We must protect farmworkers' rights while supporting farmers

There has long been a struggle to protect farmworkers’ rights in our state. In every instance, Republicans—including our Assemblyman—have voted against extending workers’ rights to farm laborers and protecting them from exploitation. As a farmer, I understand the impulse behind these votes. They are, on the surface, on the side of farm owners. Farmers are put in the difficult position of choosing to stay in business or respect the humanity of their laborers. I don’t think those choices should be mutually exclusive.

Our farmworkers should be paid a living wage. They should have protections against exploitation, like all other workers. The fact that we, as farm owners, can’t provide those without going out of business is the problem that we need to confront. Our government subsidizes the growing of crops for biofuel, but doesn’t subsidize the food farmers grow to feed our nation. We, as citizens, don’t pay what our food is worth, and our farmers are suffering financially for it. Our choices as consumers are uncomfortable. No one wants to pay more for something than we have been. But it’s important to note, that for at least 50 years, when we buy food, we are definitely getting something for nothing. It’s the farmers themselves who are forced to take the financial hit.

I’m not in the business of putting bandaids on deep, systemic issues. I approach an issue holistically and look at the whole picture. As an assemblymember, I will not vote for the short term. I will fight for a better system, in which we don’t have to choose between making sure our workers can feed their families and providing for our own.

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