An Important Message from RMFU President Dr. Dale McCall regarding CO SB21-087
A message to RMFU members regarding RMFU’s stance on the Agricultural Worker’s Rights Bill Colorado SB21-087, also known as the Agricultural Worker’s Rights Bill, was introduced on February 16th, 2021, the first day of the 2021 General Session. After careful consideration, RMFU has decided to oppose this very expansive bill in its current form. While we agree with the intent to protect agricultural workers, we are concerned that agricultural producers have not adequately informed the discussion and that, as drafted, the bill has the potential for serious unintended consequences.
Our hope is to work toward protections that both agricultural workers and owners can support, in which safeguards are created and enforced against bad actors and Colorado’s diverse agricultural economy is supported.
We support many aspects of the bill including workers’ right to organize, changes to minimum wage and the development of an agricultural work advisory committee. We understand the need to develop practical health protections for strenuous, intensive work as well as lifelines for workers and employee whistleblowers to report dangerous conditions in their spoken language. However, we believe some of the details in these provisions are problematic and require refinement to effectively work for all stakeholders. Many members have told us that adding the cost of overtime pay would have dramatic consequences for their operations that are already operating a razor tight margin. We have also heard particularly from smaller growers that the prohibition of certain types of hand-tools used in a stooped, kneeling or squatting position for any duration would make production extremely difficult and open them up to potentially devastating litigation. The creation of a legal mechanism granting third-parties authority to not only bring forward lawsuits on behalf of the state, but to realize financial gain from doing so, is not acceptable for us.
As currently written, consequences from this bill would impact large and small operations alike and have unintended consequences across every sector of Colorado agriculture. We believe that it would make accessing land and building a business for people of all backgrounds more difficult. We would hope to see this bill address many of the systemic problems that Farmers Union has been working on for years to make agriculture more economically viable for farmers while making the food system more equitable for all.
We have been told that amendments are being crafted to remedy some of these issues and we hope to engage in a constructive process moving forward where policy can be more thoughtfully crafted to ensure that farmworkers are guaranteed fair protections and ensure that farmers and ranchers are able to maintain their livelihood.
We understand that our members may have divergent views on this bill and how to address these issues. We welcome this dialogue and feel that reasoning together makes us stronger and equips us to be a leader in these discussions with policy makers. Sharing your personal stories enables us to help legislators understand the real-world application of this bill. We hope to serve as a resource for your chapter and if you would like to hold a forum and discuss this bill or any of the issues therein, please let us know.
I also want to invite you to our first Colorado Legislative Update call this Thursday evening the 25th at 7:00pm. This bill will certainly be part of the discussion. Please reach out to Dan Waldvogle@rmfu.org for call-in information: .