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August 2, 2001

Kennedy & Berman introduce UFW bill to legalize 500,000 undocumented farm workers

Three weeks after growers backed out of compromise legislation, negotiated with the United Farm Workers that would allow undocumented farm workers become legal residents, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) today introduced "fair and reasonable bills" to let an estimated 500,000 U.S. field laborers adjust their immigration status.

"The Kennedy and Berman measures are fair and reasonable bills to legalize undocumented farm workers and address grower concerns about the current H-2A temporary foreign worker program," states UFW President Arturo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez will use a 10 a.m. news conference on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001 in Delano to announce the Kennedy and Berman bills and blast a grower-backed proposal by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) as "a fraud that would bar many farm workers from legalizing their status," Rodriguez says.  It will be held in the union hall at the UFW's "Forty Acres" facility at Metier Ave. and Graces Hwy, just west of Delano.

The separate but identical bills by Kennedy and Berman, sponsored by the UFW and other farm worker advocates, would:

  Give farm workers, for the first time, the rights under federal law to organize and join a union --rights industrial workers won in 1935.

  Allow undocumented farm workers to apply for permanent residency after completing 90 days of farm work in each of three out of four years (versus 150 days a year in each of four years during a six-year period under the Craig bill, which would deny legalization to many, if not most, undocumented workers).  Immediate family members are eligible under the Kennedy/Berman bills, but not with the Craig measure.

  Continue to pay imported H-2A foreign workers the "average" wage offered in a state--often more than $7 an hour.  The Craig bill would replace it with what growers call a "prevailing wage," which is typically no more than the federal or state minimum wage (%5.15 or $6.25 and hour in California, respectively).

  Ban imported H-2A foreign workers from being used as strikebreakers.

  Cover H-2A workers under the federal Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act, the basic U.S. law protecting domestic farm workers.  The Craig proposal continues the exclusion of H-2A workers from this statute.

The historic UFW-grower compromise plan won broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress last December when it was nearly enacted during the lame-duck session but for strong opposition by sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas).

Contacts :  Marc Grossman, UFW (916) 441-0766
Jocelyn Sherman, UFW  (213) 501-4505


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