On Thursday April 11 the Workers’ Center and Plymouth Church welcomed the “Shield our Fields: Equality for Farmworkers Tour.” More than 50 people listened to farmworkers and activist Librada Paz, the 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Laureate, talk about the labor exclusions they face and about a new bill that will benefit farmworkers across the state by granting them the right to overtime pay, protection when bargaining collectively, a day of rest , and disability insurance coverage. The gathering included a delicious lunch prepared and served by Trinidad y Felipa Ramos, members of the Workers’ Center and leaders of the Guatemalan community in Central NY.
Since the 1930’s New York’s farmworkers have been excluded from the same rights and protections that most other workers take for granted, including a day of rest per week, overtime pay, disability insurance, and the right to bargain collectively with their employers. Only recently have farmworkers been granted the right to clean drinking water in the fields, sanitation facilities, and the right to the same minimum wage as other workers, but other exclusions still remain. The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (S.1743/A.1792), a bill currently in the NY State Legislature, would remove these exclusions and grant farmworkers the dignity and equality they deserve.
One by one the farmworkers spoke about their working conditions and the difference the passage of the bill could make in their lives. One young worker said he wants to have time to do other things besides working all the time like going to school or spending time with friends. Another worker said he didn’t know how bad was in NY after he came here to work from another state. He said that besides the grulling hours of work they are also vulnerable because their work is dangerous and many times when they get hurt they end up being fired from work. Those listening joined the workers as they chanted “Sí se puede, sí se puede” motivated to finally achieve equality for farmworkers in NY state.
We thank all of those who attended and specially Felipa and Trinidad Ramos for the delicious lunch they cooked for the farmworkers and their allies.
Please join the campaign and take action. The time for equal rights for farmworkers is NOW. Here are some actions you can take to support NY state farmworkers:
Sign this petition initiated by the NYS AFL-CIO at nysaflcio.org/justice4farmworkers
Join the Rally for Equal Rights! on May 13, 2013. Buses will be leaving from western NY and they will stop in Central New York. To reserve a seat call Rural Migrant Ministry at (845) 485-8627
Read more about farmworkers labor conditions and the campaign at the Rural Migrant Ministry website.