Farmworkers are some of our nation’s most vital workers, as their labor enables us to enjoy high quality, low-cost, fresh fruits and vegetables allyear round. Despite farmworkers’ economic and cultural contributions to thecommunities where they live and work, they continue to be the some of thelowest paid, least protected, and unhealthiest workers in the United States.
Overviewof Farm Work
Agricultural labor includes planting,cultivating, harvesting and preparingcrops for market or storage.
Migrant farmworkers travel fromplace to place to work in agricultureand move into temporary housingwhile working;seasonal farmworkerswork primarily in agriculture, but livein one community year-round.
Farmworkers are usually employed byfarm owners or by “crew leaders,”who serve as intermediaries betweengrowers and workers.The H2A program allows foreign“guestworkers” to perform seasonalfarm work under a temporary workvisa designed for agricultural workersin the United States.
There are two to three millionfarmworkers in the United States.
The states with the highestfarmworker population are California,Texas, Washington, Florida, Oregon,and North Carolina.
Nearly 80% of farmworkers are male,and most are younger than 31.
Most farmworkers are married and/or have children; yet almost six out often farmworkers live apart from their immediate family members.
Of farmworkers in the United States,75% were born in Mexico.
According to a 2005 survey, 53% offarmworkers are undocumented(without legal authorization), 25% areUnited States citizens, and 21% arelegal permanent residents.
Immigrant farmworkersoften leave their homecountries to seek abetter life for their families. Immigration tothe United States hasincreased notably sincethe 1994 signing ofNAFTA,
a free tradeagreement that hasdriven over two millionMexican farmers out ofbusiness.
“Every time we sit at atable to enjoy the fruitsand grain and vegetablesfrom our good earth,remember that they come from the work of men and women andchildren who havebeen exploited forgenerations.”
Cesar Chavez, Co-Founder, United Farm Workers
Farmworkers were excluded fromnearly all of the major federal labor laws passed in the 1930s. Some of thelaws have been amended to includeworkers on large farms, but exemptionsremain in the following laws:Labor organizing:
Farmworkers wereexcluded from the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which protectsworkers acting collectively to formunions.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) originallyexcluded all farmworkers, and wasamended in 1978 to mandate minimumwage for workers on large farms only.
The FLSA has never been amended to provide overtime for farmworkers, and only a few stateshave passed laws requiring it.
Child labor laws:
The FLSA sets 12 asthe minimum age for farm work, not 16as in other jobs.