Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, called today for Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk of the Capital District to support the Farm Worker Bill of Rights (A01792A/S01743-A) since she won her election as a Green candidate.
The Green Party rules prohibit the Greens from nominating candidates who are running on the Democratic Party line. Tkaczyk however used a process known as Opportunity to Ballot to maneuver her way on to the Green line in addition to the Democratic and Working Families lines. The 1,892 votes she received on the Green line were critical in her 18 vote victory in 2012.
“If you are going to deceive the voters into believing you are supported by the Green Party, you should at least have the decency to embrace Green policies. Farm workers were left out of the initial minimum wage and labor laws 70 years ago due to racism toward Black, Latino, and Asian farm workers. It is long past time to give farm workers the same basic labor rights as other workers, and Tkacyyk should vote to correct this longstanding injustice,” said Hawkins.
Farm workers thought their decades long struggle in New York would finally succeed when the Democrats took control of the State Senate four years ago. That didn’t happen. However, the bill did pass the Senate Labor Committee earlier this month with the support of a number of Senate Republicans. The bill needs to pick up a few more Democratic votes in the Senate to finally pass.
Opponents of the farm worker bill of rights argue that the nature of farming means that its workers should be treated differently. The Green Party strongly disagrees.
"The Greens support helping family farmers make a decent living, but not by denying basic human and labor rights to their workers. The Greens have been active in pushing for a federal Farm Bill to better assist family farmers and support immigration reform, which would help farmers meet their labor needs," Hawkins said.
The bill would amend state labor law to give collective bargaining rights to farm laborers. It would allow farm workers one day of rest each week and include farm laborers within the provisions pertaining to overtime compensation and unemployment insurance. The bill amends the public health law to apply the sanitary code to all farm camps for migrant workers and includes farm workers in the workers' compensation law.
The argument often raised against the bill is that without the benefit of cheap labor, the smaller family farms cannot compete. That claim is dismissed as “ludicrous” by Gerardo Gutiérrez Jr. of the Rural Migrant Ministry who notes that, if anything, higher labor costs for industrial farms allow smaller farms to compete.
The California Agricultural Labor Relations Act was passed in 1975, establishing collective bargaining rights for farmworkers. The law’s passage was largely the result of a grassroots effort led by Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist.