June 6, 2022
Last year, Colorado lawmakers passed sweeping legislation designed to improve working conditions for farm and ranch workers. Senate Bill 21-87 established minimum standards for workplace housing, granted workers collective bargaining rights and ordered the state to create and enforce overtime protections .
While farmworker advocates argue the overtime rules don’t go far enough — and are suing the state for it — big farm producers have warned that these and other provisions of the law will lead to overregulation. and devastate businesses.
Now, state lawmakers hope a new online resource will benefit both employers and workers in Colorado’s agriculture industry, which generates more than $7 billion in sales each year.
Bill 22-1308, which Governor Jared Polis signed into law on Friday, establishes an online portal where workers can learn about their rights under state and federal laws, and business owners can ensure they comply with the requirements. The portal is to be available in English and Spanish and will include links to relevant state and federal agencies, mental health resources, workplace safety information, and a calculator to help employers determine how much to pay. to workers according to their schedule.
“This bill is designed to strengthen the working relationship between employers and employees by centralizing essential workplace information, including mental health resources and updated labor regulations,” the lawsuit said. Rep. Karen McCormick, a Longmont Democrat who sponsored the bill with Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail, said in an April statement. “Agriculture is a critical industry for Colorado and our goal is to streamline the outreach process so employers and employees can work together to create safer workplaces for everyone.”
The signed version of HB-1308 provides $100,000 to the Department of Agriculture to establish the online portal.
In addition to the portal, the original sponsors’ bill would also have created a “workplace improvement” program to provide grants to agricultural employers and organizations that serve workers or employers on farms and ranches. The money could have been used to ensure compliance with labor laws, improve workplaces and working conditions or educate agricultural workers about their legal rights. The grant program, however, was removed from the bill in the Senate.
HB-1308 was backed by the Colorado Farm Bureau, which advocates for the state’s agricultural industry, and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which represents family farms and ranches in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
HB-1308 passed the Senate on May 9 by a 31-4 vote, with the “no” votes all going to Republicans: Sens. Douglas County’s Chris Holbert, Monument’s Paul Lundeen, Colorado Springs’ Bob Gardner and Parker’s Jim Smallwood. In the House on May 10, the vote was 51 to 14. All 14 “no” votes came from Republicans.
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