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Hearings Scheduled For Debate On Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

"Farmworkers Often Work Sixty To Ninety Hours Per Week And The Value Of Their Labor Should Not Be Degraded When Each And Every One Of Us Depends On Their Labor To Ensure Healthy Meals On Our Plates Each Day.” - The Worker Justice Center

Published Thursday, April 11, 2019
by Diego Mendoza-Moyers/Albany Times Union
Hearings Scheduled For Debate On Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

(ALBANY, NEW YORK) - State Lawmakers have scheduled three hearings across New York State in late April and during early May to hear public testimony on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act - which has received stiff opposition from farm industry advocates because it would grant Collective Bargaining Rights to Workers, make them eligible for Unemployment Benefits and Workers' Compensation, as well as mandate Overtime Pay and at least one day off each week.

State Senators Jen Metzger (Democrat-Rosendale) and Jessica Ramos (Democrat-Queens) will hold public hearings on April 25th at the State University at New York (SUNY) Morrisville in Madison County, April 26th in Smithtown on Long Island, and May 2nd at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake.

"I called for joint hearings because as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the representative for many farmers and Farmworkers in Ulster, Orange, Delaware, and Sullivan counties, I recognize that this proposed legislation will greatly impact farming in New York," Metzger said in a statement.  "It's very important we hear from farmers and Farmworkers as we weigh this legislation and make sure that we are addressing the concerns and needs of all of those who will be affected."

Farmworker Advocates point out all Industrial Workers already have long held the rights Farmworkers seek and they also say that the majority of family-owned farms in New York don't employ outside labor - meaning they wouldn't be affected by the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

"In New York, there is a Jim Crow-era Law still on our books that denies human beings - mostly Black and Latino taxpaying New Yorkers - parity with nearly every other Worker in this State," Ramos said in a statement. "Farmworkers in New York State do not have the right to a day off, Unemployment Benefits, Overtime Pay or the right to collectively bargain.  That must change once and for all.  These hearings across the State will ensure we hear from every stakeholder."

Andrea Callan, who serves as the Policy Director for the Worker Justice Center of New York, pointed to Legal and Regulatory Reform - like Pesticide Notice Requirements in the 1980s, field Sanitation Requirements in the 1990s, and, more recently, Minimum Wage Reforms that have all improved labor conditions for Farmworkers.

"For years, each time a policy change impacting the farm industry is proposed, the opposing narrative is the same: Farms will go out of business," Callan said to The Albany Times Union earlier this month.  "Farmworkers work long hours - often sixty to ninety hours per week - and the value of their labor should not be degraded when each and every one of us depends on their labor to ensure healthy meals on our plates each day."

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