Hundreds of Farm and Domestic Workers Gather at State Capitol to End ‘Shameful 74-Year Legacy of Racism”
Excluded Workers Mark 74th Anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act that Provides All Other American Workers Overtime, Basic Protections
Sacramento—Today, hundreds of farm and domestic workers gathered at the Capitol to call for an end to 74 years of institutionalized discrimination by extending worker protections from the Fair Labor Standards Act to include two classes of workers who are still excluded from the protections because of their race and ethnicity, urging legislators in Sacramento to right this historic wrong.
Hundreds of farm and domestic workers and civil rights, community, and political leaders gathered at the Capitol today to support AB 1313 to end the current exemption of agricultural workers from hour and wage requirements and overtime protections. California NAACP Executive Director Robert Rooks, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, and chairs of the Black and Latino legislative caucuses Curren Price and Ricardo Lara joined with hundreds of workers whose lives would be directly improved by these measures
"Farm workers and domestic workers are not second class workers,” said Arturo Rodriguez, UFW President. “They are men and women who perform some of the hardest jobs in America harvesting our food, takingcare of our elderly, and cleaning our homes. They are entitled to the same rights and protections other workers have enjoyed for generations."
The Fair Labor Standards Act has been called “the most vital social legislation” in American history because it set a floor below which work would not be tolerated for all American workers—except farm and domestic workers. To win votes for the 1938 law from Southern lawmakers, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to exempt from its provisions workers who produce America’s food and care for people’s homes, children and elders. Then, nearly all of those workers in the Southern U.S. were African Americans. Today in California, most are Latinos, Filipinos and other immigrants.
"74 years ago NAACP lobbied to include these workers in labor protections and were unsuccessful,” said Robert Rooks, executive director of the California NAACP. “It was wrong then, it is wrong now. Together we will end this shameful chapter of U.S. history."
Among 200 farm and domestic workers gathering to end that discrimination were elderly workers who toiled their entire lives in fields and homes plus labor and civil rights leaders and legislators.
"I am 79 and work as a domestic worker to support my family in the Philippines. I have been to Sacramento over a dozen times to ask legislators to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights,” said Emiliana Acopio, a member of the CA Domestic Workers Coalition who was honored at today’s event. “Today we unite with farm workers to say enough is enough, the time is now for legislators to finally give us the recognition we deserve."
The United Farm Workers and the California Domestic Workers Coalition are organizing the gathering. The UFW is sponsoring AB 1313, by Assemblymember Michael Allen, to provide overtime pay for farm workers after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. The CDWC is sponsoring AB 889, by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, to end the exclusion of domestic workers from labor protections such as overtime pay and rest breaks.