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Day 3: Labor Rights in the Food System

Farmworkers provide an essential service to our country, yet their jobs can be highly tedious and hazardous for meager compensation. It is common for employers to pay minimum wage while committing various forms of wage theft, fail to provide personal protection equipment for unhealthy or dangerous conditions and provide poor-quality housing conditions. Many basic labor protection laws do not consider farm workers as a covered class; therefore, this population may not be eligible to receive health insurance, disability insurance, or workers’ compensation. In many states, laborers cannot join or form a union for protection due to these workers being excluded from the protections of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935. Fortunately, in New York, farm workers can rely on minimum protections from this act. Additionally, they are also partially covered under other federal legislation. The Fair Labor Standards Act, guarantees they are paid the minimum wage and receive overtime pay. The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983 requires employers to be licensed, disclose terms of employment at the time of recruitment, and provide housing and transportation in vehicles that meet federal standards.  However, farms may be excluded from following these policies based on the number of farm workers employed on their farms and the number of hours worked. Even with all of these stipulations, the largest issue is many are unaware of their rights due to the English language barrier and are taken advantage of by their employers.

Today's Challenge

Reflection Questions

Where does your produce come from? Have you ever searched the internet to learn more about the commercial farming operations represented in a large grocery store?


If immigration laws are restructured in the future to make it easier or more
difficult for farm workers to live in our country, how would this affect our
food systems and the US economy?


Undocumented farm workers with no protections are also an essential part of our food chain; how do you think these workers are treated by their employers, and what rights does this population have? 

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