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Cuomo signs farmworkers' rights bill



Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a farmworkers' rights bill into law Wednesday that will, for the first time, give the workers benefits that other employees get, including time off and overtime pay.

The governor said the farmworkers rights measure marks a "milestone in the crusade for social justice."

"First, as a practical matter, 100,000 farmworkers will have better lives. Their families will have better lives. They will finally, finally have the same protections that other workers have had for 80 years," Cuomo said. "Unemployment and disability insurance, workers' compensation, overtime pay, paid family leave -- the best policy in the United States right here in the state of New York. A day of rest and the right to organize and collectively bargain." 

Cuomo said the new law giving farmworkers greater rights and protections comes at a time when President Donald Trump and the federal government are trying to take away employee rights and diminish the power of labor unions.  

Cuomo was joined at the bill-signing ceremony by his former wife, Kerry Kennedy, and two of their three daughters, who have long advocated for the measure. Kerry Kennedy's father, the late Robert F. Kennedy, first brought national attention to the farmworkers' plight in 1967, along with labor leader Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers.

"I'm sure 50 years later that he would be shocked at how long the path to justice has actually taken," Cuomo said.

Opponents of the law, including the pro-business group Unshackle Upstate, say the "crushing" new mandates will result in the closure of farms, the loss of farm jobs and higher prices for food at the supermarket.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.