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State Senate also passes farm labor bill; Governor supports OT for farmworkers

Photo by Tom Rivers: These tractors are pictured on Densmore Street in Albion today after workers earlier were tending to a vegetable field.

Staff Reports Posted 19 June 2019 at 10:57 pm

ALBANY – The State Senate followed the State Assembly and has passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act to grant collective bargaining rights, workers’ compensation, and unemployment benefits to farm laborers.

This legislation, S.6578, sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos, will address the standards of working conditions and include a measure to require overtime pay after 60 hours in one week. The Fair Labor Practices Act also provides unemployment insurance, 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, and a sanitary code for all farm and food processing labor camps intended to house farm laborers.

“The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act has lingered in this body for 20 years, with 7 sponsors on both sides of the aisle,” Ramos said. “I am proud today to be the 8th and last sponsor of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. I have traveled to seven counties in New York, visited 14 farms, talked to countless farmworkers, and held three hearings on this bill. There are 80,000 to 100,000 farmworkers that are the backbone of New York’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry. Today we are correcting a historic injustice, a remnant of Jim Crow era laws, to affirm that those farmworkers must be granted rights just as any other worker in New York.”

Ramos said farm laborers have historically been excluded from basic labor protections under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement tonight, supporting the legislation.

“With the passage of this legislation, we will help ensure every farmworker receives the overtime pay and fair working conditions they deserve,” he said. “The constitutional principles of equality, fairness and due process should apply to all of us. I am proud that, with the help of my daughters’ years-long advocacy on this critical issue, we got it done.”

State Senator Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, serves on the Senate’s Agriculture Committee. He said the legislation will hurt many farms, and have a negative effect on farmworkers who will see their hours cut each workweek.

“Tonight’s passage of the Farmworker Labor Act is disappointing and further displays the disconnect between state Democrats and western New Yorkers,” Ortt said. “For months, I toured farms across western New York and spoke about this legislation with hundreds of workers, employees and community residents. Employers and employees alike pleaded that this bill would destroy small family farms.

“With New York State farm closure rates already triple the national average, this legislation will grow the closure rate and devastate the number one economic driver in New York. My chief concern when Democrats took over the entirety of state government was that upstate would be ignored. Incredibly, it has gone further than that and upstate is now being attacked by radical New York City regressives. Their willing accomplices include Democrats from the rest of the state, the Business Council, and the State Farm Bureau, who – sadly – should have all known better.”

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