The Agricultural Workers’ Rights Bill is under consideration in the state of Colorado. It removes agricultural employers and employees from the Colorado Labor Peace Act, and allows employees to organize and join labor unions, as well as removes the exemption of agricultural labor from state and local minimum wage laws.
Bruce Talbott owns Talbott Farms in Palisade, Colorado. He worries about the fallout a bill like this may cause for himself and his employees. “This is a national movement; it is not being brought by the farm workers. The farm workers are actually very opposed both to having their incomes restricted and to having the viability of their employers challenged,” says Talbott.
It will establish rules surrounding overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week, or 12 hours per day, and grant employees meal breaks and rest periods, as well as provides overwork and health protections for employees.
“Most of the agriculture workers in our state are treated fairly, and have these protections. But it’s those that don’t that we are bringing this forward, so that all workers are treated fairly,” explains Representative Karen McCormick. She believes that this bill passing will keep Colorado’s agricultural industry competitive.
While this bill may appear to greatly benefit agricultural employees, some of those who are working in the industry say that it could significantly reduce the paychecks of Colorado agriculture employees. “Farm workers do not want this bill,” continues Talbott.
Talbott fears that it would likely reduce the amount of produce raised in the state, such as Pueblo chilies, Olathe sweet corn, and Palisade peaches.
The bill has been in the Senate since February of 2021, and has recently moved to the House in late May.