Adelphi University Assistant Professor Margaret Gray, in partnership with The Migrant Labor Project at Bard College, today released a new report on the quality of life, challenges, and working conditions of farmworkers in the Hudson Valley.
Adelphi University Assistant Professor Margaret Gray, in partnership with The Migrant Labor Project at Bard College, today released a new report on the quality of life, challenges, and working conditions of farmworkers in the Hudson Valley. It is the first in-depth study of the state’s farmworkers conducted in three decades. The research was accomplished through the Bard College Migrant Labor Project with the help of Bard College students. “The Hudson Valley Farmworker Report” includes compelling and rich data from interviews conducted with farmworkers in 2002. The research shows that nearly one third of the farmworkers work at least 60 hours a week. Those interviewed hold mostly seasonal jobs that earn them, on average, $6,643 a year. Thirty-six percent of workers hold multiple jobs to boost their income, on average, to $8,078 a year.
Inspired by the ongoing debate in Albany about farmworker labor laws, the 78-page report presents a demographic profile of Hudson Valley farmworkers through statistics and the workers’ own words. In the Hudson Valley, 99 percent of the farmworkers are foreign born; a vast majority of farmworkers (92 percent) are neither legal residents nor citizens; 71 percent are undocumented; and 21 percent are guestworkers. Given federal proposals on immigration and guestworker policy, it is vital for policymakers and the public to understand the situations of such workers. For example, the majority workers are not fully aware of the medical, legal, and educational services available specifically for farmworkers. The goals of the project are to analyze farmworkers’ vulnerability to exploitation and to educate policymakers about farmworkers’ working conditions and well-being.
“The report sends an important message because it explains how and why the state’s farmworkers are such a vulnerable population,” said Dr. Margaret Gray, Adelphi University Professor who conceived the research and wrote the report. “The data and analyses in this report strongly underscore the need for increased protections for New York State farmworkers. Farmworkers do not have the right to overtime pay, a day of rest, or collective bargaining protections. The inclusion of farmworkers in New York’s labor laws is necessary for all farmworkers—citizen or not. Labor protections would offer workers more economic security and safe avenues to address their concerns. It is a travesty that they are denied the opportunities and protections that most non-agricultural U.S. workers enjoy.”
Among the findings are:
- Fifty-six percent of workers said they do not know the laws pertaining to them and another 19 percent said they only know these laws “a little.”
- Immigrant farmworkers in the Hudson Valley, on average, send home $513 a month to family members in other countries. This is about one half of the average worker’s monthly take-home pay.
- Eighty percent said their employer does not speak their language.
- Forty-four percent of workers who have heard of the guestworker program believe it has limitations, which made it difficult for workers to improve their situations.
- When asked directly if they would join a farmworker union in New York, 61 percent said that they would choose to do so.
The full report is available online athttps://events.adelphi.edu/news/farmworkers/.
About Bard College: Founded in 1860, Bard College is a highly selective, independent college of the liberal arts and sciences, offering undergraduate degrees in the sciences, the arts, languages and literature, and social studies; and graduate degrees in teaching, curatorial studies, fine arts, environmental studies, and decorative arts. Through small classes, tutorials, and individualized programs, Bard students are able to work closely and intensively with a faculty of scholars, researchers, and artists who are preeminent in their disciplines.
About The Migrant Labor Project: Bard College Migrant Labor Project is a student organization, founded with assistance from the Bard College Human Rights Program, that works to improve the conditions of migrant laborers and their families in New York State, particularly the Hudson Valley, through community and campus education, direct service, research, and advocacy work.
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