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UFW hails New York State farm worker rights bill as ‘big step forward’

United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero applauded long-sought farm worker rights legislation expected to be enacted in New York State as “a big step forward, offering prospects for improving the lives of agricultural workers in the state.”

The broad-ranging measure would provide farm laborers with collective bargaining rights, including a “card check” process through which workers can choose a union to represent them if a simple majority at a company sign union dues forms. There is also a process for mediation and arbitration to achieve union contracts if traditional bargaining does not produce them. It is along the lines of the California mandatory mediation law the UFW won in 2002, which lets workers bring in neutral state mediators to hammer out contracts when growers won’t negotiate them.

The proposal would also guarantee New York State farm workers one day a week of rest in each calendar week and let field workers decline to labor more than 60 hours a week or receive overtime pay if they choose to do so. “That is a start since New York farm workers have no overtime protections now,” Romero said. The UFW won a 2016 state law providing California farm workers with overtime after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, phased in over four years starting in January 2019.

The New York measure would establish a farm labor wage board to make recommendations for changing overtime provisions and it would strengthen workers’ compensation protections.