Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Expanding animal cruelty laws to farm workers

The National Law Guild Review just published an interesting article entitled “Work like a Dog: Expanding Animal Cruelty Statutes to Gain Human Rights for Migrant Farmworkers in the US”.

It begins by contrasting the consequences for employers when two workers died in separate heat-related fatalities in California. The supervisors of a pregnant 17-year-old who died after being forced to work in the sun for 9 hours pruning grapes swung a plea bargain:

One supervisor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor account of failing to provide shade and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, three years of probation and a $370 fine. A second supervisor pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to follow safety regulations resulting in death and was sentenced for 480 hours of community service, five years of probation and a $1,000 fine (p.45).
By contrast, a police officer whose service dog (the second "worker") died after being left in a hot car was ordered to pay a $411 fine, $4941 in restitution for the dog, perform 100 hours of community service and serve three years of probation. The employer also installed heat alarms in the cars to prevent similar deaths in the future.

What is striking (although not really surprising) is that killing a dog resulted in a harsher sentence and more effective hazard mitigation than did killing a farm worker. Recognizing that animals are accorded more rights than farm workers (a situation replicated in Alberta), the article explores the novel strategy of expanding existing animal cruelty statutes in order to provide core human rights to migrant farm workers.

-- Bob Barnetson

No comments:

Post a Comment