Padilla, Grijalva Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Labor Protections to Ensure Farm Workers Receive Fair Wages

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Representative Rául M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.-07) reintroduced the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, legislation to update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fairer wages and compensation. The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide overtime and additional minimum wage protections for farm workers.

“It’s past time we correct our nation’s labor laws to include the farm workers who have been unjustly excluded from protections,” said Senator Padilla. “Last year, I experienced a small dose of the demanding work under extreme weather conditions that farm workers do to feed millions of families across the country. Farm workers are indispensable to our economy—they deserve to be treated with dignity and paid fairly for their back-breaking and essential work. The Senate must pass the Fairness for Farm Workers Act to finally bring economic justice to these workers.”

“For too long, farm workers have experienced long standing inequities from lack of wages and overtime pay. Farm workers undertake back breaking labor during unprecedented times facing extreme heat waves, wildfires, and pandemics to deliver food on the tables of families across the country,” said Rep. Grijalva. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Padilla on the Fairness for Farmworkers Act to remedy decades of economic inequality and provide overtime and additional protections for farm workers.”

“For 85 years, the exclusion of farm workers from overtime pay has been a lasting legal remnant of Jim Crow,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “The Fairness for Farmworkers Act would finally end the racist exclusion of agricultural workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. We thank Senator Padilla and Congressman Grijalva for working to finally address this historic injustice. The men, women, and children who do the backbreaking work in the fields to put food on America’s table deserve access to the same wage and overtime standards as any other worker in America.”

“Eighty-five years after nearly all other U.S. workers won overtime pay, farm workers are still fighting for their right to be treated equally,” said UFW Foundation Chief Executive Officer Diana Tellefson Torres. “Farm workers deserve overtime pay and Congress must stop the exploitation of the very same people they called essential workers not too long ago. It’s time to end this discriminatory exclusion and finally extend farm workers the right to overtime pay.”

“The Fairness for Farm Workers Act is an important bill that would provide long overdue protections for workers, many of whom are immigrants, who put food on the tables of homes across the country. We thank Sen. Padilla for his leadership in introducing this bill, and we call on Congress to take action on this significant piece of legislation as quickly as possible,” said Kica Matos, President of the National Immigration Law Center.

“Farmworkers are valued members of our communities and contributors to our economy, yet they still are denied basic rights,” said Ron Estrada, CEO of Farmworker Justice. “The Fairness for Farmworkers Act finally ends the exclusion of farmworkers from overtime and minimum wage protections afforded to other workers. It is long past due to correct this historical injustice and recognize the importance and dignity of farm work.”

The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fair wages and compensation. 85 years ago, the Fair Labor Standards Act established federal standards for minimum wage and overtime pay but excluded millions of domestic and agricultural workers who were overwhelmingly people of color. Although farm workers gained some minimum wage protections in 1966, exclusions on overtime pay persist. This bill would gradually implement overtime pay over the course of four years and bring greater equity to the American agricultural industry. As of 2020, over a trillion dollars of America’s GDP and one in ten jobs are linked to agriculture.

Specifically, the Fairness for Farm Workers Act:

  • Requires time-and-a-half overtime pay for all agricultural workers, with additional compliance time for small farms;
  • Removes exemptions to overtime for agriculture generally and ends 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;
  • Removes 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.

The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The Fairness for Farmworkers Act is endorsed by over 130 organizations including United Farm Workers (UFW), NAACP, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Latino Justice PRLDEF, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Legal Aid Justice Center, Hispanic Federation, Coalition on Human Needs, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, National Organization for Women, Migrant Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Equal Rights Advocates.   

For a one pager of the bill, click here

For full text of the bill, click here.

Padilla is a longtime champion for farm workers in California and across the country. Padilla recently re-introduced the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would create an expedited pathway to citizenship for the over 5 million essential workers, including farm workers, without permanent legal status who kept Americans healthy, fed, and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Padilla was also the first Senator to take up UFW on their invitation to work alongside farm workers for a day in the fields. Padilla has also been a vocal champion against the dangerous working conditions faced by farm workers. Padilla recently called for worker protections for farm workers during a Senate Judiciary hearing on immigrant farm workers. He also previously introduced legislation to protect workers, including farm workers, from extreme weather events including heat stress.


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