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Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany
February 06, 2017
For immediate release

Bishop Scharfenberger of Albany Joins Legislators Calling for Justice for Farmworkers

Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger today joined with legislators and farmworkers calling for passage of the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, a bill that would guarantee basic worker rights and protections for farmworkers that are already enjoyed by the rest of society.

In a press conference held at the Legislative Office Building, Bishop Scharfenberger said:

"Every one of us depends on our state’s farm workers for the food we eat, yet for too long we have turned a blind eye to conditions under which they live and work. These good men and women are not seeking special treatment; they simply ask that they no longer be excluded from the same rights and protections enjoyed by the rest of society. My brother Bishops of New York State and I are proud to stand in solidarity with the community of farm workers from across New York, and we call on Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature to make the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act a priority so that, finally, these most basic protections, such as the right to overtime pay or a day of rest, will be enshrined in law. Justice and basic human dignity demand nothing less."

Farmworkers across New York State continue to endure long hours of hard physical labor and are exposed to dangerous conditions every day, yet they farmworkers are excluded from workplace rights afforded by the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) and the National Labor Relations Act (1935).  Farmworkers’ work is crucial to food production and is the foundation of the state’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry.

In the Capital District, there are almost 3,500 farms and 587,000 acres of farmland. 

Last spring, farmworkers, activists, religious leaders, and students led a 200-mile march from Smithtown on Long Island to Albany, to bring attention to this issue. The march culminated in a rally at the Capitol. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Scharfenberger participated in portions of the march.

The newly proposed Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act would provide farmworkers with the most basic workers’ protections, including overtime pay, employer contributions to the unemployment and workers’ compensation funds, and public health protections that include sanitation and housing standards.  The proposed law would also grant farmworkers one day off per calendar week, and the right to collective bargaining, among other basic rights.