House passes bill to strengthen protections for agricultural workers
DENVER, CO– The House 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 40-24.
“Colorado’s agriculture industry is a part of our western culture and the fabric of our state,” said Rep. Karen McCormick, D-Longmont, a veterinarian. “This bill advances the human rights of agriculture workers in Colorado while helping to keep Colorado’s agriculture workforce competitive with other large agricultural producing states across the country that have already adopted similar standards. The workers in Colorado’s agriculture industry need the same protections and supports that the folks I employ in my clinic do, and today, we are taking a big step forward toward making that a reality.”
“Workers who put food on our tables deserve the same protections and opportunities as others in Colorado, like being able to negotiate for better health and safety conditions and to earn a fair wage,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton. “This bill is a balanced approach that considers the varied producers that make up Colorado’s diverse agriculture industry and is a long overdue step forward that will improve conditions, keep Colorado agriculture competitive and protect these essential workers.”
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.