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New York farmworkers won important new legal rights this week after a decades-long fight against their exclusion from basic labor laws. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act extends collective bargaining rights to farm workers, including card check certification, and improves access to overtime, a guaranteed day of rest, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, and other benefits. California and Washington are the only other two states who protect farmworkers’ right to organize and collectively bargain. This is a significant win for New York State farmworkers, and we want to congratulate all those who fought for these rights over the past two decades. 

However, the final version of the act is weakened by certain provisions and exclusions including banning strikes, work stoppages, or slowdowns, and even refers to strikes, stoppages and slowdowns as “unfair labor practices”, that could be punishable under New York labor law. 

As an alliance that represents close to 400,000 food workers throughout the food economy, we know that much of the power that workers have lies in the right to strike. This fundamental right levels the playing field for workers, especially in workplaces with enormous power imbalances like farms. 

We are highly concerned that banning the strike and deeming strike activity as ‘unfair labor practice’ will set a legislative precedent for other states and other industries to strip workers of this indispensable right. Furthermore, we see inherent racism in prohibiting farmworkers, the majority of whom are workers of color, from striking, when the majority of private sector workers enjoy this right. Farmworkers need the ability to organize on their farms in the way they choose without fear of retaliation, and the legislation should be strengthened to include those protections. 

We also see the decision to set a different overtime threshold for farm workers as inherently unequal. Farmworkers are expected to exceed 60 hours before being given overtime pay as opposed to the long established 40 hours. Additionally, the amended bill ends employer contributions for unemployment insurance for guestworkers, a step backwards in ensuring equal protection for guestworkers in New York State. 

We hope that this bill sets the stage to achieve full rights and protections for all farmworkers and can be expanded and strengthened in the near future. 

We are proud to stand with our farmworker members and their allies who have been organizing on their farms and in their communities for dignity on the job and equal rights and protections. We hope the new tools this bill provides will strengthen and multiply those fights.
We believe that in order to end gender-based violence it is essential to empower women and to guarantee their rights and bring about their emancipation. This is why the women and men of La Via Campesina, in a single expression of struggle and liberation, are saying today: For the life and dignity of women, we fight together against exploitation and oppression!
Check out this video about LaViaCampesina!Click Here!

Happy International Women’s Day from the Farmworker Association of Florida!