Schwarzenegger Backs Big Business Over Farm Workers

Schwarzenegger Backs Big Business Over Farm Workers August 6, 2010

The struggle for justice among farm workers is a long and poignant one. Cesar Chavez, the founder of United Farm workers, is now held up as an exemplary Catholic in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. And today, the struggle for justice and dignity of the (mostly immigrant) farm workers – who spend day after day doing backbreaking labor for paltry pay, exposed to hazardous pesticides, and living in company-owned labor camps – continues. But sadly, they have no ally in the governor of California. Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have made farm workers eligible for overtime pay if they worked more than eight hours a day, and given them the right to a single day off a week. Not much to ask for, but still too much for Schwarzenegger. He ignored the pleas of priests and labor groups, claiming he didn’t want to put the growers at a competitive disadvantage.

This is a central moral issue. The Church has been talking about this ever since Rerum Novarum, and Gaudium Et Spes listed “disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit” as one of the greatest evils. It’s time to call out Schwarzenegger, and others like him, for a gross violation of Catholic social teaching.

(Hat tip – Faith in Public Life).

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  • Kurt

    He ignored the pleas of priests and labor groups, claiming he didn’t want to put the growers at a competitive disadvantage.

    At a competitive disadvantage to who?!? The benefit of such laws is that it would apply to all growers, evening the playing field.

  • jh

    “Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have made farm workers eligible for overtime pay if they worked more than eight hours a day”

    Well not exactly. Current law I think has overtime kick in when they hot the ten hour mark

    Also to be fair to the Gov he signed legislation to raise the Min wage for farm workers and also signed legislation to provide some working condition relief for farm workers

    Further he has this problem. Under Federal Law overtime for farmw orkers is exempt thus putting his State his farmers at a competive disadvantage if passed

    So it is sort of a mixed bag

  • Kurt

    The competitive disadvantage claim of California agriculture really doesn’t hold up. California generally dominates production of their crops. It is not like the grape vineyards could get up and relocate to Wisconsin or Nebraska.

    Ten hours of field work at less than ten dollars an hour and no overtime after 8 hours. An extra ten bucks a worker to pay time and one half for the extra two hours (or, as is the intent, to give an econonic disincentive to working people more than 8 hours a day).

    Lastly, could my friends who like to speak of negotiable and non-negotiable public policy issues tell me where the Decalogue’s commandment of the Sabbath fits in that catogorization? Vetoing a requirement that farmworkers can’t be worked more than seven straight days?

  • doug

    Unfortunately, labor laws are similar here in Oregon where I live. If you are an agricultural worker, you are exempt from the overtime laws. I think the federal labor laws are to blame for this. I know in Oregon when they raised the minimum wage above the federal minimum wage, a lot of processing plants closed their doors and a lot of people lost their jobs.

    But they all ended up coming back to Oregon in the end. Those plants did end up reopening with different companies. Economies adjust.