Colorado Lawmakers Approve Expanded Rights for Ag Workers

Colorado lawmakers have approved a major expansion of rights for the state’s 40,000 agriculture workers. The Colorado Sun says the state’s governor, Jared Polis, is eager to sign off on the legislation. Colorado’s Senate Bill 87 gives farm workers the right to join labor unions, earn state minimum wage and overtime pay. Colorado’s Labor Peace Act currently exempts agriculture workers from job protections, such as the collective bargaining that’s available to workers in other industries. The bill eliminates that exemption and opens the door for agriculture workers to organize and join labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and hold strikes. Mandated working conditions include periodic bathroom breaks, meals, and rest breaks. It also requires protections that will be determined by the Department of Labor and Employment regarding outdoor temperatures exceeding 80 degrees. The legislation limits the use of short-handled hoes while workers are stooped, kneeling, or squatting, and it limits when workers can be required to do hand weeding or thinning vegetation. It also requires rest breaks when they perform work like that. With COVID-19 in mind, the bill would also add special requirements for housing during a public health emergency.