Compromise brings new hope on farmworkers rights bill

From Bing Chester in The Albany Project:

When the National Labor Relations Act first passed in 1935, farm workers were excludes from the bill so that FDR could garner support from rural Senators. The campaigns of Caesar Chavez for farm worker rights fought at the state level to give rights to farmworkers through state government. In New York advocates have continued to fight for a Bill of Rights for farmworkers. With new developments and new commitments from state leaders, we may fast be approaching the day where farm workers will possess the rights of other private sector employees to organize, collectively bargain, and receive overtime pay.

Advocates and supports in Albany have dubbed the proposal the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act . The bill models itself after most other labor laws in the state and the country and provides a legal framework to provide labor rights for farmworkers. Notably it provides farmworkers the right to organize and collectively bargain, sets a standard for overtime pay for overtime hours, creates a disability insurance provision for workers, and a guaranteed day off per week. These are standard rights of workers that have largely been in place for private sector employees since the New Deal.

Unfortunately there has been a great deal of push-back from the Farm Bureau and the farm owners community. From Tonawanda News:

Tim Bigham, area field advisor for the New York Farm Bureau, described several aspects of the bill as “anti-business,” saying farm owners, especially the smaller ones, simply won’t be able to afford them.

Bigham said a main concern is a provision requiring forced payment of overtime rates to workers who are on the job longer than eight hours per day. Bigham argued that farm work should continue to be exempt from such overtime provisions because, by its nature, it is seasonal work, requiring individuals to put in longer hours during warm weather when work can actually be done. Such items, Bigham said, could drive up costs for area farmers, many of whom are struggling financially as it is. source

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11 Responses

  1. Huh? Not threatening anyone. I’m talking to people that are blindly supporting the activities and agenda of RMM without knowing any of the basic facts regarding the issue nor how RMM is egregiously violating the tax code. For more details read all that I posted on the other blog. Or e-mail me at evep@warwick.net and I’ll gladly e-mail anyone any of the materials I made reference to in my postings and additional details.

    I am a farmer that has put up with this group and their crap for a decade and a half and have had enough of it.

  2. Who are you threatening and why? The original author? The blog that printed his post? The blog that reposted that post? Or the blog that let you write twice as much?

    Where is the devil in these details?

  3. Jim also claims:

    “But let’s keep in mind that as far as I know there have been no succesful pieces of legislation improving the lot of farmworkers in nearly forever.”

    You don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about and what you are explicitly and implicitly implying is false. I’m going to repeat myself again, the fact is that there are roughly a dozen or more federal, state and local governmental agencies overseeing a plethora of laws that regulate the living and working conditions of farmworkers in NYS, including the U.S. Department of Labor, a number of different divisions of the New York State Department of Labor (including Rural Employment Services, Labor Standards and a Monitor Advocate), the state and local county Health Departments, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, OSHA, the EPA, and the NYS Worker’s Compensation Board, amongst others. These laws include the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) which is specific federal legislation that only applies to farmworkers The NYS Department of Labor produces a little green book (in English and in Spanish) entitled “Protection for Farm Workers.” The book states, “Farmworkers: You should know that there are federal and state laws related to employment that provide important protection for you.” The book then details laws covering housing, pay, transportation, working conditions and how to make complaints about employers to the NYSDOL.

    How can you open your mouth and speak on an issue and even lobby in behalf of legislation that would drastically affect an industry when it’s painfully obvious you haven’t done a lick of research but have instead chosen to be spoon fed by a one-sided dubious source? Do you, and others like you, make this as a general practice in how you reach and form opinions, act on them and conduct yourself in you regular life?

    And do you all know what the rules are regarding 510(c)3s and lobbying? Do you know how the IRS under the code defines “charitable and educational” work and activities and information? You should start looking that up. Here are a couple of good links to get you started:

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/topic-p.pdf
    http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=96099,00.html
    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p557.pdf
    http://www.publicinterestwatch.org/eye.htm

    My advice to you all is to do a smidgen of research before you meddle with an industry and pontificate and proclaim things you obviously don’t have a fraction of a clue about.

