Letter from the President: Our Fight for Farmworker Justice
It’s easy to forget that in New York State, agriculture is big business. And that business depends on the nearly 100,000 workers who labor in our state’s fields and farms. These workers are usually out of sight and out of mind for most New Yorkers. That’s unfortunate, because the work they do is not only vital to our economy but also difficult and grueling. What’s more: it’s work that is done without the most basic labor protections the rest of us enjoy.
Farmworkers in New York State, many of them immigrants, some of them undocumented, work 60 to 80 hours per week, without workmen’s compensation, without being paid for overtime, without the right to organize, without the right to negotiate collective bargaining agreements. In short, they are the backbone of our state’s agricultural economy but are treated as worse than second-class workers.
Hispanic Federation has been working with community, faith-based and elected leaders across the state to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor and Practices Act. This law would extend basic labor rights (day of rest, overtime, collective bargaining and others) to farmworkers in New York. It’s the right thing to do and thanks to the efforts of a broad coalition of leaders, we have come close to passing the law in Albany. Of course, close doesn’t cut it. The good news however is that this year we were able to fight for and win the inclusion of farmworkers in New York State’s $15/hour minimum wage law.
This year Hispanic Federation is working with Rural and Migrant Ministry to raise awareness about the plight of New York State’s farmworkers. We are helping to champion Rural & Migrant Ministries’ March for Farmworker Justice, a 200-mile trek from Long Island to Albany to pressure legislators to honor New York State’s history of protecting worker by protecting farmworkers. This will be the largest mass action on behalf of farmworkers in New York State.
We’re committed to sending the message that it’s time for Albany to fully protect farmworkers. It’s time for Albany to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor and Practices Act.
For more information on the Farmworker Fair Labor and Practices Act or the March for Farmworker Justice, please contact Diana Caba.