Catholic Charities official testifies at farmworker hearing
Published on May 6th, 2019
Shannon Kelly, chief operating officer of Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster testified in support of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act on May 2 at a legislative hearing held in Loch Sheldrake in Sullivan County. The hearing was one of three regional hearings being held around the state on the controversial legislation, the others being on Long Island and in Western New York. The NYS Catholic Conference has supported the farmworker rights bill through its more than two decades of consideration by the state legislature.
“We must ensure that farmworkers are treated humanely and with dignity, in the same way we work to ensure other workers of our state are treated,” Kelly said. “This is not about putting farmworkers ahead of farms. You can’t support the farmworkers without supporting the farms, and vice versa. Both depend on and need the other.”
Farmworkers were excluded from basic labor protections granted other professions under the federal New Deal-era Fair Labor Standards Practices Act. This legislation would grant New York State farmwokers such rights as a day of rest each week, overtime pay, workers compensation insurance, sanitary housing conditions, and collective bargaining rights. The bill is opposed by the NYS Farm Bureau, which argues that the economic impact on farmers would be too great.