More Information On The Cesar Chavez Rally

On Thursday, March 30, we will join the Justice for Farmworkers Campaign and members of the City Council to celebrate the birthday of Cesar Chavez, born 90 years ago, on March 31, 1927, and to honor the Justice for Farm Workers Campaign, which aims to rectify a decades old injustice and achieve for farm workers the same fundamental rights that are enjoyed by other workers.

 

Farm workers are excluded from key labor protections under both federal and state law.  While passage of New Deal legislation in the 1930’s began a new era for workers’ rights, farm laborers were excluded from the protections of the federal laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act, in a trade-off to obtain Southern Democratic support for the legislation.  The federal exclusions persist today and farmworkers throughout the country depend upon individual state legislation to achieve the same basic labor protections as are enjoyed by other workers.

 

Beginning in the 1960’s, Cesar Chavez, who grew up a migrant farm worker in California (along with other organizers for farm worker justice, such as Dolores Huerta), radically changed the landscape in California, organizing a union of farm workers and starting what became a national boycott of table grapes. Their efforts ultimately led to the passage of the California Agricultural Relations Act in 1975, establishing collective bargaining rights for farmworkers in that state.

 

In New York State, the shameful vestiges of Jim Crow persist to this day, and farmworkers, who are among the most vulnerable of our immigrant populations, still do not have a statutory right to organize and bargain collectively, despite a provision in our New York State Constitution which states that all workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively.  They do not have a right to overtime pay or a day of rest; and they lack unemployment  and disability insurance and protection from retaliation for seeking compensation for on-the-job injuries.

For  the last decade or more, the New York State Legislature has failed to pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which would guarantee that farm workers hold the fundamental rights of collective bargaining, overtime pay, day of rest, unemployment insurance, and disability benefits. Meanwhile, the agricultural industry in New York State is a multi-billion dollar industry, and we, the citizens of New York City, enjoy the fruits of farmworkers’ labor across our great state.

 

In  honor of Cesar Chavez and his important work, members of BJ will join with other religious organizations, immigrant rights groups, labor unions, and the NYCLU to demand justice for farmworkers. We will urge our fellow New Yorkers, Senators, and Assembly people to support passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (presented to New York State Senate as S. 2721 and to the Assembly as A.4189).