Lawmakers wants to give farm workers a voice, will others follow?
Senator Harris tours Fowler Packing Company on Wednesday, July 5 Sheyanne N Romero
Farm workers logging more than 40 hours a week may start getting paid overtime if Democratic-backed legislation introduced on Monday becomes a law.
The Fairness for Farm Workers Act, as introduced in the U.S. Senate by California senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein (both Democrats), among others, calls for waiving the Fair Labor Standards Act’s exclusion for farm workers who don’t earn minimum wage and overtime.
While some farm workers receive minimum wage thanks to the FLSA, most in the fields are not paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week.
“Farm workers suffer more than most due to their daily grind and exposure to the sun, especially during harvest season when they work over 12 hours a day with no overtime paid,” Harris said. “This bill will attempt to correct some of the injustices they face and in particular guarantee, they will get overtime pay, and minimum wage which they are not entitled to by law right now.”
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also backed the Fairness for Farm Workers Act.
The proposed legislation was introduced on the 80th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The United Farm Workers, Earthjustice, the Economic Policy Institute, the Farmworkers Justice, among other organizations also support the recently-introduced legislation.
“We are pretty excited about this,” said Leydy Rangel, a communications specialist for the UFW. “We believe farm workers should be getting what other workers received 80 years ago.”
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced the same legislation in the House of Representatives.
“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,” Rangel said.
The proposed legislation gives Congress a chance to have a voice for workers, Rangel said.
“We are asking Congress: Should farm workers be entitled to what other workers do?” she said.
The proposed legislation has received democratic backing. To become a law, the Fairness for Farm Workers Act will likely have to get Republican backing.
Rangel said she believes there are Republicans who will also show support.
“We will have Congress members on the other side of the spectrum; Republicans who think farm workers should be receiving overtime,” Rangel said. “It will be challenging, but Democrats are not the only ones who think farm workers deserve overtime pay.”