The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Justice for Farmworkers Day

Capitol, Million Dollar Staircase
Albany, NY -- Monday, May 5, 2014

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver addresses the Justice for Farmworkers Day rally at the Capitol where farmworkers and advocates from across the state gathered. Silver urged the Senate to do what the Assembly has done for a decade, pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. The measure provides farmworkers access to such basic employee rights as access to collective bargaining, unemployment compensation, disability insurance and the right to one day off each week.

Good afternoon. Farmworkers. Advocates. Welcome to Albany. I and my Assembly colleagues are proud to be standing with you.

I know this is Justice for Farmworkers Day here at our State Capitol, but I am more inclined to agree with Reverend Witt and say that everyday must be "justice for farmworkers day" here in the State of New York.

And I am going to tell you why.

We New Yorkers pride ourselves in being champions of civil rights, champions of workers' rights, champions of social justice.

Yet, some of the hardest working men, women and young people in this state - the unsung heroes of our robust and critically important agricultural economy - still do not have:

In the year 2014, how is it possible, in a state that prides itself on standing up for working people?

Farmworkers are not farm animals. Farmworkers are not second-class citizens, and farm work is not some kind of less valuable work.

Your health and safety matter! Your rights and your ability to provide for your families matter!

What you contribute to our economy and to our quality of life here in New York is important.

Let's be honest about this:

No teacher, no law enforcement officer, no nurse, no construction worker, no journalist, no senator, no assembly member would tolerate this kind of disrespect or this kind of treatment.

Almost exactly a year ago, May 13th of 2013, the Assembly Majority - led by the former chair of our Labor Committee, and longtime advocate for farmworkers' rights, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan - passed the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which you helped us craft.

We have been passing this legislation for almost a decade and let's be very clear, we are not proposing to give farmworkers anything more than rights that every other worker enjoys.

As this legislative session winds down, together we must convince our colleagues in the Senate to embrace our legislation and put an end to farmworker injustice once and for all.

It's time for New Yorkers to live up to our legacy. It's time for New Yorkers to stand up for farmworkers. Thank you very much.

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