The great majority of farm workers, the people who labor every day to harvest the food on our tables, are undocumented. NFWM/YAYA staff, members and volunteers have heard first hand reports from many farm workers of the ongoing abuse they suffer in the fields because they are threatened with firing or deportation if they complain. This opportunity to earn legal status would make it possible for them to, finally, work, live and participate in their communities without fear.
NFWM/YAYA has also heard from workers who harvest food for US families, but haven’t been able for years to cross the border to their countries of origin to see their own families. Achieving legal status will help end this moral travesty.
We also welcome the bi-partisan efforts within the Senate towards a bill that includes a path to citizenship. We believe any such bill should also include strong protections for farm workers who enter the country as guest workers and that those workers should have the option of becoming permanent residents.
Clearly we are at an historic point in time. Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said the President would “Keep the fires lit” on this issue, and that we must do so also.
Contact your Senator and Representatives – tell them you want comprehensive immigration reform legislation quickly that includes a way for hard-working farm workers to earn citizenship.
Below are the Agricultural Labor Reform Principles agreed to by a number of farm worker groups, including the United Farm Workers, Pineros Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, el Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas, the Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, NFWM/YAYA and others.
Agricultural Labor Reform Principles
1. A workable legalization program with a path first to permanent resident status, and then to citizenship, for the million farm workers who are currently working in the fields, including their spouses and children.
2. An end to the status quo of poverty and abuse; farm workers cannot continue to be second class workers. The goal of any program should be improvements in farm worker wages and working conditions.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES on any guestworker programs:
1. Equality of Treatment – Guest workers should have the same rights and protections including access to the courts as the U.S. workers.
2. No Discrimination – There should be no incentives to discriminate against U.S. workers (including newly legalized workers) i.e. it cannot be cheaper to hire guest workers than U.S. workers.
3. Fairness – Farm workers need to be paid more not less. The latest data, issued from the Department of Agriculture on November 27, shows that labor expenses on farms have increased just 0.7 percent over the past year. Costs for hired labor, those who work on the farm long-term, are up just 0.5 percent. Costs for contract labor, the harvest-time pickers, are up just 1.5 percent. In other words, labor costs are well-below the level of general price inflation. In fact, farm labor costs are still below where they were in 2008 on a nominal basis. In real terms, labor costs are falling for farmers. Any guest worker program must protect farm worker wages from further declines.
4. Economic freedom and opportunity –Experiences under the Bracero, H2A and other guest worker programs have demonstrated that if guest workers are tied to single employer, the law must require significant minimum labor standards and procedures to protect foreign workers from abuse, prevent displacement of US workers, and protect against depression of wages and working conditions for all workers. A real free market solution requires that guest workers have the same right to quit and go to work for an employer who offers better wages and working conditions as U.S. workers have.
5. Eligible to earn permanent residence – no one working in our country helping to feed our country should be condemned to permanent second class status.