ALBANY, N.Y. (AP/NEWS CENTER) – Farmworkers, legislators, and advocates rallied Monday afternoon outside the Capitol to call for passage of legislation that would extend labor rights and protections for workers on New York farms.
Libraba Paz tells the NEWS CENTER she came to this country from Mexico when she was just 15-years-old hoping to make a better life for herself. She became a farm worker, laboring in the fields frequently without days off or making any overtime. Paz shared her story during a press conference inside the Capitol.
"I have been abused in so many ways. I don't think it's fair," said Paz.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says the Assembly intends to pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act which grants collective bargaining rights, workers' compensation, disability and unemployment benefits and other worker rights including overtime pay and protections to all farmworkers.
Silver says the New York State Constitution unequivocally states that all employees have the right to organize and bargain. However, New York's farmworkers, which support the $4.5 billion agricultural industry, are excluded from these protections as a result of a loophole in the New York State Labor Relations Act.
"Their health, their safety, their ability to provide for their families. Their rights matter," said Silver.
Some farmers who oppose the bill say it would increase costs in an already financially perilous business. The New York Farm Bureau says the legislation would impose factory style labor mandates on family farms.
They say attempting to apply overtime and collective bargaining rules that exist for factories is not appropriate for farms in New York, because harvesting crops doesn't fit into a typical, 8-hour shift, work week schedule.
They are also against the legislation because, according to the Farm Bureau, farmers can't afford overtime costs, as they are at the mercy of global market conditions and usually pay more than minimum wage to workers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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