultural Survey reports that few California farmworkers are employed full-time in agriculture: on average, they work just 36 weeks annually. UC Davis economist Phillip Martin calculated that in 2015 the average California farmworker, employed primarily in agriculture, earned only $20,500 annually. Three out of four California farmworkers had only one employer, and just 15 percent crossed the border or migrated between California agricultural regions.
Farmworkers and their families are working poor, belonging to one-third of the county workforce that cannot make ends meet. According to the California Budget and Policy Project, in 2017, two Sonoma County parents working full-time had to each earn $23.00 an hour or approximately $81,000 a year to support two children and pay for necessities—food, transportation, childcare, rental housing, and medical care. This very conservative estimate came before the dramatic 35 percent spike of median rents in the county following the 2017 Tubbs Fire.
Precarious Farmworker Working and Living Conditions
In 2018, Sonoma County growers and farm labor contractors employed approximately 11,060 vineyard workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An overlooked 2015 Sonoma County Department of Health Services report, ‘Sonoma County Farmworker Health Survey,’ based upon interviews with nearly 300 county farmworkers, provides insights into the working conditions and health of county farmworkers:
- Nine in ten vineyard workers surveyed were male, under the age of 40, born in Mexico and year-round county residents; 29 percent single; 24 percent married and living with a partner; 43 percent married and living with a partner and children.
- Just 30 percent of the farmworkers had health insurance provided by their employer, the state, or spouse’s plan; less than 10 percent of farmworkers received employer-provided medical benefits.
- Ten percent of the county’s farmworkers reported an injury or illness on the job, due to repetitive motion tasks, constant lifting, and bending, pesticide poisoning, or prolonged exposure to heat and sunlight; 13 percent lacked consistent access to shelter and shade from the heat.
- Most Sonoma County vineyard workers lived in unsubsidized rental housing or apartments; 30 percent received some housing financial assistance from their employer, including 14 percent who lived in grower-provided worksite housing.
- Housing is unaffordable for the vast majority of farmworkers; they pay 30-60 percent of gross monthly income in rent; and two-thirds of farmworkers lived in overcrowded housing due to the high cost of rental housing. Overcrowding directly impacts the physical and mental health of family members and the educational achievement of farmworker children.
A 2015 study by the Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy found that 60 percent of the 300 Ventura County farmworkers interviewed had experienced one form of wage theft in the previous year, and 23 percent had two or more thefts. Various types of wage theft include: paying for fewer hours than worked; paying less than time and a half pay for overtime; cutting back two legally mandated 10-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break; assigning work tasks before clocking-in or after clocking out.
The Wine Industry and Farmworker Health and Safety
In addition to low wages, high rates of wage theft, and lack of access to affordable housing, farm labor is one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2017 farmworker fatality rate was far higher than police officers and construction workers, and nearly twice the rate of firefighters. Farmworker disability rates were three times greater than in the general population. According to the county Department of Health, 44 percent of local farmworkers self-reported their health as poor or fair – three times that of the whole population.
Of the numerous health and safety risks facing Sonoma County vineyard field workers, the most common are muscle-and-skeletal conditions—such as chronic back and neck strains and biomechanical injuries from bending, repetitive motion, the prolonged holding of awkward postures and heavy lifting. The county Health Department study points out that “cost or lack of health insurance were the main barriers to receiving needed medical care and medications.” If a worker lacks health insurance and cannot seek immediate medical attention, muscular-skeletal injuries may be aggravated and recovery delayed.
Accidents involving heavy equipment and transportation to and from work also are quite common. Exposures to heat, pesticides, and wildfire smoke—all now intensified by the climate crisis—are significant health hazards for vineyard workers.
Farmworkers and Pesticide Exposure
California and Sonoma County farmworkers—and often their families—are routinely exposed to a toxic pesticidal soup. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) estimates that Sonoma County farmers applied 2.5 million pounds of pesticides in 2017 and 93 percent of that total was applied to wine grapes.
In the early 1990s, the EPA estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 U.S. farmworkers were annually injured or became ill from on-the-job exposure to pesticides; the number of unreported cases is likely much higher given misdiagnosed and unreported incidents. Farmworkers suffer more chemical-related illnesses than any other workforce sector. Both the airborne drift from sprayed pesticides and residues on vines and soil directly affect farmworkers. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that many growers often do not post an adequate notice when fields are sprayed, neglect to enforce ‘no entry’ periods after pesticide applications, and fail to provide protective gear and pesticide safety training.
