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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: March 25, 2021 01:35 PM
From: Representative Dan L. Miller and Rep. Danilo Burgos, Rep. Manuel Guzman, Jr., Rep. Joseph C. Hohenstein
To: All House members
Subject: Equal Rights for Agricultural Workers in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has long boasted of the importance of its agricultural industries, yet under our laws tens of thousands of agricultural workers are deprived of the fundamental rights that workers in other economic sectors take for granted.

It is past time for Pennsylvania to guarantee these basic rights are extended to all of its workers in agricultural industries. They include:
  • Workers’ rights to self-organize; to form, join or assist labor organizations; to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing; and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.
  • Protection against discrimination by employers based on race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age for those 40 and over, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.
  • The right to payment of a minimum hourly wage and payment of overtime at time and one-half per hour for work over 40 hours in a week.
  • The same rights as rental tenants in housing where their housing is provided as part of their employment.
  • Protection against discrimination or retaliation for exercising protected rights.
  • Full rights to coverage for unemployment insurance compensation on the same terms as other workers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
We are introducing three proposed bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to extend these rights to all workers in Pennsylvania’s agricultural industries.  Please consider co-sponsoring these important pieces of legislation. 

Document #1

Introduced as HB1360

Description: In 1978, the Pennsylvania General Assembly adopted the Pennsylvania Seasonal Farm Labor Act (Act of 1978, No. 93) to address well documented failure of the Commonwealth to protect agricultural workers within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The proposed Farmworker Protection Act builds on the positive aspects of that historic protective legislation to provide fundamental protections in employment for all Pennsylvania farmworkers.

This omnibus legislative proposal offered by Rep. Joe Hohenstein will further address several of the fundamental areas of legal discrimination against farmworkers.  This includes:
  • Extending the protections of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to persons employed in agriculture, protecting them from discrimination by employers based on race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age for those 40 and over, sex, national origin, familial status, handicap or disability;
  • Providing minimum hourly wage and overtime protections to agricultural workers by removing the exemption of all persons engaged in “labor on a farm” from provisions of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968 (Act of 1969, No. 5);
  • Including farmworkers who live in housing provided through their employment in the category of persons protected by Pennsylvania tenancy laws; and
  • Protecting farmworkers from discrimination or retaliation for exercising rights protected under the Act.
Please consider co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation. 
  View Attachment

Document #2

Description: Agricultural workers have historically been discriminated against in unemployment insurance compensation coverage, yet they and their families face the same struggles when out of work. This legislation would treat persons employed in agricultural labor as entitled to coverage for unemployment insurance compensation on the same terms as all other workers.

Pennsylvania adopted legislation to comply with the minimum requirements of the 1978 Federal Unemployment Tax Act, which only provides unemployment insurance coverage for a small subset of agricultural laborers, and under far more restrictive circumstances than those which apply to other workers.  This legislation, offered by Reps. Manuel Guzman and Danilo Burgos, would treat agricultural labor the same as other categories of labor.

Furthermore, it would address the problem created when crew leaders who are not established fixed situs employers are categorized as principal employers for purposes of UC instead of the agricultural operator for whom the work is performed.

Please consider co-sponsoring this critical piece of legislation which would end the differential treatment of agricultural labor when it comes to unemployment compensation.
  View Attachment

Document #3

Introduced as HB1036

Description: The right of workers to freely organize collectively is fundamental. Collective bargaining puts the worker on equal footing with that of management, allowing for fair standards related to their pay, benefits and work environment.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act was adopted in 1937, and like the federal law it was based on, its exclusion of “agricultural laborers” from the protected rights extended to other workers was rooted in the relationship between agricultural labor and slavery.   

Workers in Pennsylvania’s mushroom industry have been successful in establishing that  the 1937 Pennsylvania General Assembly perception of “agricultural labor” did not include the kind of industrialized agricultural production of that major Pennsylvania industry. See Vlasic Farms Inc. v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Bd., 565 Pa. 555, 777 A.2d 80 (2001). However, tens of thousands of workers in Pennsylvania agricultural industries and farms continue to be excluded from the protected right to organize.

This legislation, offered by Rep. Dan Miller, would strike the exclusion of individuals employed as agricultural laborers from the protections of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act, allowing them the same protection afforded to other workers under the Act. It would extend to them the right to self-organize, to form, join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively about the terms and conditions of their employment, and to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid or protection.

Please consider co-sponsoring this critical worker rights bill to extend collective bargaining and organizing rights to Pennsylvania’s agricultural workers.
  View Attachment