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Farmworkers fight for rights

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No overtime pay. No regularly scheduled day off. No disability insurance. No right to collective bargaining. Welcome to the life of a migrant farmworker. At the beginning of the 21st century, they are still subjected to antiquated labor laws.

About 200 people marched in Fairport in support of a bill under consideration in the state legislature that will give farmworkers the same rights guaranteed to almost all other workers. The rally was spearheaded by CITA (Centro Independentia Trabajadores Agricolos; Center for Independent Farmworkers) and supported by a several other groups.

Aspacio Alcantara, a CITA organizer, emphasized that his group is not a threat to growers. “This is not a march against the growers,” he said, “but a march for justice. We must work closely with the growers to find a solution.”

The marchers made their way to the local office of State Senator James Alesi, who said he supported the bill and understood their plight. “You have to make people understand that when they’re having dinner,” he said, “it’s because of your work.”

That dinner might cost less than it should because farmworkers are paid so poorly. “We pay less for food per capita than anywhere else,” said Bill Abom of the Rural and Migrant Worker Ministry. “Are we willing to pay more so that farmworkers get more benefits?”

Those benefits are the norm for virtually all other workers. “We deserve equality,” said Jill McGee, a dairy farmworker. “We’re not asking for anything other workers don’t have.”

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