New Farm Worker Housing Improvements

“Governor Gary Locke said this week that Washington has taken a big step forward in improving the housing conditions for farm workers, but much work remains to be done.We finally have a predictable set of rules for both growers and farm worker families, Locke said. But we still have a long way to go before every family has access to safe and adequate housing.The state departments of Health and Labor and Industries just adopted rules to regulate, license and enforce temporary worker housing. Locke had directed the agencies to work together with federal government, labor and worker advocates to develop rules that would improve housing conditions for farm workers living in temporary, on-farm housing during the harvest seasons. They have developed a single set of standards to be enforced by both agencies, avoiding the confusion in past years over differences between two different sets of rules.These rules are one of many steps we have undertaken to ensure safe, healthy living conditions for all seasonal farm workers, said Mary Selecky, secretary for the state Department of Health. But they are only part of the solution. More community housing also is needed.The most important result of the new rules will be a stable, predictable set of requirements so that growers and workers know what to expect, said Gary Moore, director of the state Department of Labor and Industries. This will allow everyone to shift the focus to developing safe housing that meets the requirements of the rules.Improvements reportedly include issues relating to electricity, refrigerators, cooking stoves, hot water for hand washing, covered cooking facilities and approved tents for the cherry harvest.”