(Albany, NY) – On February 11, 2013 legislators and activist yesterday held a press conference calling for immediate action by the New York State Senate Coalition to protect farmworkers.
Assembly Members Karim Camara, Cathy Nolan, Francisco Moya and Members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus alongside activist Kerry Kennedy of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, NYSUT , NYS NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, NYS AFL-CIO, NYS Catholic Conference, NYCLU, APRI NYC, and Rural Migrant Ministries are urging immediate action by the New York State Senate Coalition to pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act sponsored by Assemblywoman Nolan (A.1792) and Senator Espaillat (S.1743).
New York’s farmworkers are the backbone of the state’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry, but yet these workers are excluded from basic labor law protections under New York State law. The Fair Labor Practices Act would end this injustice. The Fair Labor Practices Act has been circulating through the New York State Legislature for over ten years, always passing the Assembly but failing in the Senate.
Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, says “My father, Robert Kennedy, cared deeply for the people who grow and harvest our food. But more than four decades since he and Cesar Chavez broke bread together, the basic civil rights they fought for remain a dream deferred for millions of farm workers in America. Our State legislators came to Albany to be leaders, to help build a brighter future for our state. This is the time to lead: to finally allow farmworkers to enjoy the same basic rights as the rest of us.”
The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act would grant farmworkers rights that other workers take for granted. Rights such as: establishment of an eight hour workday, overtime pay at least time and one half after eight hours of work, one day of rest each week, minimum wage pay, the right to organize and bargain collectively to protect their interests, guarantee that farmworkers housing facilities meet basic standard needs under sanitary code.
Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, says “My father, Robert Kennedy, cared deeply for the people who grow and harvest our food. But more than four decades since he and Cesar Chavez broke bread together, the basic civil rights they fought for remain a dream deferred for millions of farm workers in America. Our State legislators came to Albany to be leaders, to help build a brighter future for our state. This is the time to lead: to finally allow farm workers to enjoy the same basic rights as the rest of us.”
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi, who serves on the board of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, and NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta thanked Assemblymember Cathy Nolan, the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force for its support and called on the entire Legislature to view expanding labor and health protections to farmworkers and migrant workers as a human rights issue. "Giving farmworkers real labor protections, a voice, and the dignity and equality they deserve as they work to put food on our tables, should be a priority this legislative session," Pallotta said.
New York State NAACP President Hazel Dukes said, "We have come so far in our state and country in ensuring human and civil rights, but we still have a great distance to travel. Ensuring that farmworkers and migrant workers have the right to bargain collectively, earn overtime pay and are afforded other protections that other workers now take for granted will shorten the distance we have to go until all men and women are truly treated equally."
Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation said those who work on farms are often intimidated into silence and cannot speak out against violence and abuse. "Providing basic rights and protections to farmworkers should be a moral imperative for members of the Legislature."
“The fact that we’re here in 2013 and farmworkers aren't treated like every other class of worker in the state is simply shameful and should be a cause of embarrassment for all New Yorkers," said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. "Their labor is quite literally responsible for feeding our families, and as such we all have a duty to join their fight for justice. The 2.5 million members of New York's Labor Movement will stand side by side with farmworkers until they receive the respect their labor should afford them."
The NYS Catholic Conference says “The exclusions that deny farmworkers basic labor protections have an ignoble history. We have a responsibility to address this injustice. I have been involved in this struggle for over a decade and others from the Catholic Church, including Bishop Howard Hubbard, have been for much longer than that leading the call for change. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to press for passage of the Fair Labor Practices Act. It is long overdue. The time is now.”
Anthony Harmon, President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, NYC said, "The fight for workers' rights and civil rights cannot be separate. They are one. The quest for justice and equality for farmworkers and migrants include passage this legislative session of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act."
Sonia Ivany, President of the New York City Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, said “The fight for farmworker justice is of particular concern to Latino union members and New Yorkers. We stand proudly with our sisters and brothers in their fight for respect and dignity, and will mobilize our membership to ensure that this important campaign is successful.”