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  • Report: New York Dairy Workers Treated Worse Than Cows – 06-14-17
    Print Icon Jun 13, 2017

    By JoAnne Powers

    Workers’ rights groups in New York have released a new report highlighting poor working conditions faced by isolated, rural immigrant workers in the state’s 14 billion-dollar dairy industry, mostly from Guatemala and Mexico.  Rebecca Fuentes, lead organizer at the Workers’ Center of Central New York in Syracuse, says many of these minimum-wage workers feel that the cows are better treated than the workers:

    [Rebecca Fuentes]: “It’s a very dangerous industry.  Workers experience a lot of injuries, and they have heard about fatalities of other workers.  So they work 72 hours on average, that’s 12 hours a day.  And after 40-hours everybody else will get overtime pay, but not these dairy workers.  Because of their immigration status, of course, the conditions are more difficult.”

    Agricultural and domestic workers are excluded from the Federal Labor Standards Act, which grants rights that other workers take for granted, such as overtime pay, days off, and the right to organize.  Fuentes says these rules stem from this country’s historical exploitation of people of color:

    [Rebecca Fuentes]: “For example, in the 1930s the people who were doing the agricultural work and also domestic work have been people of color.  African-Americans, the newcomers, the new immigrants…they were left behind because of who they were, and we have never gone back to fix that.”


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