United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez issued the following statement from the union’s Keene, Calif. headquarters following introduction today of the landmark Fairness for Farm Workers Act by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) extending to agricultural workers nationwide the 2016 California law guaranteeing them overtime pay after 40 hours per week.
Today marks the 80-year anniversary of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that established overtime pay for nearly all American workers but excluded all agricultural workers, the majority of whom were then African American. This Jim Crow-era exclusion discriminating against farm workers was remedied in California when the Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed a historic overtime law in 2016. We believe 80 years of discriminatory exclusion from overtime pay is long enough. The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would finally give all of our nation’s 2.5 million farm workers the basic protections other U.S. workers have enjoyed for 80 years. And just as with the 2016 California legislation, federal overtime pay would be phased in over a period of four years.
It’s easy to understand why farm workers were written out of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, but it is hard to believe overtime wage exclusions still persist 80 years later. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. It is no longer acceptable in 2018 for any farm worker to be denied the right to overtime pay—no matter how long or hard he or she toils, no matter how much bounty of food he or she produces and no matter how many toxic pesticides to which he or she is exposed.
We thank Sen. Harris, Rep. Grijalva and the bill’s cosponsors, and we are grateful to allied organizations whose work with the United Farm Workers was instrumental in introducing this groundbreaking and long overdue federal overtime measure.
Together we made history in the largest agricultural state in the nation in 2016, and we will not stop there. It is finally time for all American farm workers to be compensated with overtime pay for all of the toil and sacrifice they endure to feed us all.