Peace & Justice

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

Friday, March 25, 2022

Farmworker Awareness Week

Today marks the beginning of Farmworker Awareness Week, which ends on March 31, Cesar Chavez Day. This is an opportunity for supporters of farm workers across the country to honor their important contributions and to raise awareness about the issues they face. This year’s theme is Todos Unidos: Farmworker Communities & Activism Past and Present.

The Catholic Labor Network notes that “the backbreaking work of planting and harvesting our food is largely performed by immigrants from Latin America for low pay under difficult working conditions.”

The Catholic Church has a long history of supporting farmworkers. It had an important role organizing farmworkers in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in California, where Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) organized grape harvesters. Chavez, himself deeply committed to his Catholic faith, relied on allies in the Church and the wider community to promote the boycott and secure basic rights for workers in the fields.

The Catholic Labor Network states:
Like domestic workers, during the New Deal reforms farmworkers were excluded from the protection of critical labor laws such as the National Labor Relations Act (which protects workers who want to form a union) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (which sets the federal minimum wage and dictates that other workers earn overtime when working more than 40 hours per week). This means that farmworkers have had to work state by state to secure these rights, a process that remains largely incomplete. Only a few states such as California and New York have passed laws protecting farmworkers’ right to organize and form labor unions. And this year Oregon joined a handful of states that have passed overtime pay laws covering farmworkers.
The National Farm Worker Ministry has a list of Farmer Worker Campaigns here.

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