Assembly Passes Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act

Leading the fight to strengthen labor protections for farmworkers, Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan and Labor Committee Chair Marcos Crespo today announced the Assembly has passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (A.8419, Nolan). The Assembly Majority has worked for more than two decades to ensure farmworkers are not subject to unfair labor practices. The measure grants collective bargaining rights, overtime pay, a day of rest and expansion of workers’ compensation benefits, as well as other worker rights and protections to all farmworkers.

“Here in the Assembly Majority we pride ourselves on standing up for the rights of the hard working men and women across New York,” said Speaker Heastie. “Farmworkers deserve proper protections for the physically taxing, sometimes dangerous work they do that fuels our agricultural sector and puts food on our tables. They are vital to keeping New York’s farms working and play a pivotal role in the health and well-being of our residents.”

“Our Assembly Majority has a proud history of passing workers’ rights legislation, and today we have given farmworkers many protections they have been without for far too long. Farmworkers will finally have collective bargaining rights, a day of rest and overtime. I am proud to have carried this legation for many years, and I thank Speaker Heastie for his support in getting this legislation passed,” Assemblymember Nolan said.

“There is a significant demand for farmworkers in New York and across the country. The work they do is vitally important to all of our communities,” said Assemblymember Crespo. “After years of advocacy, we are finally able to deliver more protections and safer working conditions.”

The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act would allow for the creation of a work environment for farming communities with clear worker protections, including:

  • Deeming individuals employed as farm laborers as “employees” under the New York State Employment Relations Act, which would grant them the right to organize and collectively bargain;
  • Granting overtime pay equivalent to at least of 1.5 times the laborer’s regular rate of pay after 60 hours a week;
  • Requiring 24 hours of consecutive rest per week, while giving the worker the ability to choose to work on their day off with overtime;
  • Expanding unemployment insurance coverage to all farm workers, and eliminating of the requirement that mandates employers make unemployment contributions for farm labor performed by seasonal H-2A visa workers who cannot collect the benefits;
  • Expanding eligibility for workers’ compensation coverage and establishing eligibility for disability benefits;
  • Requiring all employers to post notices regarding their compliance with workers’ compensation requirements in both English and Spanish;
  • Establishing fines for violations of such posting requirements;
  • Prohibiting discrimination against an employee for filing injury claims for injuries incurred in the course of employment; and
  • Establishing a Farm Laborers Wage Board to provide recommendations as to additional overtime for farm laborers.

These amendments would give farmworkers many of the same employment rights currently available to workers in other industries across New York State.

The agriculture industry depends on the collaboration of farmers and farm laborers to produce the many crops and agricultural products we consume. However, farm laborers are not covered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The omission of farm laborers as employees under these federal laws denies basic labor protections to an essential community.

In New York the agriculture industry yields approximately $5 billion annually and is responsible for nearly 198,000 jobs. There are more than 35,000 farms across the state, most of which are family owned. Agriculture production is seasonal and dependent on weather. Planting and harvesting schedules are unlike any other industry, with livestock most often requiring around the clock care.

Today’s legislation would assist in the improvement of working conditions of New York’s agriculture industry and ensure that our farms have the flexibility and resources they need to continue to operate and maintain these critical jobs.