Reprinted from The United Farm Workers by Jocelyn Sherman on June 25, 2018.
Monday marked the 80-year anniversary of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that established overtime pay for nearly all American workers but excluded all agricultural workers, the majority of whom were then African American. This Jim Crow-era exclusion discriminating against farm workers was remedied in California when the Legislature passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed a historic overtime law in 2016. We believe 80 years of discriminatory exclusion from overtime pay is long enough. The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would finally give all of our nation’s 2.5 million farm workers the basic protections other US workers have enjoyed for 80 years. And just as with the 2016 California legislation, federal overtime pay would be phased in over a period of four years.
It’s easy to understand why farm workers were written out of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, but it is hard to believe overtime wage exclusions still persist 80 years later. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. It is no longer acceptable in 2018 for any farm worker to be denied the right to overtime pay—no matter how long or hard he or she toils, no matter how much bounty of food he or she produces and no matter how many toxic pesticides to which he or she is exposed.
We thank Senator Kamala Harris, Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva and the bill’s cosponsors, and we are grateful to allied organizations whose work with the United Farm Workers was instrumental in introducing this groundbreaking and long overdue federal overtime measure. …