MassCOSH Supports Massachusetts Farmworkers

November 15, 2021

More than 13,000 farmworkers are employed on farms across Massachusetts, yet they are excluded from minimum wage and overtime laws. That exclusion means these incredibly essential workers are often forced to work well over eight hours a day, six to seven days per week. Their exclusion has also resulted in farmworkers experiencing poverty rates that are double that of the average worker.  

MassCOSH has endorsed the passage of H1979/S205 – An act establishing fairness for agricultural workers to help them achieve basic rights on the job. The bill would require farmworkers to be paid at least the state minimum wage, be paid overtime, and give workers one day of rest a week or time-and-a-half pay if they choose to work that day. 

On November 9, MassCOSH executive director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan testified at a hearing of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development to demand the bill be voted out of committee favorably. MassCOSH pointed to the fact that not only are farmworkers underpaid but that their work is dangerous.  n 2018, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 574 agricultural workers in the US were fatally injured on the job in 2018 – 6 in Massachusetts - and 17,390 experienced nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2018 that resulted in days away from work. A study recently released by the Department of Public Health showed that the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting industry saw tragic increases in the number of workers lost to opioid overdose deaths stemming from a workplace injury, more than doubling from 107.5 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2011-2015 vs. 220.8 in 2016-2017. Farmworkers are also without protection from one of the biggest hazards in their industry: extreme heat. Rest, shade and water are critical to keeping workers safe, yet not one of these lifesaving protections is mandated by OSHA.