Farmworkers need better labor protections, report says

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2013 - Enhanced labor protections in the law and regulations as well as stronger enforcement are needed to improve working conditions for the nation's farmworkers, according to a report released Thursday by Farmworker Justice.

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The report said that while enactment 30 years ago of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA) has resulted in some improvement in wage theft and dangerous working conditions, more work needs to be done.

The 1983 law requires agricultural employers to disclose and comply with job terms, regulates the use of farm labor contractors, and contains safety standards for some housing and transportation vehicles.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, called the report a “must-read” for policymakers.

“Because our immigration system is broken, the majority of farmworkers lack authorized immigration status, and most are too afraid to step forward to challenge illegal employment practices,” Miller said. “Unscrupulous employers need to be weeded out, and abused workers need greater access to the justice system and immigration.”

Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, said, “The wages and working conditions for most of the workers who cultivate and harvest our fruits and vegetables are still inadequate.”

The report said all farmworkers should be covered by AWPA's full range of protections.  “Congress should eliminate the distinction between migrant and seasonal workers; all workers deserve to live in decent housing, and all workers deserve disclosure of accurate information before they commit to a job,” the report said.

The report further said damages for payroll and wage violations should be tripled or quadrupled.

The full report can be viewed here.

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