  4. I have a series of simple questions that I’d like answered and explained to me. This is in response to material found on the linked the Albany Project website. They are:

    On what basis does Rural and Migrant Ministry, and it’s affiliated and proxy and related partners and other organizations, but especially Rural and Migrant Ministry, speak in behalf of farmworkers? On what basis do they get to demand what labor laws should be in connection with farmworkers? On what basis do they get to demand and decide what legislation should be passed in connection with farmworkers?

    Who are they to demand this? If they were to suddenly claim they represented and spoke in behalf of nurses and other care providers of Eastern European descent should they then be assigned credibility by the press and legislators accordingly? Should their demands in connection with those related issues also be met, simply because they have appointed themselves and demand things?

    Please explain to me above why anyone should give a care with what Richard Witt wants and his operatives want and demand. Can I claim I speak in behalf of sexually abused church goers and issue a series of demands as to how laws should be changed to further punish offending clergy? Should I be in a room crafting legislation on this, simply because I claim I should be there?

    Jim on the Albany Project website laments the following:

    “I think it is pretty amazing that Rural and Migrant Ministry was even able to get into the same room with the Farm Bureau. In the long run, farmworkers and ag businesses have a lot of common ground. It’s a shame that the two groups have been set against each other. “

    I have been dealing with Richard Witt, his misleading and demonizing rhetoric and his overall crap for roughly 14 years. I can provide you with example, after example, after example of such, repeated references to farmworkers being “slaves” and farmers slave owners (see this video: http://blip.tv/file/705987), claiming that a child died in a manner that is entirely false (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMWTHBkUuHk ), claiming that farmworkers are “terror” victims 2 months after 9/11, claiming that there are virtually no laws or protections for farmworkers and they are ignored by society which is patently and absurdly false, claiming that farmworkers are typically abused and exploited by their employees, etc …. The situation that currently exists is a direct result of Witt and his operatives. To bemoan it now is nauseating. The difference now is that in the past farmers in general would ignore ilk like him and hope it would just go away. Now more are like me, who aggressively and proactively confront him and his propaganda and agenda where ever his sleaze bubbles up and appears. We have had enough!

  5. Who are you threatening and why? The original author? The blog that printed his post? The blog that reposted that post? Or the blog that let you write twice as much?

    Where is the devil in these details?

  6. The following Yahoo Group has some files I uploaded which people may find of interest in regards to this topic.

    The first titled “A Farmer’s Response” is a response to a presentation/portion of an RMM Board member’s dissertation that really explains the history and background of these self-appointed advocate organizations.

    The second “RMM Terror” is a copy of a shameless fundraising card sent out in November of 2001 by Rev. Witt for fundraising purposes that attempted to cash in on 9/11 by claiming over and over and over again that farmworkers are “terror” victims.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BuyLocalNY/files/

    Here is another example of what levels Witt will stoop to. Watch the video and then read my commentary under the more info section. Read my comments under my user name to see what really happened vs what this person spreads.

    Can someone please answer these questions:

    1. WHY IS THE OVERTIME EXEMPTION BAD FOR AGRICULTURE BUT OKAY FOR THE EMPLOYEES OF NON-PROFITS AND ESPECIALLY RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS WHO ARE DRIVING THIS PSEUDO-GRASSROOTS FAUX MOVEMENT?

    2. WHEN CAN WE EXPECT RMM AND/OR THE VARIOUS OTHER BLATHERING HYPOCRITICAL RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS TO CALL ON THE NYS GOVERNMENT TO END THEIR EXEMPTIONS TO THE LABOR LAWS, INCLUDING AND ESPECIALLY THE OVERTIME EXEMPTION?

    I, and millions of others have not ceded to this crowd the responsibility to be the arbiters of what is and isn’t “moral” or “just” in our civil and criminal codes. Further, what I term the “Amen Industry’s” blatant hypocrisy makes their self-appointed move to be that arbiter or “decider” of what is and isn’t “just” to be equal parts laughable and disturbing.

