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Compromise brings new hope on farmworkers rights bill

Jan 13, 2010 6:19 pm
From Bing Chester in The Albany Project:
When the National Labor Relations Act first passed in 1935, farm workers were excludes from the bill so that FDR could garner support from rural Senators. The campaigns of Caesar Chavez for farm worker rights fought at the state level to give rights to farmworkers through state government. In New York advocates have continued to fight for a Bill of Rights for farmworkers. With new developments and new commitments from state leaders, we may fast be approaching the day where farm workers will possess the rights of other private sector employees to organize, collectively bargain, and receive overtime pay.

Advocates and supports in Albany have dubbed the proposal the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act . The bill models itself after most other labor laws in the state and the country and provides a legal framework to provide labor rights for farmworkers. Notably it provides farmworkers the right to organize and collectively bargain, sets a standard for overtime pay for overtime hours, creates a disability insurance provision for workers, and a guaranteed day off per week. These are standard rights of workers that have largely been in place for private sector employees since the New Deal.

Unfortunately there has been a great deal of push-back from the Farm Bureau and the farm owners community. From Tonawanda News:

Tim Bigham, area field advisor for the New York Farm Bureau, described several aspects of the bill as "anti-business," saying farm owners, especially the smaller ones, simply won't be able to afford them.

Bigham said a main concern is a provision requiring forced payment of overtime rates to workers who are on the job longer than eight hours per day. Bigham argued that farm work should continue to be exempt from such overtime provisions because, by its nature, it is seasonal work, requiring individuals to put in longer hours during warm weather when work can actually be done. Such items, Bigham said, could drive up costs for area farmers, many of whom are struggling financially as it is. source