Today, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Adam Putnam (R-FL) introduced the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act, aka AgJOBS. This bill has bipartisan support and the backing of business and labor interests. The push of the bill is the stabilization of the labor market in the agricultural industry and earned path to citizenship for eligible farmworkers
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From United Farmworkers
Who are America’s farm workers? You don’t see them in the restaurants, grocery stores or farmers’ markets where you buy your food. They are part of an invisible world where the food just appears on the shelves.
Here are some facts about the people who labor in our fields. They work in substandard conditions for wages far below the poverty line. Their real wages have not increased in nearly 30 years. The average farm worker makes just $13,000 per year. Many have no health care and can’t take time off to seek medical care for themselves or their families. They often live in decrepit housing that you wouldn’t even let your dog live in. Unsafe working conditions and injuries on the job are common occurrences. Many employers use the threat of deportation to ensure workers’ silence.
There’s a bipartisan immigration bill before Congress that could drastically improve the lives of these men and women who pick our country’s food. It’s called AgJOBS–The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act (S. 1038, Feinstein).
AgJOBS represents a critical opportunity for farm workers and their employers to finally address this crisis. It’s a compromise that will provide America with a stable farm labor force, help ensure that farm workers are treated fairly, and finally give the men and women who pick our food the opportunity to come out of the shadows and earn legal status and fair wages in safe conditions.
This bill is a great step towards the end goal of comprehensive immigration reform. The unique needs of the agricultural sector merit a separate piece of legislation for those needs to be met. We applaud Senator Feinstein and Reps Berman and Putnam for introducing this important piece of legislation and hope that when the time comes for an immigration reform bill to hit Congress, we can count on their backing.