This summer, Governor Jared Polis signed the Agricultural Workers’ Rights Bill, which extends workplace protections to agricultural workers that have long applied to other industries such as a minimum wage guarantee, the right to organize, meal and rest breaks, and enhanced safety protections during public health emergencies. This was a major victory, but the fight isn’t done! The bill also left several key areas to be decided by the Polis Administration.
Towards Justice, along with workers, labor unions, and dozens of other nonprofit and community groups are calling upon the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) to fulfill their duty to implement long-overdue workplace standards in several key areas. Farmworkers are some of our most essential workers, and they are among the hardest working workers in the state. They face constant pressures and stress from long hours, global warming and forest fires, and a pandemic that has continued to ravage them and their communities. Stand with us in standing up to these essential workers and making sure they have the same basic rights as everyone else!
CDLE must institute “meaningful” overtime standards for agricultural workers. In enacting the rules, the law requires CDLE to consider:
(a) the inequity and racist origins of the exclusion of agricultural workers from overtime standards and maximum hours protections available to other workers;
(b) the fundamental right of all employees to overtime and maximum hours standards that protect the health and welfare of employees; and
(c) the unique difficulties agricultural workers have obtaining workplace conditions equal to those provided to other workers.
CDLE is also required to make rules that require employers to protect workers from heat-related stress illnesses and injuries. Agricultural workers and advocates have long argued these standards should include, at a minimum, access to fresh drinking water throughout the duration of workers’ shifts, access to open area shade that is large enough for worker to be seated without touching each other during breaks, more frequent rest breaks when the outside temperature exceeds 90 degrees, and training to recognize the signs of heat stress.
Access to key service providers
The law directs CDLE to implement rules that will enable workers to meet with key service providers, including health care providers, community health workers, education providers, attorneys, government officials, and members of the clergy where they live and during times when it is most difficult for workers to access basic community services outside of standard work hours.
The bill also calls upon CDA to promulgate rules regarding the allowance of hand weeding and hand thinning of crops by workers in narrow circumstances in order to ensure workers are not at risk of acute, chronic, or debilitating injuries.
If you are interested in learning about ways you can help advance these vital workplace protections, visit CDLE’s information page and CDA’s information page here. Please note that the timeline for submission of comments is very tight so it is highly recommended you submit them as soon as possible. For questions, please contact Valerie Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.