Protections for Farmworkers
The landscape for farms and farmworkers has changed significantly in the past 70 years.
The eyes of the nation is on the State of Washington, where farm workers' advocates want to update the Washington Farm Labor Contractor Act.
It all has to do with Senate Bill 6261, which is an effort to address reform to the H2A program, which allows guest farmworkers from other countries into the United States on temporary visas.
Antonio Ginatta with Columbia Legal Services noted that about one-third of the agriculture workforce comes from outside the United States.
"There wasn't an H2A visa program back in the '50s [or] back in '85, the last time this Farm Labor Contractor Act was actually amended," he said. "So, what we're trying to do is modernize it, is make it relevant to agricultural industry in Washington today."
Rosalinda Guillen is a with farmworker advocacy group Community to Community Development, and says the bill also would address a loophole that exempts nonprofits from the Washington Farm Labor Contractor Act. She said she doesn't believe farmworker recruiters should be able to hold nonprofit status.
"It's a profit-making operation, and we believe that farm labor contractors in the state of Washington should not be nonprofits," she said. "So, that's one of the biggest things this bill is addressing."
Many legal scholars believe Washington's Bill, if passed, will lead to similar bills in many other states.