Librada Paz, farmworker rights advocate, with her father, Maurilio.
The wonderful selection of a New York farmworkers’ advocate for the 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award must spur Albany to finally grant field hands equal labor protections.
A former farmworker herself, Librada Paz has battled with unflagging dedication for those who raise and harvest our food.
The RFK Award honors “courageous and innovative individuals striving for social justice throughout the world.” Laureates have included freedom seekers in China, Africa, the Mideast, Latin America and in Poland’s Solidarity movement. Paz is the first recipient in New York, the state Bobby Kennedy served in the Senate.
It is to New York’s shame that the law denies farmworkers rights enjoyed by all other employees. They are denied claim to overtime, an unpaid day off per week and the right to organize, choose their own leaders and bargain collectively.
Paz came from Mexico as a teenager to work in the fields of Ohio, Florida and New York, where she settled and eventually went to school, became a citizen and earned a college degree. She devotes her energy to standing up to the growers and the politicians who are their allies.
The RFK Center, which is the living memorial to Bobby Kennedy and led by his daughter Kerry Kennedy, will add its resources and voice to Paz’s cause for the next six years.
There is a bill in Albany to grant farmworkers the same labor rights as everyone else. The bill, the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, has repeatedly passed the Democratic-led Assembly. But allies of the upstate growers have killed the measure in the Senate — despite the stated support of a majority of senators.
Gov. Cuomo says he wants equal right for farmworkers, but he has not pushed the Senate on the issue. Paz will — and great good luck to her.
New York Daily News