United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero and UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres issued the following statement after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that farm workers should receive overtime pay after eight hours a day of work.
The meaning of the state Supreme Court’s decision for farm workers goes far beyond making more money by winning time-and-a-half overtime pay after eight hours of work a day. It is about righting a racist historical wrong when farm workers were excluded from overtime and other protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 solely because they were people of color.
Washington State farm workers sought overtime pay because they want to be treated as first-class workers and equal human beings—the same as nearly all other workers who have enjoyed overtime pay for generations. The Washington Supreme Court ruled farm worker lives are as worthy of protection as the lives of every other class of worker in the state.
This racist historical wrong was remedied because courageous and determined farm workers such as plaintiff Jose Martinez-Cuevas, a United Farm Workers dairy worker activist, stood up, fought back, took his case all the way to the state Supreme Court—and won. He followed hundreds of California farm workers who acted similarly by lobbying that state’s lawmakers and governor to enact overtime pay in 2016.
Now in Washington, like California, farm workers have organized with the UFW, UFW Foundation and allies to remedy 82 years of racist exclusion and win overtime pay for all the farm workers of their respective states. Now it is time for farm workers to take this fight across the rest of the United States. ###