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Letter: New York’s farm workers are being treated unfairly

New York’s farm workers are being treated unfairly

Imagine in New York you work 80 hours a week but only get paid minimum wage for 40. Imagine our workplace is filled with the danger of being physically or sexually abused. Imagine you are thirsty, but cannot stop to drink water for fear of retaliation. Imagine if you complain to your supervisor, you will be punished by being fired. Imagine if you are ill or injured on the job, you cannot take sick leave. Imagine this! What would you do?

For many New York farm workers this is a 2018 reality. Advocates have been fighting for over 10 years to make sure farm workers receive the same rights as every other worker in our state. Shamefully, this is not the case. Farm workers are considered second-class citizens. Many work 60 to 80 hours a week without overtime. They have no lunch breaks. Many have to eat what food they bring with them on their person and eat in unsanitary conditions. They are punished by docked pay if they are found taking a drink of water. Many are injured on the job but cannot seek medical assistance until their workday is finished. Many feel the cows are treated better than they are. Imagine struggling to raise a family in housing provided by farms where there are constant bedbugs and roaches.

Many of us who care about the plight of the farm workers attended a hearing in Albany recently where we heard the testimonies of over a dozen farm workers share the horrendous working conditions they face 365 days of the year. We say this is enough! This is not the way we treat human beings.

Without these workers, we would have crops rotting and decaying. No one else will do the work these hardworking people do. To many, this sounds like former days of slavery. However, this is modern-day slavery and has no place in this country and in the state that welcomes immigrants and refugees. These are people who contribute to our economy and our well being.

Now is the time to stop this. You can help by calling your senator today and telling him or her: “No more slavery in New York State! Vote for fair wages and conditions for all farm workers in the state.”

Peg and Wayne Alt

Town of Tonawanda

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