Also, the National Center for Farmworker Health estimates that the lack of bathroom and cleanup facilities at work put entire families at risk because farmworkers bring pesticides into their homes on contaminated clothes, shoes, tools, and skin. Aerial pesticide drift from the fields also can impact adjacent farmworker residential communities.
A 2012 study by the Council on Environmental Health documents high rates of asthma, childhood cancer, and abnormal neural development among rural farmworkers’ children. Sonoma County has the third-highest child cancer rates in California.
The herbicide Roundup, one of the most controversial synthetic pesticides, is a weed killer containing glyphosate—a chemical that the World Health Organization classified as a probable carcinogen in 2015. Scientific research has linked Roundup to such chronic health problems as infertility and birth-defects; attention deficit, autism, and other developmental disorders; neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s); respiratory conditions (asthma, chronic bronchitis); and cancers (non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate, and skin).
The CDPR reported that 62,543 pounds of glyphosate was applied to Sonoma County vineyards in 2017. That same year glyphosate was added to the California Proposition 65 list of known cancer-causing chemicals.
Roundup is also harmful to consumers’ health: in 2015, the nonprofit advocacy organization Moms Across America reported finding low levels of glyphosate in all ten of the well-known Sonoma, Mendocino, and Napa wines tested (based upon testing by the commercial laboratory Microbe Inotech).
Sonoma County Conservation Action has initiated a grassroots Toxic-Free Future campaign to ban Roundup. The County of Sonoma and the cities of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, and Sonoma now prohibit Roundup application on public property such as parks, roads, schools, open space, and marinas. Dozens of other California counties, cities, school districts, and the UC system have approved full or partial bans of glyphosate. But the governor and legislature have yet to enact a complete ban in agriculture.
Farmworkers and Wildfire Smoke
Wildfire smoke has now become a challenging health hazard for county farmworkers. Seven of the ten most destructive wildfires in California have occurred in the last five years—three in Sonoma County. Wildfire smoke contains high levels of microscopic particulate matter that can affect cardiovascular health, reduce lung function, and increase the risks of respiratory disorders.
The legislature failed to act in 2019 to establish labor and health and safety standards for outdoor workers during wildfires. However, Cal/OSHA did implement a new rule in 2018 that requires employers to continuously monitor air quality during wildfires and take action when smoke reaches an ‘unhealthy’ level (150) on the Air Quality Index. Employers must attempt to reduce worker exposure to smoke by altering work hours or location; relocating employees to buildings with filtered air, if possible; or providing workers with N-95 respirators (that reduce smoke exposure tenfold) and training proper respirator use.
But respirator masks are uncomfortable and can impair breathing when used for hours at a time. Respirators also must be individually fitted and tested for maximum effectiveness, and may not fit over facial hair or broad facial features. Sonoma County health officer, Dr. Celeste Phillips, told Kaiser Health News that the best way for workers to stay safe is to limit time outdoors.
Most farmworkers are paid by the shift and cannot afford time off–particularly during peak harvest, which now extends into the dry, hot, and windy fall conditions most conducive to wildfires. Most farmworkers have no paid sick leave and are ineligible for unemployment benefits. Undocufund was established in 2017 by county labor, faith, and immigrant rights organizations to assist unauthorized immigrants harmed by the fires. According to North Bay Jobs with Justice Executive Director Mara Ventura, “one of the most common hardships for undocumented residents who need assistance is sudden income loss due to evacuation, lost workdays and/or job loss.”
In addition, the Sonoma County Department of Health reports that a majority of county farmworkers lack work authorization and more than 40 percent work for farm labor contractors, who determine their housing, transportation, and cash flow. Many farmworkers fear retaliation, deportation, and job loss; they are unlikely to change work conditions unless directed by the employer or to have N95 masks if not employer-provided.
Towards an Equitable and Sustainable Wine Industry
A sustainable wine industry is impossible in the North Bay without a living wage, comprehensive benefits, and dramatically improved working and living conditions for farmworkers.
