The Farmworker Justice Fund

This organization, now in its 25th year, promotes improvement in working and living conditions of farmworkers, especially immigrant migrants. It has backed AgJobs legislation, the topic of a future posting.
It’s “Pro-Farmworker Agenda” focuses on
1. Farm Labor Housing and Housing Development Capacity: Farmworkers’ low wages, reluctance to allow farmworker housing in some communities, failure to maintain existing housing, inadequate government funding and other causes have led to a crisis-level shortage of housing and inadequate sanitation.
2. Workers’ Compensation: Farmworkers continue to be discriminated against in many state regarding access to workers’ compensation for work-related injury and illness.
3. “Right to know” about toxic occupational chemicals. Farmworkers have been denied coverage under the hazard communication program of the Occupational Safety and Health Act ….We suggest a federal pilot program in several states to examine whether granting farmworkers the right to know about occupational chemicals reduces the incidence and severity of work-related illness and injury.
4. Farmers’ transition away from toxic pesticides to safer pest control methods would substantially benefit farmworkers by reducing their exposure to toxic chemicals at work.
5. Freedom of Association: Farmworkers employed in an industry substantially supported by government deserve the right to join and organize labor unions free from retaliation, but they presently lack that right. The federal National Labor Relations Act grants that right to other workers but specifically excludes farmworkers. We suggest amending the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the principal federal employment law regarding farmworkers, to grant workers the right to organize, join and participate in labor unions without being discharged or discriminated against in any way by their employers or labor contractors.
6. Unemployment compensation benefits: Business difficulties and the nature of seasonal agriculture prevent many farmworkers from working year-round. Most workers in seasonal industries, such as construction and tourism, can rely on unemployment compensation if they cannot find other jobs during the off-season. a minimum, a business receiving government support should provide unemployment insurance.
7. Transportation to and from work: Many farmworkers do not own their own motor vehicles and live or work in rural areas where there is not public transportation. In many locations, a dangerous business practice has developed. Contractors take money from farmworkers and deliver them to the work site, often in dangerous vehicles, many of which are minivans that lack seats and seat belts.
8. Overtime Pay: Federal law excludes agricultural workers from the payment of time-and-one-half for work in excess of forty hours per week. In California, state law grants overtime to farmworkers after ten hours of work in a day and California remains a highly productive, profitable agricultural state.
9. A Living Wage: The federal minimum wage is utterly inadequate as a minimum wage rate, especially for seasonal employees like farmworkers, whose annual earnings average only about $7,500. A government-supported business should be expected to provide decent work, which includes compliance with all labor laws and a living wage.

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