Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Farm Workers

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany has joined the campaign for fair treatment of farm workers under New York State's labor laws.

Farm workers are excluded from most of the laws that establish worker protections, including a 24-hour day of rest in each calendar week, overtime pay, collective bargaining rights, and employer contributions to the unemployment and workers' compensation funds.

Urge your lawmakers and the governor to support the Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act being considered in the state Assembly and Senate.

Take action now to send a fully editable message to these leaders through the New York State Catholic Conference here.

Also, the Daily News today has another editorial in favor of this legislation:

Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, has added her voice and the spirit of her slain father to the fight for equal rights for farmworkers.

Her presence in Albany, where the Legislature appears to be inching toward a historic breakthrough, is most welcome. Because this is the year when fieldhands must, at last, gain the labor protections afforded to virtually all other workers in New York.

Led by Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Assembly is again poised to pass a bill to do just that. Gov. Paterson says he stands ready to sign it. The final piece of the puzzle is the state Senate, where the legislation has languished.

Its shift from Republican to Democratic control has brought hope. The obligation to lift hope into reality is Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's.

It has been an enduring shame that, unlike almost everyone else who earns a paycheck here, New York farmworkers are not guaranteed a day off per week or overtime pay. They are denied the right to organize.

This page has long called for reform. Last November, we opined that passage of a farmworker bill would be a greater tribute to RFK than renaming the Triborough Bridge in his honor.

We recalled that he fought for "the downtrodden, including migrant farmworkers who lived in miserable conditions on substandard wages," and that he "championed the fieldhands and their families in an alliance with legendary labor leader César Chávez."
The rest of the editorial is here.