Cuomo signs farmworker bill providing OT, collective bargaining

Posted 17 July 2019 at 2:17 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed the Farm Workers Bill, which establishes the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act to protect farm worker rights and ensure equitable housing and working conditions. The bill grants farm workers overtime pay, a day of rest each week, disability and Paid Family Leave coverage, unemployment benefits and other labor protections. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2020.

“This new law is not just a great achievement in terms of the effect on the human condition, it’s also a milestone in the crusade for social justice,” Governor Cuomo said. “By signing this bill into law, 100,000 farmers and their families will have better lives and will finally have the same protections that other workers have enjoyed for over 80 years. This powerful and practical achievement is even more significant in the era of President Trump who continually diminishes workers’ rights, attacks labor unions, disrespects the disenfranchised and has made divide and conquer, rather than unify and grow, the credo of America.”

The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which recognizes agriculture is a unique industry, includes:

• Grants collective bargaining rights to farm laborers;

• Requires employers of farm laborers to allow at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week;

• Provides for 60-hour work week for farm workers;

• Requires overtime rate at one and one-half times normal rate;

• Makes provisions of unemployment insurance law applicable to farm laborers and reduces costs to farmers for ineligible workers (H-2A);

• Ensures sanitary codes apply to all farm worker housing, regardless of the number of occupants;

• Removes a payroll threshold for requiring farm labor employers to obtain workers’ compensation coverage;

• Allows farm laborers to receive disability and Paid Family Leave benefits; and

• Requires reporting of injuries to employers of farm laborers.

Senator Jessica Ramos said, “Today we are recognizing farmworkers as the backbone of New York’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry and acknowledging the dignity in their work. With the Governor’s signature on this bill, we are finally granting farmworkers a day of rest, overtime pay, the right to collectively bargain, and recognizing them as workers under the Labor Law.”

Assembly Member Catherine Nolan said, “Our Assembly Majority has a proud history of passing workers’ rights legislation, a tradition which has continued with the passage of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act. I am very proud to have carried this legislation for many years, and I am thankful for all the work done by so many in the effort to see this bill be signed into law. My thanks to Speaker Heastie and my colleagues,  Senator Ramos and all our Senate sponsors through the years, Governor Andrew  Cuomo, the RFK Center for Human Rights, the Hispanic Federation, the ACLU, the Rural & Migrant Ministries Coalition, NYSUT, RWDSU, the entire AFL-CIO, and so many individuals and community groups for their advocacy, support, and tireless work. I also want to recognize our late Governor Mario Cuomo and State Senator Olga Mendez, who, along with Denis Hughes, Ed Donnelly, Alan Lubin, Rich Winston, Rev Richard Witt and Geri Reilly introduced me to this issue.  This law represents a huge victory for the farmworkers of our great state, for their families, and for everyone who fought to end the injustices that our farmworkers faced; their efforts are realized today.”

Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO said, “Today, Labor’s family is whole. After a decades-long fight, the lives of tens of thousands of hardworking men and women who perform demanding and dangerous work on farms all across this state will improve with the Governor’s signature. Farmworkers are finally getting basic labor rights including the right to organize a union, a mandatory day of rest, and the right to overtime pay. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this critical issue and for signing this historic bill into law, as well as the sponsors Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Senator Jessica Ramos for their tireless efforts. It is fitting that this bill is signed at the Daily News whose relentless editorial support has shone a light on the deplorable working conditions on New York farms. Most of all, I commend the countless farmworkers who have fought over the years for justice with incomparable perseverance and courage.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act will help build a stronger and fairer agricultural industry throughout New York State. The legislation signed today will stand up for farm laborers and ensure they have the rights and protections that other New York workers have access to. I applaud Senator Jessica Ramos for championing this bill, and holding hearings and visiting farms throughout the state to better address the priorities and concerns of farm laborers and the agricultural industry.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “For more than two decades, the Assembly Majority has fought to protect farmworkers from unfair labor practices for the physically taxing, oftentimes dangerous work they do to fuel our agricultural sector and put food on our tables. These hardworking men and women are vital to the success of New York’s farms, and they deserve the same employment rights afforded to workers in other industries across the state. With this legislation, this essential workforce will finally be granted the protections they need and deserve. I would like to thank longtime sponsor of this legislation Assembly member Cathy Nolan, Labor Chair Marcos Crespo and the many members of the Assembly Majority for their tireless commitment to seeing this legislation through to the finish line.”

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