February 07, 2019

Harris Reintroduces Legislation to Strengthen Labor Protections for Farm Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) reintroduced the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, legislation to strengthen critical protections for farm workers as they face long hours and exposure to heat. The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to grant overtime protections to farm workers who work more than 40 hours a week and eliminate most remaining exemptions to the minimum wage for farm workers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 farm workers suffer injury each day and face the risk of missing work. Average farm workers are paid a salary at or near the federal poverty line with most not getting paid any overtime pay at all.

Companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), will also be introduced in the House today. 

“It is absolutely unconscionable that many farm workers—people who often work over 12 hours a day in the hot sun—do not receive overtime pay for the hard work they do to put food on the tables of American families,” said Harris. “This legislation is a major step towards economic justice for our farm workers, and I’m proud to reintroduce it and continue this fight for basic fairness.” 

“Farm workers work long hours in one of the most hazardous industries in America to ensure that all of us have access to quality food,” said Grijalva. “It’s unacceptable that so many live in poverty, and it’s time for farm workers to receive the wages they deserve. By amending the law, we are remedying decades of economic inequality rooted in racism and ensuring that the Fair Labor Standards Act truly lives up to its name for all American workers. Those who undertake the back-breaking labor to feed our constituents should be able to adequately provide for their own families.”

The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would:

  • Require time-and-a-half overtime pay for all agricultural workers, with additional compliance time for small farms.
  • Remove exemptions to overtime for agriculture generally and end the exemptions for overtime and minimum wage requirements for certain small farms, hand harvest laborers, non-local minors, and range livestock production. Maintains the family farm exemption to these requirements.
  • Remove exemptions to overtime for workers employed in irrigation projects, livestock auctions incidental to farm work, small country grain elevators, certain sugar processing, certain types of intra-state transportation and preparation for transportation of fruits and vegetables, cotton ginning, and cotton compressing.

In addition to Senator Harris, co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

This legislation is supported by over 160 organizations, including United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO, Earthjustice, Economic Policy Institute, Farmworker Justice, LCLAA, NAACP, NELP, SEIU, SPLC, and UnidosUS. For a full list of supporting organizations, click here

For full bill text, click here.