Migrant and seasonal farm workers are among the most vulnerable workers in North Carolina, earning below-poverty-level wages and suffering high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses. Nearly all of North Carolina’s labor laws exclude farmworkers or treat them differently from other workers.
Worker Protections: Farmworkers historically have been excluded from basic labor protections or treated less favorably under worker-protection laws. Even though agriculture is an extremely hazardous industry, workers’ compensation insurance covers only those employed on the largest farms or those whose employers use a special visa program.
Wage Protections: In North Carolina, farmworkers are not entitled to overtime pay, and workers on small farms are not covered by minimum-wage requirements. Farmworkers also do not have the right to collectively bargain.
Housing: North Carolina has only minimal requirements for the housing provided by farm owners to migrant farmworkers. For example, only one toilet must be provided for every 15 persons, and outhouses are permissible. The NC Department of Labor is charged with enforcing the state’s migrant housing law, but it routinely inspects less than one-third of all migrant worker camps.
Pesticides: Pesticide exposure is a significant concern for farmworkers, but the NC Department of Agriculture has no bilingual inspectors and will not accept confidential complaints of pesticide violations.
Questions for Candidates
- How would you strengthen protections for the people who work in agriculture, one of the most important industries in our state?