    I have a great idea, let RMM and the various religious orgs that are so keen on ending the ot exemption for ag first lobby the legislature and the Governor to end it for them and all non-profits, get it enacted and then report back to us how it works out. Then let them point the finger and dictate what my industry should be doing.

  7. The overwhelming majority of genuine farmworkers in NYS have nothing to do with this self-appointed advocate organization Rural and Migrant Ministry. They have not elected, selected, designated or requested this organization to represent them or speak in their behalf. For the most part real farmworkers do not attend these organizations’ meetings nor help plan their events. This fact was admitted by Rev. Richard Witt, Executive Director of RMM, in sworn testimony before the NYS Lobby Commission in October 2001. Witt admitted that though any farmworker who wants to be on RMM’s planning committee could be on it, on average only two or three actually serve on the committee. The investigator for the Lobby Commission remarked, “does that sound strange to you? … In the advocacy advocating for these people, any one of them, as you testified, can serve on the committee, and the most you got is three?” When actual farmworkers do participate, like their annual lobbying day held in May, they’re usually paid to be there. In his testimony Rev. Witt admitted that the few farmworkers that were bussed into Albany were paid $40 at the end of their lobbying event. This is not “grassroots,” nor even “astroturf,” this is concrete painted green.
    The fact is that more than a dozen federal, state and local governmental agencies oversee a plethora of laws that govern and protect both the working and living conditions of farmworkers in New York. These laws include the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, federal legislation that only applies to farmworkers, who are probably some of the most protected and regulated employees in New York.

    Farmworkers in New York earn, on average, more than $10 an hour. The majority receive free housing and all that entails, including heat, electricity and other utilities and, in many cases, free cable or satellite TV service. They also benefit from a number of government-funded social service programs that, in many cases, exist only for their benefit. These include their own free health clinics, day-care centers (14 throughout the state) and migrant education programs. Factor in the free housing, all of the legal protections and all of the social service programs, and then ask, how do farmworkers compare with urban residents working in the same wage tier?

    The five or six exemptions in labor law for farmworkers, like the one for overtime pay, exist because of the production and marketing realities associated with farming. I have no problem defending each and every one in that context. But I can’t, because the self-appointed advocates’ mantra is that these exemptions are “immoral” and “unjust.” They state that “there can be no justification for this unequal treatment. Attempts at justification of this exclusion are offensive.” Who assigned these organizations the authority to decide which exemptions are “just?” And many of these same exemptions that apply to farmworkers, like overtime pay, also apply to the employees of non-profits and religious organizations.

    Yes, the very same organizations that are pointing their fingers at agriculture can legally “exclude” their own workers from receiving overtime. State legislative staffers also are exempt. Yes, the people who work for the people who want to end our exemption are exempt from overtime. The hypocrisy is astounding.

    Go to these links to read more information in depth about this issue:

    http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=814533

    http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090611/OPINION/906110301

    http://lancasterfarming.com/node/2053

    http://www.turnpagepro.com/doc/Columbia-Publishing/OWJulyAug09/2009070101/?lang=en

    Link above for an online version of my recent Onion World article. It starts on page 10.

    http://www.vegetablegrowersnews.com/newsroom.html?ns=2568

  8. Jim also claims:

    “But let’s keep in mind that as far as I know there have been no succesful pieces of legislation improving the lot of farmworkers in nearly forever.”

    You don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about and what you are explicitly and implicitly implying is false. I’m going to repeat myself again, the fact is that there are roughly a dozen or more federal, state and local governmental agencies overseeing a plethora of laws that regulate the living and working conditions of farmworkers in NYS, including the U.S. Department of Labor, a number of different divisions of the New York State Department of Labor (including Rural Employment Services, Labor Standards and a Monitor Advocate), the state and local county Health Departments, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, OSHA, the EPA, and the NYS Worker’s Compensation Board, amongst others. These laws include the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) which is specific federal legislation that only applies to farmworkers The NYS Department of Labor produces a little green book (in English and in Spanish) entitled “Protection for Farm Workers.” The book states, “Farmworkers: You should know that there are federal and state laws related to employment that provide important protection for you.” The book then details laws covering housing, pay, transportation, working conditions and how to make complaints about employers to the NYSDOL.

