New Mexico: Groups sue to require comp coverage for agricultural workers
The suit -- filed by an injured dairy worker, the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project, HELP-New Mexico, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the Sargent Shriver National Poverty Law Center, and the National Center for Social and Economic Justice -- maintains that the exclusion violates the equal protection provision of the New Mexico Constitution and seeks to have it voided.
"Farm labor is extremely hard and dangerous work," said Carlos Marentes, director of the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project, which represents field workers in New Mexico. "With no health insurance and very low wages, many of the men and women who work our dairies and ranches and harvest the food we eat have nowhere to turn when they are injured in the fields. Their families are devastated."
According to the suit, adding New Mexico's farm and ranch laborers to the workers' comp system would cost about 1 percent of the agricultural industry's estimated $821 million in annual profits.
"Farm and ranch workers deserve the same workplace protections given to other laborers," said Dolores Huerta, cofounder the United Farmworkers. "This law is a relic of a past when discrimination against low-income workers was commonplace."
This is not the first time that advocacy groups have pushed for greater protections for agricultural workers. During the last session, Rep. Antonio Lujan, D-Las Cruces, sponsored legislation to amend the Workers' Compensation Act to include farm and ranch laborers. The bill included several provisions aimed at protecting small, family-run farms and ranches. The bill faced strong opposition from the agricultural industry and failed to gain momentum with lawmakers.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
October 22, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications