March 20, 2020
Dear CAWG Members,
Last night Gov. Newsom
ordered all Californians to stay at home
, except to allow for essential work to continue and certain other activities (in which case, everyone is asked to keep a safe distance of six feet from each other). This order took effect immediately and shall stay in effect until further notice.
The order allows individuals to leave their homes for the purpose of maintaining continuity of operations in 16 critical infrastructure sectors, as defined by the U.S. government, whose assets, systems and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered vital to the nation.
This includes food and agriculture
This order is also intended to supersede all city and county local shelter in place, stay at home or similar orders. This means if your county issued an order, then you should view the statewide order as overriding the county order.
In his announcement, the governor made clear that Californians must continue to have access to food, prescriptions and healthcare, but should at all times practice social distancing, which includes staying six feet apart from other individuals outside the home.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR GROWING GRAPES?
The designation of food and agriculture as a critical infrastructure sector clearly allows for continued work at vineyards and wineries.
Additionally, it was made explicit that the food and agriculture sector is intertwined and dependent upon other sectors, businesses and services, which are therefore considered part of the network of critical infrastructure sectors. This means supply stores, transportation services, irrigation companies, etc. can also continue to operate in service to the food and agriculture sector.
However, agricultural employers should defer to workers who wish to isolate themselves and stay home from work. Employers should be careful not to pressure reluctant workers who fear exposure to COVID-19 or have other related concerns and needs to come in to work. CAWG strongly encourages agricultural employers to take advantage of legal counsel to address personnel management issues related to COVID-19.
Employers are going to need to deal with this situation on a case-by-case basis. The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency has a
chart available online
to provide some options for benefits that may be available for those workers.
STATE AUTHORITY: IS THIS MARTIAL LAW?
It is important to keep in mind the governor’s order is not a lockdown and the state has advised law enforcement to avoid strict, punitive enforcement measures. Instead, Gov. Newsom appealed to Californians to do the right thing and to self-police behavior within their communities. So, it is important employers are mindful of how the public may perceive their operations. Just because food and agricultural operations can continue doesn’t mean members of the public won’t view your actions with a critical eye.
CAWG urges agricultural employers to take clear, explicit steps to safeguard employees from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers are required to utilize measures to protect workers from exposure to the virus, including counseling workers to practice social distancing in the workplace, providing opportunities and materials for effective hand washing, hand sanitizers, etc.
So, that workers may continue to travel to work unimpeded, CAWG advises agricultural employers provide workers an authorization card that identifies the person as employed in an agricultural operation. Below is a sample for your consideration:
(Employee’s name) is employed by (company name), which is part of the agricultural sector. Gov. Newsom’s stay at home order states that work in critical infrastructure sectors (including ag) must continue and (employee’s name) is allowed to work. Please feel free to call (phone number) to verify employment.
Gov. Newsom’s order states other additional sectors may be designated “…as critical in order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians.” For the most current information on the state’s response to COVID-19, the governor is advising Californians to visit
Newsom has stated his expectation that 56 percent of the state’s population, more than 22 million people, will be infected with COVID-19 over the next eight-week period. This may result in catastrophic numbers of illnesses and deaths. Consequently, it’s difficult to predict the future of state and federal policy. However, CAWG remains fully committed to working with federal, state and local officials to ensure public health measures and any economic assistance that may be forthcoming properly consider the vital role of winegrape growing and agriculture to the future success of our state.
CAWG will soon make available new tools and resources to navigate these challenging times, including access to legal counsel for the many complex labor management questions growers have.
Please feel free to reach out with any additional questions.