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Justice for Farmworkers
Farmworkers and their families face entrenched poverty, environmental racism, lack of opportunity, and a broken immigration system. Too many farmworkers are exposed to the dangers of heat stroke, sexual harassment, pesticide exposure, or deportation. The people who feed America deserve better.
As president, I will expand fundamental rights to farmworkers and invest in farmworker communities.
- Include farmworkers in labor and employment law protections. Agricultural workers were excluded from the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, for explicitly racist reasons. 80 years later, it’s time for agricultural labor to be protected by the law. I would pass legislation explicitly granting farmworkers the right to organize unions and participate in collective and sectoral bargaining.
- Ensure parity in wage protections for farmworkers, including minimum wage and overtime pay. Farmworkers are not subject to many federal wage laws, including overtime pay protections. I will end that exclusion by passing the Fairness for Farmworkers Act and amending the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act to allow agricultural workers who pursue legal action in cases of wage theft to be awarded attorneys fees.
- Create and enforce strict health and safety regulations, including against excessive heat, pesticide exposure, and poor air quality during wildfires or natural hazards. Farmworkers work long hours in the heat with few protections for health and safety. I support the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act to ensure access to shade and water. As president, I will also ban certain toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and strengthen Environmental Protection Agency oversight of new pesticides and penalties for violators. I also support air quality safety standards for farmworkers, including poor air quality due to wildfires.
- Protect workers against crimes and workplace violations such as sexual harassment. To protect farmworker women, I will end the exclusion of agricultural labor from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. I will also prohibit the deportation of any farmworker involved in a strike, labor organizing, or other dispute with an employer, including those involving discrimination or sexual harassment.
- End the exploitation of child labor in agriculture. According to a Government Accountability Office report, agriculture accounts for over half of all child labor deaths. Yet under current law, children as young as 12 are allowed to work in the fields. As president, I’d pass the Children's Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety, ensuring labor standards for children in agriculture are in line with those of other industries.
- Create a pathway to citizenship. At least 50% of our current farmworker labor force is undocumented. As president, I will create a fair and reasonable pathway to citizenship for all agricultural workers and their families in the U.S., regardless of immigration status as part of my People First Immigration Plan.
- Invest in farmworker communities. Beyond labor and immigration law, many farmworker families struggle with entrenched poverty and lack of opportunity. Many farmworkers live in substandard housing or lack clean drinking water. Meanwhile, the children of migrant farmworkers have one of the highest dropout rates in the country. America depends on these rural, largely Latino, communities to eat, but for decades has failed to give them a real shot at the American Dream. As president, I will invest in rural farmworker communities to ensure the families who feed us can pursue their American Dream.
- Ensure clean water for farmworkers. In addition to strengthening the Clean Water Act and reversing destructive Trump administration deregulations, I am committed to defending environmental justice for marginalized communities. Infrastructure investment in farmworker communities has been neglected for decades. I am committed to an additional $20 billion to fund clean water programs and will invest in farmworker communities to ensure they have access to water as a basic human right.
- Increase enrollment in high school and college for children from farmworker families. Establish a new $50 million scholarship program through the Department of Education Migrant Education Program and increasing the Migrant Education program to at least $500 million a year, for farmworker children in High School and College aimed specifically at supplementing family income during the work season and expand the College Assistance Migrant Program to provide scholarships for students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds to attend college, paired with tuition-free college and increased Pell Grants.
- Support recruitment and retention of teachers for farmworker communities, including bilingual teachers, for rural schools. My People First Education Plan calls for the establishment of a national effort to fund 1-year teacher residency programs and grants to states to support transitions of local students and educational professionals into a teaching career, including Grow Your Own Programs—directing these initiatives at individuals who intend on making a life-long commitment to teaching. These programs will prioritize high-need, underserved communities, including rural communities and farmworker communities.
- Prepare farmworkers for the economy of the future. As president, I will strengthen the Department of Labor’s National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) and double its budget to $160 million to improve non-profit grantees’ ability to provide job training, financial literacy training, and other social services for farmworkers, including preparing for current farmworkers to benefit from the automation of agriculture.
- Address the shortage and poor quality of housing for farmworkers. Through my People First Housing Plan, which dedicates almost $500 billion to affordable housing construction, I will prioritize communities of highest need such as farmworker communities. I additionally support the conversion of marginal agricultural land into housing for farmworker communities and improved standards and oversight of employer-owned farmworker housing. Additionally, I will combat food insecurity in farmworker communities with a federal grant program to establish food banks as integrated into existing or new farmworker housing.
- Reform systemic discrimination at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. American agricultural policies have consistently failed people of color over decades, resulting in a decrease in farm ownership by over 90% over the last century for black and other minority farmers. That’s why my administration will ensure the USDA is reformed to truly serve everyone in farm country. I will appoint experts and activists with a track record of defending farmers of color and farmworkers to every position at USDA. We will also ensure that USDA serves not just farm owners, but farmworkers as well.
- Investigate discrimination at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA has historically failed marginalized communities and communities of color in their programs. Between 1910 and 2007, black farmers lost 80% of the land they owned. I will implement regular Government Accountability Office audits of the USDA to investigate loan practices towards marginalized communities, conduct oversight of existing and future loan and technical assistance programs to find and end racial and other disparities, and establish streamlined civil rights violation reporting to monitor discrimination.
- Create a “Next Generation Farmers” land trust to support aspiring and small farmers with acquiring land. The average age of farmers in the United States has consistently risen over decades and small farms are increasingly consolidated under corporate ownership as farmers retire, are driven out of business by corporate agriculture, or are denied resources by discrimination at the USDA. To combat this, I will establish a federal “Next Generation Farmers” land trust to support small farmers and combat the legacy and continuing effects of discrimination. The trust will fund purchases of farmland from retiring farmers who choose to voluntarily sell their land and sell land to new farmers, including farmworkers and other marginalized communities such as black farmers, or to small farmers looking to expand their family farms. This program will also support small and marginalized farmers with estate planning assistance to keep farms within their families and be coordinated with programs to extend internet access and other public services to underserved rural communities. This trust will be funded with at least $200 million each year, including through antitrust and environmental penalties on large agricultural corporations and increased corporate income taxes on these corporations from the repeal of the Trump tax bill.
- Invest in farmworkers becoming independent farmers. The existing Farm Ownership Loan Program supports family farmers and ranchers in acquiring or expanding farms through loans and guarantees. I believe such programs should specifically support farmworkers in achieving their dreams to become farmers. I will establish a $100 million loan and subsidy program through the Farm Service Agency specifically to help farmworkers to become farm owners through loans, guarantees, and technical assistance.