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Catholic Charities Bolsters Farm Workers’ March for Justice

Posted on May 31, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

145 Miles Down; 55 ‘Till Albany and Hopefully, Equal Rights

Sweating in shorts, t-shirts and worn-out sneakers and still bearing the red signs they hung from their necks when they left Long Island two weeks ago -- now 145 marching miles down and 55 more to go -- farm workers during their “Walk for Justice” entered upstate Kingston, NY on May 27 good and ready for their break hosted by Catholic Charities . 

“New York’s Farm Workers Deserve Equal Rights,” their signs proclaimed. 

Doesn’t seem to be asking too much now, does it? Yet most farm workers toil 12-hour days with no overtime pay under hot sun and pouring rain.They weed around crops covered with pesticides. They have no sick leave or health care. And after 20 years trying to pass a bill to protect them, farm workers and their supporters including Catholic Charities have had enough.

So after hiking through flat Long Island and New York City streets, the farm workers and their supporters made it to the wooded, hilly roads of Kingston and were ready for a rest.  Catholic Charities and Immaculate Conception-St. Mary’s Parish in Yonkers hosted them for lunch five days earlier when they arrived in Yonkers nearly 100 miles down the road.  Now Catholic Charities hosted them again, providing them with lunch, encouragement and a place to rest and refresh at the church hall in Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary-Sacred Heart in nearby Esopus.

The march that began in May 15 in Smithtown, Long Island concludes in Albany tomorrow, June 1, with a petition that New York legislators pass a bill for farm workers that would:

  - grant collective bargaining rights

  - require they are provided at least 24 hours consecutive rest each week

  - provide for overtime pay

  - include them in provision for unemployment and sanitary rights

“For years, the Catholic Church has advocated for equal rights and fair treatment for farm workers,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan who greeted the workers when they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge a week earlier.  “Today we took a step toward fairness and justice.”

Track the farm workers march and find out more