Harris-Grijalva bill ends ‘racist exclusion’ of farm workers from overtime pay 81 years after nearly all other U.S. workers won it; California passed similar law in 2016
United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero and UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres issued the following statement following introduction today of the landmark Fairness for Farm Workers Act by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.):
Eighty-one years after the discriminatory Jim Crow-era federal exclusion of farm workers from overtime pay, farm workers —the majority of whom were then African American and are now Latino—would be remedied by the Fairness for Farm Workers Act introduced in the Senate by California Senator Kamala Harris and in the House by U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona. California’s Legislature redressed the racist exclusion of farm workers from overtime after eight hours a day by passing a law in 2016 authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown. California farm workers’ overtime bill went into effect in January.
Farm workers were written out of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, when Southern Dixiecrat lawmakers did not hide their bigoted motivation, arguing white and African American workers could not be paid the same. It is hard to believe the overtime exclusion still persists 81 years later for the nation’s 2.5 million field laborers. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. It is no longer acceptable in 2019 for any farm worker to be denied the right to overtime pay—no matter how long or hard he or she toils, no matter the bounty of food he or she produces and no matter how many toxic pesticides to which he or she is exposed.
The overtime state law for California farm workers ensures they will have an equal right to overtime after eight hours a day. The change began in California. Introduction of the Harris-Grijalva bill means is time to right this grievous national wrong by extending overtime to all U.S. farm workers whose hard work and professionalism feed us all.
We thank Senator Harris, Representative Grijalva and all the cosponsors for their commitment to this groundbreaking measure.