Committee Stands up for Agricultural Workers

House State Affairs Committee passes bill to strengthen protections for agricultural workers 

DENVER, CO– The House State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs Committee today passed Representatives Karen McCormick and Yadira Caraveo’s bill to advance the basic rights of Colorado’s agricultural workers and modernize the agriculture industry. The bill passed by a vote of 7-4.

“Harvesting crops and helping to keep Colorado’s farms and ranches running is backbreaking work, work that my family members have done for years,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton. “Workers in these jobs should have the same protections and opportunities as others in Colorado, like being able to join a union, having their health and safety protected and earning a fair wage for a hard day’s work. Our bill takes a long overdue step forward toward improving conditions for agricultural workers and correcting a historical injustice. I’m proud to see it move forward today.” 

“Colorado’s agriculture industry contributes so much to our communities and our economy, and it’s time we extended basic protections to the workers who do so much to help put food on our tables,” said Rep. Karen McCormick, D-Longmont. “This bill will ensure that the human rights of workers in Colorado are respected while modernizing our agriculture industry and helping to keep Colorado’s agricultural workforce competitive as other states adopt these types of reforms. I want Colorado’s agricultural workers to have the same protections and supports that the folks I employ in my clinic do, and that’s exactly what this bill accomplishes.” 

SB21-087 takes several steps to bring Colorado’s agricultural workers under the same labor standards that other workers in the state have and takes other steps to keep Colorado’s agriculture workforce competitive. Among other provisions, the bill would: allow workers to form and join unions to bargain for better pay and increased benefits, remove the exemption that allows certain workers to make less than the minimum wage, provide protections from retaliation and set more humane standards around break times and working in extreme weather conditions. 

Importantly the bill limits the continuous operation of physically demanding tools that lead to chronic health problems–tools that have been banned in other states for decades. The bill also ensures workers are provided transportation to critical services and access to healthcare providers while creating a pathway for aggrieved workers to seek remedies available to workers in other industries.