    How can you open your mouth and speak on an issue and even lobby in behalf of legislation that would drastically affect an industry when it’s painfully obvious you haven’t done a lick of research but have instead chosen to be spoon fed by a one-sided dubious source? Do you, and others like you, make this as a general practice in how you reach and form opinions, act on them and conduct yourself in you regular life?

    And do you all know what the rules are regarding 510(c)3s and lobbying? Do you know how the IRS under the code defines “charitable and educational” work and activities and information? You should start looking that up. Here are a couple of good links to get you started:

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/topic-p.pdf
    http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=96099,00.html
    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p557.pdf
    http://www.publicinterestwatch.org/eye.htm

    My advice to you all is to do a smidgen of research before you meddle with an industry and pontificate and proclaim things you obviously don’t have a fraction of a clue about.

  9. I have a series of simple questions that I’d like answered and explained to me. This is in response to material found on the linked the Albany Project website. They are:

    On what basis does Rural and Migrant Ministry, and it’s affiliated and proxy and related partners and other organizations, but especially Rural and Migrant Ministry, speak in behalf of farmworkers? On what basis do they get to demand what labor laws should be in connection with farmworkers? On what basis do they get to demand and decide what legislation should be passed in connection with farmworkers?

    Who are they to demand this? If they were to suddenly claim they represented and spoke in behalf of nurses and other care providers of Eastern European descent should they then be assigned credibility by the press and legislators accordingly? Should their demands in connection with those related issues also be met, simply because they have appointed themselves and demand things?

    Please explain to me above why anyone should give a care with what Richard Witt wants and his operatives want and demand. Can I claim I speak in behalf of sexually abused church goers and issue a series of demands as to how laws should be changed to further punish offending clergy? Should I be in a room crafting legislation on this, simply because I claim I should be there?

    Jim on the Albany Project website laments the following:

    “I think it is pretty amazing that Rural and Migrant Ministry was even able to get into the same room with the Farm Bureau. In the long run, farmworkers and ag businesses have a lot of common ground. It’s a shame that the two groups have been set against each other. “

    I have been dealing with Richard Witt, his misleading and demonizing rhetoric and his overall crap for roughly 14 years. I can provide you with example, after example, after example of such, repeated references to farmworkers being “slaves” and farmers slave owners (see this video: http://blip.tv/file/705987), claiming that a child died in a manner that is entirely false (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMWTHBkUuHk ), claiming that farmworkers are “terror” victims 2 months after 9/11, claiming that there are virtually no laws or protections for farmworkers and they are ignored by society which is patently and absurdly false, claiming that farmworkers are typically abused and exploited by their employees, etc …. The situation that currently exists is a direct result of Witt and his operatives. To bemoan it now is nauseating. The difference now is that in the past farmers in general would ignore ilk like him and hope it would just go away. Now more are like me, who aggressively and proactively confront him and his propaganda and agenda where ever his sleaze bubbles up and appears. We have had enough!

  10. The following Yahoo Group has some files I uploaded which people may find of interest in regards to this topic.

    The first titled “A Farmer’s Response” is a response to a presentation/portion of an RMM Board member’s dissertation that really explains the history and background of these self-appointed advocate organizations.

    The second “RMM Terror” is a copy of a shameless fundraising card sent out in November of 2001 by Rev. Witt for fundraising purposes that attempted to cash in on 9/11 by claiming over and over and over again that farmworkers are “terror” victims.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BuyLocalNY/files/

    Here is another example of what levels Witt will stoop to. Watch the video and then read my commentary under the more info section. Read my comments under my user name to see what really happened vs what this person spreads.

    Can someone please answer these questions:

    1. WHY IS THE OVERTIME EXEMPTION BAD FOR AGRICULTURE BUT OKAY FOR THE EMPLOYEES OF NON-PROFITS AND ESPECIALLY RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS WHO ARE DRIVING THIS PSEUDO-GRASSROOTS FAUX MOVEMENT?