To address runaway inequality and working poverty, 33 California cities and one county have implemented local citywide minimum wage laws higher than the state’s of $13/hr. for large employers and $12/hr. for small on January 1, 2020 (phasing-in to $15/hr. for all employers on January 1, 2023). Last year Petaluma approved a $15/hr. citywide minimum wage for large employers and $14/hr. for small employers on January 1, 2020. The Petaluma minimum wage will increase to $15 for all employers (plus a COLA) on January 1, 2021. Subsequently, Santa Rosa approved a citywide $15/hr. minimum wage on July 1, 2020, for large employers and $14/hr. for small. On January 1st, 2021, the Santa Rosa minimum wage will increase to $15/hr. for all employers (plus a COLA).
The Alliance for A Just Recovery—a broad coalition comprised of every major labor, environmental, immigrant rights and faith organizations in Sonoma County—proposes that the Board of Supervisors start by enacting a countywide minimum wage mandating $15/hr. for all employers on January 1, 2021 (plus an annual COLA), that will align a county $15 minimum wage floor with the two largest cities.
To also improve farmworker health and give farmworkers time off from work during hazardous wildfire conditions, the Board of Supervisors should approve a paid sick leave ordinance for unincorporated county areas, similar to 2006 legislation passed by San Francisco supervisors, which enables all workers to accrue up to nine paid sick days a year for preventive health or existing health conditions—or to care for ill family members. Sonoma County’s paid sick leave law should enable all outdoor workers to take paid time off when air quality reaches hazardous levels during wildfires.
In addition, during the region’s next air quality-impacting wildfire, vintners should strictly comply with the new California OSHA rule and prepare now to protect farmworkers from wildfire smoke—including training all workers to use N95 masks.
Lastly, winegrowers should immediately halt Roundup applications and join with local government, environmental organizations, and consumers to eliminate synthetic pesticides throughout Sonoma County. The entire industry should plan for the transition to organic and biodynamic wine production to protect the health of growers, workers, and consumers, and promote regenerative land management. Benzinger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, Preston Winery in Healdsburg, Hopland’s Fetzer Winery–and seventeen small Sonoma County wineries managed by Phil and Sam Coturri and Enterprise Vineyards–have already charted that course for others to follow.
The Sonoma County Winegrowers’ sustainability certification should include the Agricultural Justice Project’s social justice screen, to ensure “adherence to workplace standards that protect worker rights…and address fair wages and benefits for workers, housing, workplace health and safety, as well as children on farms.”
In 2018, the Press Democrat estimated the value of the North Coast grape harvest–including Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake counties–at a record $2 billion–and the farmworkers harvest at 588,864 tons of grapes, nearly one-third more than 2017. Sonoma and Napa counties produce most of California’s premium wines that yield the highest profits. Premium wine production is dominated by three global corporations including Constellation Brands, E and J Gallo, and The Wine Group. These companies have the resources to create an equitable and genuinely sustainable wine industry that can become a model for the entire world.
Martin J. Bennett is Instructor Emeritus of History at Santa Rosa Junior College and a member of North Bay Jobs with Justice. He served on the Sonoma County Conservation Action board from 2005 to 2015. Contact him at email@example.com.
The field canvass for the Measure I campaign has begun and SCCA’s team of talented organizers have already contacted thousands of Sonoma and Marin County residents to get the word out about this important ballot initiative. SCCA has worked hard for alternative transportation solutions like the SMART train for decades because transportation is the largest sources of green house gas emissions in the county. By making smarter transportation decisions we can make a real contribution to the fight against climate change, locally. The SMART train and its 1.72 Million riders have already kept 8.1 Million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Infrastructure can’t be built in a day. Real infrastructure must be supported and become part of the local culture and that takes time. Time and money. After Sonoma and Marin counties passed the quarter of a percent sales tax to support the SMART train the recession hit. The projected $455 million in revenue fell short and the tax only brought in $298 million over the last 10 years. SMART was able to bring in $328 million in regional, state and federal matching funds to get the project running, however, to keep it running and fulfill the promise of having a long lasting, modern train system we need to pass Measure I. Measure I will support SMART service to additional cities, increase the frequency of SMART trains, fund safety enhancements along the rail line, add additional parking to SMART stations, and build more bicycle and walking paths connecting SMART stations!
Vote Yes on I!