Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Grower Threatens Ag Workers' Right to Organize

 Farm laborers face many difficulties. Some of the hardships stem from the fact that agricultural jobs are exempted from the majority of  labor laws.  The regulations that do target agricultural labor, such as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA or MSPA), have helped but exploitation continues because of lack of enforcement.  One serious issue that migrant workers face is the ability to organize. There is no federal law that protects the right of migrant workers to organize.  The National Labor Relations Act purposely exempted farm labor.  However, two states: Florida and California have passed state laws that protect worker's right to organize. Not surprisingly, California and Florida have been successful in securing more protections for their workers. The Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers in particular have been successful in obtaining higher pay, decreasing sexual harassment and promoting "worker-driven social responsibility" and justice.  

California has protected agricultural workers' right to organize since 1975.  However, the growers refused to recognize the unionized workers until the law was amended to include mandatory mediation.  The United Farm Workers have been using this new provision to obtain contracts.  Gerawan Farming and conservative think-tank organizations have recently challenged California's Agriculture Labor Relations Act.  Some legal observers do not believe the Act will be overturned and Gerawan Farming will only succeed in delaying contracts.  

The pure greed of Gerawan is apparent in its use of deceptive  and retaliatory tactics to thwart union representation when it is clear the workers wants to collectively bargain.  Collective bargaining rights should be extended to all agricultural workers in every state and territory.  Florida and California have demonstrated that workers benefit when they are allowed to  organize.  Agricultural workers in general and seasonal and migrant workers specifically are left to fend for themselves because they are not afforded the same protections as other workers.  The ability to organize is one of the strongest tools workers have to change their fate and improve their situation. 
*Photo Credit Flikr
*Some of the facts for this blog post came from Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation, Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States (March 2011).

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