    2. WHEN CAN WE EXPECT RMM AND/OR THE VARIOUS OTHER BLATHERING HYPOCRITICAL RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS TO CALL ON THE NYS GOVERNMENT TO END THEIR EXEMPTIONS TO THE LABOR LAWS, INCLUDING AND ESPECIALLY THE OVERTIME EXEMPTION?

    I, and millions of others have not ceded to this crowd the responsibility to be the arbiters of what is and isn’t “moral” or “just” in our civil and criminal codes. Further, what I term the “Amen Industry’s” blatant hypocrisy makes their self-appointed move to be that arbiter or “decider” of what is and isn’t “just” to be equal parts laughable and disturbing.

    I have a great idea, let RMM and the various religious orgs that are so keen on ending the ot exemption for ag first lobby the legislature and the Governor to end it for them and all non-profits, get it enacted and then report back to us how it works out. Then let them point the finger and dictate what my industry should be doing.

  11. The overwhelming majority of genuine farmworkers in NYS have nothing to do with this self-appointed advocate organization Rural and Migrant Ministry. They have not elected, selected, designated or requested this organization to represent them or speak in their behalf. For the most part real farmworkers do not attend these organizations’ meetings nor help plan their events. This fact was admitted by Rev. Richard Witt, Executive Director of RMM, in sworn testimony before the NYS Lobby Commission in October 2001. Witt admitted that though any farmworker who wants to be on RMM’s planning committee could be on it, on average only two or three actually serve on the committee. The investigator for the Lobby Commission remarked, “does that sound strange to you? … In the advocacy advocating for these people, any one of them, as you testified, can serve on the committee, and the most you got is three?” When actual farmworkers do participate, like their annual lobbying day held in May, they’re usually paid to be there. In his testimony Rev. Witt admitted that the few farmworkers that were bussed into Albany were paid $40 at the end of their lobbying event. This is not “grassroots,” nor even “astroturf,” this is concrete painted green.
    The fact is that more than a dozen federal, state and local governmental agencies oversee a plethora of laws that govern and protect both the working and living conditions of farmworkers in New York. These laws include the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, federal legislation that only applies to farmworkers, who are probably some of the most protected and regulated employees in New York.

    Farmworkers in New York earn, on average, more than $10 an hour. The majority receive free housing and all that entails, including heat, electricity and other utilities and, in many cases, free cable or satellite TV service. They also benefit from a number of government-funded social service programs that, in many cases, exist only for their benefit. These include their own free health clinics, day-care centers (14 throughout the state) and migrant education programs. Factor in the free housing, all of the legal protections and all of the social service programs, and then ask, how do farmworkers compare with urban residents working in the same wage tier?

    The five or six exemptions in labor law for farmworkers, like the one for overtime pay, exist because of the production and marketing realities associated with farming. I have no problem defending each and every one in that context. But I can’t, because the self-appointed advocates’ mantra is that these exemptions are “immoral” and “unjust.” They state that “there can be no justification for this unequal treatment. Attempts at justification of this exclusion are offensive.” Who assigned these organizations the authority to decide which exemptions are “just?” And many of these same exemptions that apply to farmworkers, like overtime pay, also apply to the employees of non-profits and religious organizations.

    Yes, the very same organizations that are pointing their fingers at agriculture can legally “exclude” their own workers from receiving overtime. State legislative staffers also are exempt. Yes, the people who work for the people who want to end our exemption are exempt from overtime. The hypocrisy is astounding.

    Go to these links to read more information in depth about this issue:

    http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=814533

    http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090611/OPINION/906110301

    http://lancasterfarming.com/node/2053

    http://www.turnpagepro.com/doc/Columbia-Publishing/OWJulyAug09/2009070101/?lang=en

    Link above for an online version of my recent Onion World article. It starts on page 10.

    http://www.vegetablegrowersnews.com/newsroom.html?ns=2568

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