April 27, 2001

Speaker Hertzberg Works to Curb Farm-Labor Abuses

Sacramento — Marking the anniversary of the death of Cesar Chavez, Assembly Speaker Robert M. Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) called for California to adopt significant new protections for farmworkers.

"California's agriculture is a source of pride. When you go to the grocery store, you don't want to wonder - did the folks doing the fieldwork get paid?" Speaker Hertzberg said. "It's one thing to work for minimum wage - it's another to get paid minimum wage with a check that bounces."

Hertzberg's legislation, AB 423, would help growers identify unlicensed contractors, provide assistance to local prosecutors to enforce farm labor laws and would impose criminal penalties for growers or farm labor contractors who intentionally fail to pay wages.

The bill was slated for a hearing today by the Assembly Labor Committee, following a march to the Capitol by leaders of the United Farm Workers Union and relatives of the late Chavez, who passed away eight years ago today. The legisla-tion's number -423- commemorates the date in Chavez's honor.

The measure would discourage growers from hiring unlicensed contractors by requiring growers to keep a copy of the license of contractors they hire. The bill also establishes a labor contractor verification unit within the Department of Industrial Relations.

These provisions, coupled with the new drivers-license style identification requirement signed into law last year, would improve oversight and hold contractors accountable for abuses against workers, Kertzberg said.

"This bill is designed to continue the historic cooperation we saw last session among representatives of California's agricultural industry and the United Farmworkers Union to support basic labor standards in California's fields," Hertzberg said.

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