FARM WORKFORCE MODERNIZATION ACT 2019
The National Farm Worker Ministry supports all our farm worker partners as they seek farm worker rights and to improve farm worker conditions. Over the years this has taken many forms: supporting boycotts, public protests, letter/postcard writing campaigns, petitions, endorsements, pickets, vigils, fasts, etc. Farm worker partners are unions, coalitions, associations, and other groups who are farm worker led and seek to secure the rights of farm workers. To see more about these groups, go to http://nfwm.org/farm-workers/farmworker-partners/
During the last two years, NFWM has been working on legislation, specifically two bills to benefit farm workers in the US. One of those is the Fairness for Farm Worker Act that secures overtime pay for farm workers, something currently not guaranteed through federal legislation. The second is the Agricultural Workers Program Act which provides a path to citizenship for farm workers currently working in the US through a “blue card” process. To see more about these, go to http://nfwm.org/news/fairness-for-farm-workers-act-introduced-in-congress/ and http://nfwm.org/news/urgent-action-needed-now-to-support-farm-workers/
Recently a new bill was introduced in the House, Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4916)
that combines citizenship for farm workers and their families with regulatory changes to the H2A Guestworker visa program, something NFWM has been working on by submitting comments to new regulations by the Department of Labor (see http://nfwm.org/news/submit-comments-on-the-new-h-2a-regulations/). The UFW, UFW Foundation, and Farmworker Justice helped to negotiate this legislation over many months. This bill was introduced with bi-partisan support so much more likely to be considered in the current Congress and we are grateful for the work that got it this far.
Some of our farm worker partners are concerned about parts of this legislation that are challenging to the lives of farm workers like wages, housing and the inclusion of e-verify. David Bacon, a gifted photo journalist and advocate for farm worker rights has written a very comprehensive piece about the history of farm work in the US, specifically focusing on temporary farm workers in our country as a context for this legislation. See his analysis at https://prospect.org/labor/close-to-slavery-legalization-undocumented-farmworkers/
We are still assessing the legislation and what negotiations might improve it for the benefit of all farm workers. Clearly we want to support a path to citizenship for farm workers and improvements to the Guestworker program. Right now we want to share with you information from three of our farm worker partners/allies so you will know what is being discussed:
United Farm Workers Union: https://ufw.org/immigration/
Familias Unidas por la Justicia: http://familiasunidasjusticia.org/en/2019/11/25/familias-unidas-initial-position-on-the-farmworker-modernization-act-of-2019/
The focus of NFWM is to educate, equip and mobilize and we are committed to doing that in every way possible. Right now, we are working with two boycotts, food certification programs and direct efforts with farm worker organizing groups around the country. We are promoting our resources on gender based violence and basic farm worker information, all available on our website. Look for updates through our e-news, Facebook postings and on the website. And stay tuned.