Field workers were excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
The Fairness for Farmworkers Act of 2021 was introduced today by U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). The legislation would extend overtime pay to all of America’s farm workers. California’s Legislature redressed the racist exclusion of farm workers from paid overtime after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week by passing a United Farm Workers- and UFW Foundation-sponsored law in 2016 authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown. Washington state just enacted a similar measure.
“Farm workers risk their lives through the pandemic, wildfires, and other extreme conditions, yet they are still fighting for their right to be treated equally. Farm workers are always essential and we must treat them as such—overtime protections are way overdue” said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres.
“It is hard to believe the overtime exclusion still persists 83 years later for the men and women that feed America,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “It was wrong then and it is wrong now that farm workers are denied the right to overtime pay.”
Agricultural workers were written out of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which granted overtime to nearly all other American workers, when Southern segregationist lawmakers did not hide their bigoted motivation, arguing white and African American workers could not be paid the same and that extending farm workers overtime pay would lead to the end of racial discrimination.