In 1935, the US Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), guaranteeing workers the right to organize in unions and bargain collectively. Like an online terms and conditions statement, though, it had a lot of exclusions hidden in the fine print, and the NLRA denied its protections to the nation’s farmworkers. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), which established the federal minimum wage and overtime laws, did the same.
Church leaders in New York are joining farmworkers and other union activists to press for changes. Farmworkers marched from Long Island to Albany to petition the legislature for action. There they were joined by Albany’s Bishop Edward Scharfenberger and Catholic social justice advocates in a rally outside the state legislature calling for passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. The NY Catholic Conference says:
The New York State Catholic Conference supports the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation. Farmworkers are excluded from many of the laws that establish worker protections, including overtime pay, employer contributions to the unemployment and workers’ compensation funds, and public health protections including sanitation and housing standards. In addition to ending these exclusions, this bill would require that farmworkers be given a 24-hour day of rest in every calendar week which, whenever possible, would coincide with the laborer’s traditional day for religious worship.