Common ground on farm labor law in Albany?

Can state lawmakers find common ground on a proposed farm labor law? Hemdale Farms owner Dale Hemminger, who returned home to the Finger Lakes from Albany Wednesday with a busload of others who rallied at the state Capitol, said he thinks so.

Hemminger was among more than 300 farm owners and workers from across the state who joined with the Grow NY Farms campaign.

At issue is the proposed Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, which would rescind an 80-year-old law that prohibited farm workers from unionizing. The act would give farm workers the same rights and protections as other workers, including overtime pay and workers compensation benefits. Proponents say it’s high time farm workers receive these equal protections. New York Farm Bureau and like-minded organizations, along with many upstate farm owners, say the law as written would have devastating consequences.

Grow NY Farms supporters aim to educate legislators on the unintended consequences of the proposal. For one, they say it would force farms to significantly cut employee hours, reducing workers’ weekly wages and driving many workers to neighboring states that don’t have the law.

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