“The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act established federal standards for minimum wage and overtime pay, but the law excluded millions of domestic and agriculture workers who were overwhelmingly people of color,” his office said. “Although farm workers gained some minimum wage protections in 1966, exclusions on overtime have persisted. The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would gradually implement overtime pay over the course of four years and bring greater equity to the American agricultural industry.”
As this change has remained long overdue, a handful of states that are home to some of the largest farmworker communities in the nation have taken action on their own to guarantee these workers their fair pay.
United Farm Workers (UFW) said that “due to years of hard work and tough negotiating,” farmworkers in California will by 2022 “get overtime after 8 hours just like other workers.” Then this month in Washington, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed to law a bill guaranteeing farmworkers in the state full overtime pay by 2024. In Oregon next door, advocates are also pressuring the state legislature to pass similar protections.
In Maine, state Rep. Thom Harnett introduced legislation that has been supported by farmworker organizations and labor groups like the Maine AFL-CIO. “We strongly believe all workers should have the right to organize and all the workers should have the basic protection of labor law and workforce protections that exist in this country,” Executive Director Matt Schlobohm told Maine Beacon.
Federally, Grijalva’s office said the Fairness for Farm Workers Act has already been included in President Joe Biden’s immigration overhaul, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. While that bill has yet to receive a full House vote, legislation putting undocumented farmworkers on a path to legalization has passed the chamber, and by a significant bipartisan vote.
Whether the Fairness for Farm Workers Act passes as part of the president’s immigration bill or as a standalone bill, what is definite is that the racist exploitation of these workers must come to an end. More than 50 members of Congress have also signed onto the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, including House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott. “It’s unacceptable that those who endure the backbreaking labor every day to safeguard our food supply continue living in poverty,” Grijalva said.
“Overtime protections are essentially a safeguard against exploiting the human body beyond its limits,” UFW president Teresa Romero said. “Allowing any industry to perpetuate fundamentally racist, Jim Crow-era exclusions for farm workers is allowing the shadow of race-based exploitation to hang over our country.” Click here to send your House member urging them to support the Fairness for Farm Workers Act.