Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Dia de Muertos Vigil and Ceremony
3-6 PM on Monday November 1, 2021
In the plaza in front of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE)
633 17th St, Denver, CO 80202
For immediate release
Join us for a solemn vigil in remembrance of the lives of agricultural workers who have died due to the dangers of agricultural work. Dia de Muertos is a day of celebrating and honoring the lives of those who pass on. The deaths of agricultural workers die unnoticed here in Colorado and across the nation. We will celebrate their lives while bringing attention to the underlying racist and oppressive reasons for their deaths. We also want to highlight the real consequences of our laws and how we carve out safety and care for those who toil and steward for us daily.
Agricultural work is deady and many of our friends, family members, and co-workers are walking with the ancestors now as a result of the danger of their work.
13,406 agricultural workers have died of covid across the country due to COVID 19, and that number is probably low due to underreporting.
384 workers have died of heat-related causes in the U.S. over the past 10 years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, farming in the USA is two times as deadly as serving in law enforcement or construction labor and five times more deadly than serving as a firefighter.
Agriculture is dangerous and still subject to systemic and historic racism, even with the passing of the most comprehensive agricultural workers rights bill in the country here in Colorado this summer.
Inside the building, while we hold our vigil, the CDLE will be holding their last comment session for the overtime decisions for 21-087.
We are hoping that the racist and oppressive versions of the rules the CDLE has put out will be changed to be more in line with the intent of the bill to include:
Daily overtime pay after 12 hour is an essential part of overwork protections. Continuing to exclude agricultural workers from this right perpetuates racism.
Agricultural workers deserve overtime pay after 40 hours in a workweek. This is the standard for almost all wage-earning employees in Colorado.
Small employers should abide by the weekly overtime pay rules as all other employers.
The highly seasonal exception from the standard overtime rules is outrageously long and unfairly favors large employers. A total of 22 weeks at a higher weekly overtime pay threshold encompasses the most difficult part of the agricultural season.
Dairies and feedlots should be covered by the same overtime pay rules that apply to all other agricultural employers. Providing this industry special treatment would show the Governor is listening to lobbying by special interests, not workers.
This candlelight vigil will give the community an opportunity to give thanks for our workers and protest the continued risks our agricultural workers take and the racist exculsions of agricultural workers from fair and equitable overtime pay during the rulemaking process for 21-087, an Act Concerning Agricultural Workers Rights.
For more information here is the flyer for the event:
The event will be LIVE STREAMED:
Event Sign Up Link:
Additional information on the Rule Making process
The proposed rule does not provide agricultural workers with anything close to the same overtime protections provided to almost every other worker in Colorado. Here are the basics:
No farmworker will be provided with the right to overtime until November 1, 2022--meaning another grueling summer for these essential workers without the benefit of one of the most basic and important worker protections.
From November 2022-January 2024, all farmworkers will receive overtime after 60 hours per week, without any daily overtime protection.
Starting in January 2024, those farmworkers who work for “highly seasonal” producers will receive overtime protections after 48 hours per week, again without any daily overtime, but not for 22 weeks, referred to as the “peak weeks”. During the 22 peak weeks these farmworkers will only receive overtime after 56 hours per week.
Farmworkers working for "small employers," account for 1/3 of farmworkers in Colorado, will only receive overtime after 56 hours per week, starting in January 2024.
Farmworkers working for all “other employers” will receive overtime after 54 hours per week starting on January 2024 and then as of January 1, 2025, they will receive overtime after 48 hours per week.
Many workers, including herders and other open range workers who aren't even covered by state minimum wage laws, won't be entitled to overtime, despite the fact that they work 80-90 hours per week.
Despite the historic achievement of the Agricultural Worker Bill of Rights, legislation that provided basic labor standards protections to tens of thousands of workers and closed racist exclusions entrenched since the New Deal, the Polis Administration has created second tier overtime status for essential workers who are disproportionately immigrants and people of color.
There is no reason not to provide overtime protections to farmworkers at 40 hours per week and 12 hours per day. Many businesses in the state face fluctuating and seasonal demands but aren't carved out of overtime requirements. An analysis from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, providing equitable overtime protections would increase costs to farms by less than 1 percent, and Washington and California, two of the states with the most agricultural production in the country, have already closed the racist overtime exclusion.
The phase-in period is too long. There's no reason Colorado employers can't start paying these meager overtime benefits now.
The absence of any daily overtime protection is dangerous and inexplicable. Under this proposal, an employer can require farmworkers to work 15, 18, or 20 hours a day without any overtime pay.
There is no reason to carve open range workers and herders out of overtime. This exclusion will mean those workers--performing brutal work in some of the most remote parts of our state--will continue to work 80 or 90 hour weeks without any overtime and continue to be exempted from even the minimum wage.
There is no reason to exclude "highly seasonal" or "small employers” from 48 hour per week overtime. This exclusion makes even a 48 hour per week overtime standard a false promise for the majority of farmworkers. A worker's basic rights should not hinge on their employer's unsupportable suggestion that violating those rights is financially expedient. Seasonal employers and "small" employers in other industries don't receive these kinds of carve outs.
It is not nearly enough to say that Colorado is doing slightly better than much of the rest of the country in protecting essential workers and addressing structural racism that continues to reinforce a racial hierarchy of status in this state and in this country.
We can still make our voices heard. The Governor still has an opportunity to end the racist overtime exclusion, just like Washington and California. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is receiving comments until November 3 and there is a public hearing on November 1.