Advocacy day in Albany highlights need for farmworker rights - Catholic Courier

Advocacy day in Albany highlights need for farmworker rights

Supporters of farmworker rights gathered in Albany May 12 for a Farmworker Advocacy Day march and rally to encourage passage of the proposed Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act. The legislation would give farmworkers the same rights as other workers, including an eight-hour work day, a day of rest and collective bargaining rights.

The New York State Catholic Conference, the public-policy arm of the state’s bishops, lent its support to the event, saying that farms are a vital industry in New York that depend on the work of farmworkers.

“These laborers, many of them migrant workers, have historically endured very difficult working conditions for very little pay and an almost complete absence of the benefits that most working people take for granted, such as a day of rest and worker compensation protections,” Richard E. Barnes, the Catholic conference’s executive director, said in a May 12 statement. “The Bishops of New York State are sensitive to the challenges facing farm families, but at the same time our Catholic social teaching reminds us that all people have the right to fair working conditions and payment for their labors. Justice demands that such rights must extend to farm workers. As a society, we have a responsibility for finding a solution that both protects the rights and dignity of the worker and the livelihood of the farmer.”

The Catholic conference is asking New York’s Catholics to encourage their state legislators to vote for the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act. Visitors to the conference’s Web site, www.nyscatholic.org, may click on the Take Action Now button to find a draft message of support for the legislation. This message may be customized and sent to Gov. David Paterson and members of the state Senate and Assembly directly from the conference’s Web site.

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