Updated 05/21/2012 09:13 PM
Farm workers demand equal rights
In their self proclaimed quest for dignity, respect and justice community and civil rights advocates encourage the state to grant farm workers more rights. Our Erin Vannella attended a public forum Monday where group leaders explained why.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- "We want the rights and also to be respectful because a lot of people don't recognize our hard work," said farm worker Librada Paz.
Mexico born Librada Paz picked apples and planted cabbage for 10 years and joins the ranks of New York farm workers demanding labor protections equal to their domestic counterparts.
"It's not about getting more than what other people have or more rights than what other people have," said Paz. "We're just asking for equality."
The Farm Worker Labor Protection Act, shared by supporters Monday, looks to update guidelines set in the New Deal in the 30s by including rights to overtime, a day off per week, collective bargaining rights and more.
"Our laws in New York State have not been updated, have not been amended since the New Deal," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "Jim Crow was wrong then. It's wrong now. It's time to close the gap in basic worker protections."
Farmers we talked to acknowledge farm workers' hardship and would like to compensate appropriately, but blame business economics for blocking the way. Americans don't want to pay more for food they say, so low prices in the midst of rising operating expenses complicate a farm's ability to make a profit. If additional cost should be assumed on the farm, it should be shared by consumers. Laz said she and her fellow farm workers are worth the trouble.
"People migrating and when people comes in, they need money to support the kids, definitely," said Paz.
Legislation of this kind has passed the New York Assembly before, but never the Senate.