My piece in the Albany Times Union

Well, the Albany Times Union ran a piece of mine in response to an editorial on their part. I believe this is now the 5th or 6th piece I have had run in the Albany Times Union over the years.

Here is the text in case you can’t get to it:

Farmworkers are already protected
Updated 5:21 pm, Friday, June 7, 2013

As a fourth-generation family farmer at Pawelski Farms in Orange County, I can tell you the overwhelming majority of farmworkers in New York have nothing to do with the groups lobbying for the passage of the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act or the issues surrounding it.

This is being driven by self-appointed advocates. Further, the act is not needed.

Numerous local, state and federal agencies oversee many laws governing the working and living conditions of farmworkers, making them among the most regulated and protected workforces. Further, a range of government-funded programs like free health care and day-care centers are provided specifically for these workers. Then, when you factor in the free housing provided by farmers, farmworkers compare quite well to other workers on the same wage tier. What evidence exists they are treated inhumanely or are not being treated decently? Farmwork is dirty, hard and entry-level employment. I know, I do it. But it is neither indecent nor inhumane.

This bill would disproportionately hurt smaller farmers. Larger farms that have multiple crews will be better able to juggle their work forces to mitigate the devastating impact of overtime pay, which is proposed in this bill. On my farm, with four employees, I won’t be able to do that. All I can do is severely cut hours during the growing season so I can afford my work force during planting and harvesting time, when I can’t control the number of hours worked.

Neither the proponents of this bill, supporters in the Legislature, nor the media understand basic farming production or marketing realities. New York is not like California; we have one, relatively short growing season. Farmers do not set their prices; our outlets dictate prices to us. No one has explained how I will pass on these increased labor costs.

If someone wants the benefits associated with factory work, they are welcome to work in a factory. No one is forced to work on a farm. To push factory rules on agriculture is foolish and grossly uninformed public policy.

Chris Pawelski is a resident of Goshen

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