Padilla Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Labor Protections to Ensure Farm Workers Receive Fair Wages

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, legislation to update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fair 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. The bill was previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03).

“It’s long overdue that we fix our nation’s labor laws to include the farm workers who have been unjustly excluded from their protections,” said Senator Padilla. “Earlier this month, I experienced a small dose of the demanding work that farm workers do to feed millions of families across the country and strengthen our economy. These migrants deserve to be treated with dignity and paid fairly for their difficult and essential work. The Senate must pass the Fairness for Farm Workers Act to finally bring economic justice to these workers.”

“Farmworkers undertake back-breaking labor and face some of the most hazardous working conditions with few federal workplace safety protections,” said Representative Raul Grijalva. “For too long, they have experienced long standing inequities from lack of wages and overtime pay. With the Fairness in Farm Workers Act, we can ensure that farmworkers receive the wages and overtime pay they deserve for the work they do to put food on the tables of our constituents. I’m proud to partner with Senator Padilla on this critical legislation that will remedy decades of economic inequality and finally update the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure it works for all workers.”

“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,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “Allowing the agriculture industry to perpetuate fundamentally racist, Jim Crow-era exclusions was wrong then and it is wrong now. 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 discriminatory exclusion of farm workers from overtime pay has continued for far too long,” said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. “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. We would like to thank Senator Padilla for authoring this bill and for his leadership and willingness to experience what it is like to work in the fields as part of our “Take Our Jobs” campaign. His actions have given us renewed hope that lawmakers will give farm workers the rights they deserve.” 

“LULAC applauds Senator Alex Padilla for introducing the Fairness for Farm Workers Act. This measure will significantly update the nation’s labor laws. It will end the discriminatory denial of overtime pay and most remaining minimum wage exemptions for farm workers. The current discriminatory law covering farm workers’ pay dates back to 1938. It excluded these essential workers who help feed our country, from receiving fair wages. Farm workers need and deserve overtime, and LULAC stands with them,” said Sindy Benavides, LULAC Chief Executive Officer.

“We are proud to support the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, which would provide long overdue protections for workers who put food on the tables of homes across the country. Farm workers, many of whom are immigrants, have played an essential role in keeping the U.S. running amid this pandemic. We thank Sen. Padilla for his leadership in introducing this bill, and we call on Congress to pass the Fairness for Farm Workers Act without delay,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“The pandemic underscored that farmworkers are essential workers and vital to our national security and food supply. Yet for more than eight decades, they have been excluded from our most basic federal protections, like overtime pay,” said Farmworker Justice CEO Ron Estrada. “It is long past time to end our nation’s discrimination against farmworkers and to extend to farmworkers the rights and dignity that most other American workers enjoy. We applaud Senator Padilla and Representative Grijalva for their leadership in re-introducing the Fairness for Farmworkers Act, which would finally remedy this historical injustice.”

The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fair wages and compensation. Nearly 84 years ago, the Fair Labor Standards Act established federal standards for minimum wage and overtime pay, but the law 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 have persisted. 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.

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.

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

For a one pager of the bill, click here.

For full text of the bill, click here.


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