Two Queens lawmakers beamed with pride alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed their Farm Workers Bill into law July 17.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan has worked on the “fundamental human rights issue” since she was first elected to Albany in 1984.
“This law represents a huge victory for the farm workers of our great state, for their families, and for everyone who fought to end the injustices that our farm workers faced; their efforts are realized today,” Nolan said. “I am very proud to have carried this legislation for many years, and I am thankful for all the work done by so many in the effort to see this bill be signed into law.”
The Farm Workers Bill establishes the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act to protect farm worker rights and ensure equitable housing and working conditions. The bill grants farm workers overtime pay, a day of rest each week, disability and Paid Family Leave coverage, unemployment benefits and other labor protections.
“This new law is not just a great achievement in terms of the effect on the human condition; it’s also a milestone in the crusade for social justice,” Cuomo said. “By signing this bill into law, 100,000 farmers and their families will have better lives and will finally have the same protections that other workers have enjoyed for over 80 years. This powerful and practical achievement is even more significant in the era of President Trump who continually diminishes workers’ rights, attacks labor unions, disrespects the disenfranchised and has made divide and conquer, rather than unify and grow, the credo of America.”
Nolan explained often how the farm workers were excluded from the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to appease members of Congress from the south. Her legislation passed in the Assembly for years but was blocked for decades in the Senate by upstate Republicans who warned the bill would do irreparable harm to the state’s $6 billion agriculture industry.
The Democrats seized the majority in the Senate during last November’s blue wave that sent Senator Jessica Ramos to Albany. As chair of the Senate Labor Committee, Ramos carried the legislation in the upper chamber pushing for “the end of the last vestiges of Jim Crow discrimination” by touring farms across the state and holding multiple hearings in farm communities.
“Today we are recognizing farm workers as the backbone of New York’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry and acknowledging the dignity in their work,” Ramos said. “With the governor’s signature on this bill, we are finally granting farm workers a day of rest, overtime pay, the right to collectively bargain, and recognizing them as workers under the Labor Law.”