Text Box:

 

 

                                    Migration & Refugee Services

                                    Office of Migration and Refugee Policy

 

                                                3211 4th Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20017-1194 Tel. (202) 541-3208 • Fax: (202) 541-3399

                                                Email: mrspol@usccb.org         Website: www.usccb.org/mrs/mrp.htm

 

 

ACTION ALERT

 

November 18, 2003

 

Support the Agricultural Jobs Bill

 

Issue

The U.S. Bishops have recently contacted legislators in support of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits,

and Security Act of 2003 (S. 1645, H.R. 3142).  Its central component would give more than one-half million

undocumented farm workers an opportunity to legalize their status and the opportunity

to assert their rights in the workplace more effectively.

 

This delicately-balanced compromise proposal is the result of years of negotiations between the nation’s major agricultural employers

and the United Farm Workers of America.  The bill was introduced on September 23, 2003 in the House by Representatives

Chris Cannon (R-UT) and Howard Berman (D-CA), and in the Senate by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

 

In their letter to Congress on behalf of USCCB, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Thomas Wenski wrote,

 

“Farm workers, especially those who are undocumented, are among the most vulnerable of workers in the United States. 

This is so, in part, because many of our nation’s labor laws do not apply to their employment. Moreover,

enforcement of their rights is often inadequate or non-existent.   Undocumented migrant workers,

who make up a significant percentage of the farm worker labor force, are even more susceptible to abuse

and exploitation because of their irregular status…As introduced, S. 1645 and H.R. 3142 represent, on balance,

a positive improvement upon the current deplorable situation of migrant farm workers, many of whom are unable

to organize or bargain with their employers.   It is our view that the earned adjustment provisions, a central feature of the legislation,

will enable many undocumented workers to “come out of the shadows” and assert their basic rights in the work place,

creating an environment in the future which will benefit both foreign and U.S. farm workers.”

 

Action Needed

 

Contact your Representative and/or Senators to urge them to support the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits,

and Security Act of 2003 and to push for its enactment before the end of this legislative session.  Because of the delicate nature

of the compromise bill, its sponsors warn that any changes to the bill could derail the agreement between the farm workers

and the growers, and therefore they stress that it should be enacted “as is” without amendment.

 


 

Sample Letter/Fax

 

The following is a sample of a letter or fax you may wish to send to your Senators and/or Representative regarding the Agricultural Job

Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act.  Feel free to change or modify it to reflect your individual experiences and opinions,

or simply send it unchanged in its entirety.  Anything you can add from your personal experiences with this issue

would do a great deal to strengthen the efficacy of the letter.   The most important thing is that your elected representatives

know that you care about this issue.

 

___________________________

 

Dear __________:

 

I write to ask for your support for the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003 (S. 1645, H.R. 3142). 

As introduced, this bill would provide a path to residency and citizenship for a number of undocumented farm workers

as well as to give certain labor protections and benefits to those workers.

 

As you know, farm workers perform some of the most dangerous and strenuous jobs in the country,

working long hours in difficult conditions.  They also provide vital manual labor which supports

the backbone of our nation’s agricultural industry and helps supply us with the affordable food supply we have come to depend on. 

However, farm workers, especially the undocumented, are among the most vulnerable workers in the U.S.  

Many of our nation’s labor laws do not apply to them, and often the laws intended to protect their rights are not enforced properly.

 

If passed as introduced, the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act would constitute

real progress in improving the plight of farm workers.  Because this bill comes as the realization of years

of negotiations between agricultural labor unions and the employers, it is important to understand that

it is already a compromise bill and that any significant amendments to it might upset the delicate balance

achieved in its drafting.  Therefore, I ask you to support and pass the bill as introduced.

 

Nonetheless, enactment of this legislation should not end Congress’ obligation to take steps

to improve the plight of farm workers in the United States.  I ask you to examine these and

other important areas more thoroughly in the near future to ensure that farm workers and

their families are better able to support themselves in dignity.  

 

I urge you to please take action on this important matter as soon as possible and to pass this bill before the end of this legislative session.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

___________________________

 

 

For more information, contact Ross Wilson at the Office of Migration and Refugee Policy,

Migration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: (202) 541-3448 / rwilson@usccb.org.