It’s National Farmworker Awareness Week: Time to celebrate the dedication and strength of the people who plant and harvest our food. Farmworkers are exceptional people in so many ways: their incredibly hard work, the courage of many of them in seeking a new life in another country, and their persistence in the face of so many challenges. Unfortunately, farmworkers are also exceptional in a way that no one wants to be. Agricultural exceptionalism is a well-established concept in American law – the notion that agriculture is somehow so different from other industries that this justifies treating agricultural workers in ways we would not dream of treating other workers.
What does agricultural exceptionalism mean for farmworkers? For starters, no entitlement to overtime pay for hours worked over 40 (and there are many of those long hours during peak harvest season). There’s also no minimum wage for labor done on a small farm. Farmworkers who join together to press for better living and working conditions don’t have federal labor law protections. Children as young as 10 can legally work in the fields. And most North Carolina farmers are not required to provide workers’ compensation for their employees, who toil in one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.
Let’s take this Farmworker Awareness Week to support those who push to make farmworkers unexceptional, including:
- The Farm Labor Organizing Committee  (FLOC), which incredibly, organized in North Carolina the first union of farmworkers in the country that is made up of workers who are here on temporary work visas. Now they are working for fair treatment for all farmworkers in the state’s tobacco fields.
- The Farmworker Advocacy Network,  which has worked successfully to secure improvements to our state migrant housing and pesticide laws. This year, they are supporting changes to the national standards protecting workers against pesticide exposure  and fighting to keep kids out of the fields.
- Student Action with Farmworkers,  which trains student activists to support farmworkers in their fight for justice, and helps farmworker kids access higher education.
Please use this Farmworker Awareness Week to join their fight.