U.S. District Judge June L. Green, in an opinion brimming with outrage, has ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make its "best, good faith effort" to write a regulation within 18 months that would require portable toilets, drinkable water and handwashing facilities be placed in the fields for the nation's estimated 5 million migrant workers.
What apparently made her angriest was OSHA's claim that another five years would be needed to set a field sanitation standard, though OSHA has been working on the issue since at least 1973.
"OSHA's actions," she said, "have been and continue to be irrational and taken in bad faith." She documented years of hemming and hawing and said, "OSHA's timetables belong in Alice in Wonderland's tales: each step forward brings us two steps backward."
Green said the availability of sanitary facilites would alleviate suffering from infectious and parasitic diseases, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and pesticide poisoning, and she called unnecessary a long study to determine if unsanitary field conditions cause diseases "when the question has been answered for over a hundred years."
Mark D. Cowan, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said yesterday, "We are disappointed in the court's . . . ruling which failed to recognize the necessity of OSHA's timetable . . . as a reasonable and good faith schedule in light of other agency priorities and resource limitations. The agency is now reviewing the decision to determine whether it should be appealed." (National Congress of Hispanic American Citizens v. Donovan)