Ensure Equal Rights for Food and Farm Workers


Rural workers, especially Black and Latino workers in rural areas, are more likely to earn less than $15 per hour than their urban counterparts.[1] Rural workers are less likely to live in one of the 30 states that have enacted a minimum wage above the federal minimum wage.[2]

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State Policy Priorities

  • Enact a minimum wage above the federal minimum wage.
  • Enact a farmworker bill of rights and labor standards.
  • Provide agriculture workers basic labor rights, including minimum wage, overtime pay, and the right to organize.
  • Protect workers from dangerous working conditions, including COVID-19, and weather such as heat and wildfire smoke, which will get worse in a warming climate.
  • Make it unlawful to force an inmate to work against their will.
  • Require prison industries to pay a federal minimum inmate wage to incarcerated persons doing work.

State Examples

  • Georgia (2021 GA SB 24), Iowa (2021 IA HF 122), North Carolina (2021 NC HB 612), and Oregon (2021 OR HB 3551) have all considered legislation to raise the state minimum wage and establish annual cost-of-living updates to ensure that the minimum wage keeps up with the economy.
  • Colorado (2021 CO SB 87) legislators enacted a Farmworker Bill of Rights, which eliminates the minimum wage and overtime exemption for farmworkers; grants the right to organize and join labor unions; and offers new protections against heat stress, illnesses, and injury.
  • New York (2019 NY A 8419) passed a Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act that provides farm laborers with collective bargaining rights, a maximum of 60 hours’ work and minimum 24 hours’ rest per week, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, sanitary temporary housing, and workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Maine (2021 ME LD 1022), Oregon (2021 OR HB 2358), and Washington (2021 WA SB 5172) have all worked on agriculture worker overtime bills with significant bipartisan support.
  • Florida (2019 FL HB 1285) considered a bill to address heat-related illness, and legislation enacted in California (2021 CA AB 73) protects farm- and fieldworkers from dangerous wildfire smoke.
  • New York passed the NYS Health & Essential Rights Act (2021 NY 1034B) that created an Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) state standard for health and safety from COVID-19 and other airborne infectious diseases for employees in the state.
  • New York (2021 NY S416) has considered a bill to make it unlawful to force an inmate to work against their will and to prohibit a public entity from profiting from unpaid inmate labor.
  • Mississippi (2021 MS HB 408) has considered a bill to require prison industries to pay a federal minimum inmate wage to incarcerated persons doing work.
  • In California (2020 CA AB 2147), where incarcerated people are often enlisted to fight wildfires, legislators enacted a law to allow these people to have their records expunged at the end of their sentence, to make it easier for them to find post-prison work in emergency response.


Inspired? Ready to dig in on these issues with your rural neighbors? Our practical communications toolkits will help you connect with new communities through common values. The toolkits provide examples on narrative framing, press release templates, sample talking points, and more. 

Click here for the communications toolkit on Growing Equitable Food Systems.

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