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Law to give 'basic rights' to Colorado farmworkers draws praise, criticism

Senate Bill 87, signed into law this year, was created to protect Colorado's agriculture workers, but it drew criticism from employers and industry leaders.

Victoria De Leon

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Published: 6:13 AM MDT October 30, 2021
Updated: 9:38 AM MDT October 30, 2021

Colorado lawmakers passed a bill this year that sought to end the exploitation of farmworkers in the state.

Senate Bill 87, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in June, ensures that the 40,000 farmworkers across Colorado are entitled to things like water, shade, breaks, minimum wage and overtime pay.

The bill also banned use of the short-handled hoe, which has been blamed for long-term chronic pain after years of hunching over in the fields. Farmworkers are also now protected from retaliation from their employers.

"When I first started working on this bill, it became clear that farmworkers unlike almost every worker in the state did not have these most basic rights," said state Sen. Jessie Danielson (D), one of the bill's prime sponsors.

Danielson said that most employers in the agriculture industry treat their workers fairly and pay them well, "but just like every other industry, there are those who exploit their workers."

The reaction to the Senate bill from farmworkers, employers and industry leaders shows that the issue is a complicated one.

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