Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

CA law could strengthen farmworker voices

In California and throughout the country hard-working farmworker men and women face abuses on and off the field in part because they enjoy few legal protections.

On May 16, California legislators will be voting on a proposed law that tackles this issue: The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act (SB 104). This legislation would strengthen farmworker voices and give them tools to protect the basic rights that most workers already enjoy — and should be wholeheartedly supported.

SB 104 simply and importantly gives farmworkers’ the right to choose — through election or petition — a labor organization to represent them. Making it easier for farmworkers to join a union and receive the associated benefits is the surest route to protections that benefit both workers and the productivity of the farms where they work.

And those protections are clearly needed, as illustrated in the excellent report by the United Farm Workers (UFW) and Bon Appetít food service company, Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States. The report was released on March 31 in celebration of the birthday of Cesar Chavez, UFW co-founder and leader.

Unfortunately, the work of Cesar and the union are far from complete. Farmworkers still lack the political power needed to ensure safe and dignified work conditions.

Those of us living in California have an opportunity — right now — to help our legislators bring voice to California farmworkers. If you're in the Golden State, you can call, fax or email your CA Assembly member before May 16 and urge them to vote yes on SB 104.

Policymakers need to know that we — consumers, moms and dads, teachers and students, business people and all working people — support farmworkers’ rights to the same protections already in place for most California workers.

Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves is a PAN Senior Scientist with expertise in agroecology and soil ecology. As a long-time farmworker advocate, Margaret serves on the Board of the Equitable Food Initiative and works with partners around the country to ensure worker-protective federal and state policy. Follow @MargaretatPAN

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