In the 2015-2016 National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), the federal government estimates there are about 2.5 million farm workers in the United States including hundreds of thousands of minors who work in remote and rural areas, about half are undocumented. They are predominantly of Latino and/or indigenous ancestry with nearly 70% hailing from Mexico and nearly 80% are most comfortable speaking in Spanish. As a result of language barriers, status issues, and economic vulnerability, most farm workers won’t speak out in the workplace, be adequately informed about heat illness prevention or have access to timely medical attention when illness or injury strikes. The farm worker communities that we serve are intimately and tragically familiar with the dangers of heat exposure and experience a risk of heat-related death that is 20 times higher than the risk for workers overall.
There’s a long history of explicit farm worker exclusion from basic rights and protections such as overtime pay from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1932. It is not acceptable for any farm worker to be denied the right to overtime pay. Together we made history when overtime pay legislation passed in California—the largest agricultural state in the nation in 2016, and we will not stop there. It is finally time for all American farm workers to be compensated with overtime pay for all the toil and sacrifice they endure to feed us all.
The UFW Foundation hosts an annual heat awareness campaign. In the last years, we have distributed bandanas, reusable cold ties, and wallet-size information cards to inform and remind farm workers about labor and immigrant rights in Arvin and Mecca, Calif. The UFW Foundation provides Know Your Rights cards workers can use if questioned by federal agents about their immigration status will be also provided and offer house meetings for communities interested in receiving in-depth presentations about protection from immigration.
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