Agricultural workers in the Yakima Valley joined Fair Work Center on the radio last month as part of a program celebrating National Ag Workers’ Week. Workers shared the challenges they’re facing, how they’re organizing to assert and expand their rights, and what it would mean to truly feel that their work is valued and celebrated.
Many workers agreed that simply declaring a week in March to be Ag Worker Celebration Week was not enough to truly celebrate their work and support their communities. Instead, ag workers want action—and one thing we can do is ensure all ag workers get overtime pay when they work overtime hours by passing SB 5172. (UPDATE: this bill has passed the legislature and is on the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed into law!)
>>>Click here to tell your state representative to support ag workers and pass SB 5172 without amendments when it comes to the House floor for a vote.
What else are ag workers saying about what real celebration and support would look like?
“To me, celebrating farmworkers would mean meeting our community’s needs. I’m not sure what celebrating us looks like if it doesn’t also mean real enforcement of our rights on the job.”
“The state government doesn’t have enough inspectors to keep watch on every farmer and every company. Farmers know that and so they do what they want. That’s why as workers, we have to take care of one another and come together to support one another.”
“We always see abuses against workers—where I work, sometimes our supervisors don’t want to give us our sick hours. And if you try to use your right to paid sick leave, they get mad and take it out on you. Things are still really unjust in our industry—which is why we’ve got to organize and enforce our rights.”
“To actually celebrate us, that would mean passing immigration reform for workers. Many of us are undocumented—even though we have many years working in agriculture. We’re essential workers…and it’s time for the government to support us with immigration reform so that we can work freely.”
“Celebrating us means companies treating us with the respect we deserve as workers.”
Workers shared personal stories about the labor rights violations they face on a daily basis: assault and harassment by management, physical and emotional stress, lack of adequate safety equipment, wage theft, lack of legally-required breaks, and working overtime hours without getting paid overtime. You can click here to listen to the full Spanish-language radio program.