Brown, Padilla, colleagues introduce legislation to strengthen labor protections for farm workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Fairness for Farm Workers Act, legislation to update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fair wages and compensation.

The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide overtime and additional minimum wage protections for farm workers. The bill was previously introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03).

“It’s simple: If you put in the work, you should get paid for it,” said Brown. “Farm workers are essential to our economy and deserve the compensation that they earn. Our bill will ensure that they receive the fair wages they work so hard for.”

“It’s long overdue that we fix our nation’s labor laws to include the farm workers who have been unjustly excluded from their protections,” said Padilla. “Earlier this month, I experienced a small dose of the demanding work that farm workers do to feed millions of families across the country and strengthen our economy. These migrants deserve to be treated with dignity and paid fairly for their difficult and essential work. The Senate must pass the Fairness for Farm Workers Act to finally bring economic justice to these workers.”

The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would update the nation’s labor laws to ensure farm workers receive fair wages and compensation. Nearly 84 years ago, the Fair Labor Standards Act established federal standards for minimum wage and overtime pay, but the law excluded millions of domestic and agricultural workers who were overwhelmingly people of color. Although farm workers gained some minimum wage protections in 1966, exclusions on overtime have persisted. This bill would gradually implement overtime pay over the course of four years and bring greater equity to the American agricultural industry. As of 2020, over a trillion dollars of America’s gross domestic product and 1 in 10 jobs are linked to agriculture.

The Fairness for Farm Workers Act will:

• Require time-and-a-half overtime pay for all agricultural workers, with additional compliance time for small farms;

• Remove exemptions to overtime for agriculture generally and end the exemptions for overtime and minimum wage requirements for certain small farms, hand harvest laborers, non-local minors, and range livestock production. Maintain the family farm exemption to these requirements;

• Remove exemptions to overtime for workers employed in irrigation projects, livestock auctions incidental to farm work, small country grain elevators, certain sugar processing, certain types of intra-state transportation and preparation for transportation of fruits and vegetables, cotton ginning, and cotton compressing.

In the Senate, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ed Markey (D-MA).