New York, NY – Students of U.S. labor history know farmworkers were written out of both the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which established the minimum wage and overtime for U.S. workers, as well as the National Relations Act of 1935, which codified collective bargaining rights. Farmworkers have experienced continuous assaults on their fundamental rights ever since.
Earlier this month, however, California Senator Alex Padilla introduced the Fairness for Farmworkers Act of 2022 in the U.S. Senate, which if passed and signed, would extend overtime pay to farmworkers who were denied it for the last 84 years.
“The discriminatory exclusion of farm workers from overtime pay has continued for far too long. It is time we right this grievous national wrong by finally extending overtime pay to all U.S. farm workers. Farm workers help put food on our tables and deserve equal workplace rights,” UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres said in a statement.
UFW President Teresa Romero said, “It is hard to believe that overtime exclusion for the men and women that feed America still persists 84 years after the creation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
“Allowing the agriculture industry to perpetuate fundamentally racist, Jim Crow-era exclusions was wrong then and it is wrong now,” Romero added. “We thank Senator Padilla for accepting farm workers’ invitations to “Take Our Jobs” and for working alongside the workers who are the backbone of our food system. These workers are denied the right to overtime pay even though they do backbreaking work, and we are encouraged that this will be the year to change that.”
The UFW points out California is the only state that provides overtime pay to all agricultural workers after 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day. In Washington state, only dairy workers currently receive overtime pay after working 40 hours a week. All other WA state farm workers receive overtime pay after working 55 hours per week—that cap will drop to 40 hours per week in 2024. Few other states, such as New York, offer overtime pay to farm workers but at higher thresholds, while the overwhelming majority do not have overtime pay for farm workers whatsoever.