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Menendez, Booker join colleagues in introducing legislation to strengthen labor protections to ensure farm workers receive fair wages

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both-D-N.J.) joined Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and other Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Fairness for Farm Workers Act.

This legislation would update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fairer wages and compensation. The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide overtime and additional minimum wage protections for farm workers.

“Farm workers play a vital role in driving our economy and keeping Americans fed, and as such, they deserve the fair wages and just compensation their hard work calls for,” Menendez said. “At a time when loud and angry voices insist on erasing the backbreaking work our domestic and agricultural workers do each and every day, legislation like the Fairness for Farm Workers Act ensures those who fuel the American agricultural industry on fields across the country are protected and equitably compensated.”

“It is an injustice that the millions of farm workers feeding our nation lack basic protections afforded to nearly every other American worker,” Booker said. “I have seen firsthand their crucial contributions to our country, and know that too many work for low pay and in dangerous conditions because of a lack of federal protections. This legislation will ensure farm workers receive the fair wages and overtime pay they deserve by putting an end to their exclusion from our labor laws, ending decades of this discriminatory policy.”

The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fair wages and compensation. 85 years ago, the Fair Labor Standards Act established federal standards for minimum wage and overtime pay but excluded millions of domestic and agricultural workers who were overwhelmingly people of color.

Although farm workers gained some minimum wage protections in 1966, exclusions on overtime pay persist. This bill would implement overtime pay over the course of four years and bring greater equity to the American agricultural industry. As of 2020, over a trillion dollars of America’s GDP and one in ten jobs are linked to agriculture.

 Specifically, the Fairness for Farm Workers Act:

  • Requires time-and-a-half overtime pay for all agricultural workers, with additional compliance time for small farms.
  • Removes exemptions to overtime for agriculture generally and ends the exemptions for overtime and minimum wage requirements for certain small farms, hand harvest laborers, non-local minors, and range livestock production. Maintains the family farm exemption to these requirements.
  • Removes exemptions to overtime for workers employed in irrigation projects, livestock auctions incidental to farm work, small country grain elevators, certain sugar processing, certain types of intra-state transportation and preparation for transportation of fruits and vegetables, cotton ginning, and cotton compressing.

The legislation is endorsed by over 130 organizations including United Farm Workers (UFW), NAACP, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Latino Justice PRLDEF, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Legal Aid Justice Center, Hispanic Federation, Coalition on Human Needs, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, National Organization for Women, Migrant Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Equal Rights Advocates.

“Eighty-five years after nearly all other U.S. workers won overtime pay, farm workers are still fighting for their right to be treated equally,” said UFW Foundation Chief Executive Officer Diana Tellefson Torres. “Farm workers deserve overtime pay and Congress must stop the exploitation of the very same people they called essential workers not too long ago. It’s time to end this discriminatory exclusion and finally extend farm workers the right to overtime pay.”

“Farmworkers are valued members of our communities and contributors to our economy, yet they still are denied basic rights,” said Ron Estrada, CEO of Farmworker Justice. “The Fairness for Farmworkers Act finally ends the exclusion of farmworkers from overtime and minimum wage protections afforded to other workers. It is long past due to correct this historical injustice and recognize the importance and dignity of farm work.”

Sen. Menendez is a longtime champion for fair and safe labor in New Jersey and across the country, leading a bicameral resolution in late March alongside Representative Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.-29) honoring the legacy of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Chavez co-founded the first successful farm workers union in the United States – the United Farm Workers (UFW) to campaign for safe and fair working conditions, reasonable wages, decent housing, and the outlawing of child labor.

In May, Sens. Menendez and Booker, alongside several Senate colleaguessent letters to nine companies that contracted with Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. (PSSI), which the Department of Labor found were unlawfully employing migrant child labor at these host companies’ facilities. In the letters, the senators ask each host company to detail the changes to their contractor monitoring and procurement processes they plan to implement or have made since the discovery of PSSI’s use of child labor to ensure this never happens again.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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