On Tuesday, September 23, 2003, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.), Rep.
Howard Berman (D.-Calif.), Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho), Rep. Chris Cannon
(R.-Utah), Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex. and chair of the Congressional
Hispanic Caucus) spoke at a press conference to announce their introduction
of legislation containing a compromise among them and between the United
Farm Workers of America and major agribusiness employer organizations.

      The compromise contains two major parts:  (1) a legalization program
that allows undocumented farmworkers who have been working in American
agriculture to apply for temporary immigration status and gain permanent
immigration status upon completing a multi-year agricultural work
requirement, with the right of their spouses and children to become
immigrants once the farmworker becomes a permanent resident immigrant, and
(2) revisions to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program that streamline
the process by reducing employer's paperwork and time frames for H-2A
applications, revise the wage-setting process, create incentives for
employers to negotiate in good faith with labor unions, and give the
guestworkers the right to enforce their H-2A rights in federal court.  FJF
will be strongly supporting this compromise because, despite significant
concessions on H-2A issues, there are advances under the H-2A program and
the compromise would allow undocumented farmworkers to come out of the
shadows and gain the freedom to demand better wages and working conditions.

     The press conference also included Arturo Rodriguez, President of the
United Farm Workers, Cecilia Munoz, Vice Presiden of the National Council of
La Raza, Bob Vice, former head of the California Farm Bureau and co-chair of
a national agribusiness coalition on immigration and labor, as well as
others.

All agreed that the compromise resulted from arduous negotiations over controversial issues and that it needs to be passed as-is (without amendments), first by the Senate and then by the House, and then signed by the President.  The goal is enact it during the next two months.

      The UFW at
www.ufw.org has posted information on the agreement and
has an automatic email system available to tell your members of Congress to
support the compromise.

 
 
Statement issued by the United Farm Workers (UFW):
 
Embargoed until September 23, 2003, 11:15 a.m. EST
Granting ‘freedom from fear [for]
the hardest working, lowest-paid
tax-paying workers in America’
 
United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez made the following statement at today's Washington, D.C. announcement of a bipartisan agreement on legislation allowing undocumented farm workers to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture and making changes in the H-2A guest worker program:
 
First, let me salute Senator Kennedy and Representative Berman for years of commitment to farm workers, and thank all the lawmakers joining in this historic effort.
The rich bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables on America’s dinner tables comes from the sweat and sacrifice of immigrant farm workers who are largely undocumented.
They accept risks no other American workers endure—paying huge fees to cross the border each year. Hundreds die annually along the way.
They take the hardest, most difficult jobs other American workers won’t take—toiling every day in the hot sun and bitter cold for minimum wage.
 
They pay taxes but enjoy few, if any, benefits while performing some of the most important labor in our nation: feeding America and much of the world.
They do what no one else will do. Yet they and their families have so few of the opportunities the American dream holds out for those who work hard for a living. They constantly live in the shadows of fear, making them easy victims of abuse and poverty.

That is why three years ago the United Farm Workers began long and difficult negotiations with the agricultural industry.
This agreement fundamentally changes the dynamic of farm labor in America. It grants freedom from fear to hundreds of thousands of the hardest working, lowest-paid tax-paying workers in America.

It allows undocumented farm workers to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. Like other immigrants before them, this agreement frees immigrant farm workers so they can finally join American society instead of being hidden from it.

Today we issue an appeal to undocumented farm workers across America: We will work very hard to enact this bipartisan reform.