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It's Peak Harvest Season In The Pacific Northwest, But Too Hot To Be In The Fields

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Magenta is the color that the National Weather Service uses to show excessive heat warnings, and that is the color of nearly the entire states of Oregon and Washington on the Weather Service's map.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Tonight, scorching temperatures hotter than ever recorded in parts of the Pacific Northwest.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: A record 112 degrees in Portland, Ore., 110 in Eugene, Ore., 104 in Seattle, Wash.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Nearly 20 million people are under an excessive heat warning this morning, covering nearly all of Washington and Oregon, plus five other states.

SHAPIRO: The recommendation is to stay out of the sun and reschedule strenuous outdoor activities, but one group that may not be able to is farmworkers. It's peak harvest season in the Pacific Northwest for cherries and blueberries. Joining us from Portland is Monica Samayoa with Oregon Public Broadcasting. And, Monica, we can hear the air-conditioning unit behind you on this very hot day.

Thank you for joining us.

MONICA SAMAYOA, BYLINE: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: So you were out near Salem, Ore., this morning with some farmworkers picking blueberries. What were the conditions like out there?

SAMAYOA: So this morning when I arrived at 5 a.m., I met with Anne Krahmer-Steinkamp, who is the owner of the blueberry farm, and it was already warm and muggy. By the time we reached 7 a.m., standing in the sun was really - it was hot, so the farmer knew that the crew would be ending a lot earlier. So instead of 10 a.m., the work ended at 9 because it was already 90 degrees.

SHAPIRO: Even leaving at 90 degrees seems like a risk to health, especially if it's humid. So what measures are put in place to protect farmworkers? What steps are the farmers taking?

SAMAYOA: So this particular farmer - she was doing a really great job in making sure her crew was hydrated. She was - kept reminding them, drink water. Take rest breaks whenever you need them. Don't overwork yourselves because she understands, like, it's hotter than usual, especially this time of year. So she was also walking around with, like, this gauge that was taking the temperature inside of the field and outside. So this is something that she's been doing on her own. It's not anything that the state has mandated or implemented.

SHAPIRO: And I know the farmworkers depend on the income from the harvest. What did they tell you when you spoke to them?

SAMAYOA: So I spoke with Herman Facundo Palacios (ph), and he's the branch manager and has been working with Annie (ph) and her father for 12 years. And he pretty much said, you know, missing a day of work is just not something they could do.

HERMAN FACUNDO PALACIOS: (Speaking Spanish).

SAMAYOA: Palacios said a lot of the crew members have families that depend on them, and they can't stop working. So although some rulemaking or some more concrete rules would be nice, they're just, you know - these people don't have savings. They don't have extra money that they can depend on.

SHAPIRO: We know many of the people who work on farms are undocumented. You were obviously on a farm that was taking steps to protect workers and was welcoming a reporter to watch. Are there places that are more unscrupulous? And are undocumented workers going to feel less confident speaking up for their rights in those situations?

SAMAYOA: One thousand percent. I mean, with this particular farmer as well, she was, you know, talking about the challenges of undocumented workers and, you know, how much harder it is for them to find work. And then, you know, at the end of this shift at 9 a.m., I learned that there were several farmworkers going to other jobs. So it was already 90 degrees. Can you imagine finishing a shift...

SHAPIRO: Other jobs in the middle of the day?

SAMAYOA: Yes, other jobs in the middle of the day with other farmers. So their - they started work at 5 a.m. I mean, I - who knows what time they're ending their day, especially today?

SHAPIRO: That's Monica Samayoa of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Thank you so much. Stay cool.

SAMAYOA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.