Monday, November 24, 2014

News
Farmworkers bill now in the hands of the State Senate
By GARY LIBERATORE


On Monday, the New York State Assembly voted 82 to 53 in favor of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, and it is now in the hands of the State Senate.

Here's what it does: It grants collective bargaining rights to farm laborers; requires employers of farm laborers to allow at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week; provides for a 10 hour work day for farm laborers; requires overtime rate at one and one-half times normal rate; makes provisions of unemployment insurance law applicable to farm laborers; provides sanitary code shall apply to all farm and food processing labor camps intended to house migrant workers, regardless of the number of occupants; provides for eligibility of farm laborers for workers' compensation benefits; requires employers of farm laborers to provide such farm laborers with claim forms for workers' compensation claims under certain conditions; requires reporting of injuries to employers of farmworkers.

Basically, it will treat farmworkers like factory workers here in New York State.

119th Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica believes this bill, if signed into law, will ultimately put farmworkers out of work, and farm owners out of business. He says farmers are barely staying afloat now, and to give them the extra financial burdens of paying workers overtime and limiting the number of hours farmworkers can work in a day, it'll be too much for them.

“The Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act is simply a solution looking for a problem. New York’s agriculture industry is already highly regulated and many of us upstate legislators from farming regions are unaware of any major problems affecting farm workers," said Assemblyman Marc Butler. "New York’s dairy and agriculture industry is already marginally successful at best. Increased labor costs this bill would certainly bring with it would undoubtedly mean that many smaller family farms, already struggling to survive in the face of rising taxes and rising costs for everything from fuel to fertilizer, would undoubtedly fall by the wayside."

Local New York Farm Bureau President Jacob Schieferstine of Vernon says he has heard firsthand, farms will shut down, "I have spoken with a couple of farmers, and they say if this goes through, it does have the potential to shut them down."

Schieferstine says farmworkers themselves know how delicate an issue this is, and worry about their future if this bill passes in the senate.

Workers like Steve Adams of Vernon who has worked for the owners of the Vaill Farm in Vernon since 1988.

Adams says he and those he works with realize farming is a different way of life, and they are fine with it.

Fine with working 16 hours days when its nice out, and then other days getting the entire day off because it's raining.

Now Adams, and all the thousands of others in the farming industry across New York State will wait on the New York State Senate to take up the legislation.

The Senate voted down a similar bill in 2010, by only four votes.