In the 1930s, America’s farmworkers were excluded from the landmark protections extended to other workers as codified under the New Deal. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act and the 1938 Fair Labor Practices Act expressly exempted them, along with domestic workers.
Across the country state legislatures followed suit, denying the most basic labor protections for this workforce that was most often migratory and vulnerable to exploitation.
During the 80 years since, resistance to farmworkers organizing and gaining legal workplace protections has remained intense, with less than one percent of them able to benefit from union membership.
But now, State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento believes the labor movement is closer than its ever been to righting what he sees as a “decades-old disgrace” with the passage this legislative session of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (S-2837/A-2750).
The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Catherine Nolan and by Labor Committee Chair State Sen. Jessica Ramos, would cover as many as 100,000 farmworkers. Roughly a third of New York State farms contract out for labor.
“They don’t have the right to overtime pay which means farmworker can work 60, 70, 80 hours a week at the discretion of their employer for as long as the employer sees fit,” Mr. Cilento said during a phone interview outlining the state labor movement’s legislative agenda. “And because they don’t have a right to join a union, to collectively bargain. they don’t have any say on the matter.”
Read full article here