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National Labor Relations Act and Farmworkers (Participation)

April 4, 2012

This came up in class today in terms of minimum wage, laws about overtime, child labor and its relationship to national labor Relations act – ostensibly certain industries are exempt from certain labor laws.  What article describes as follows: ” Agricultural exceptionalism, statutory exemptions which benefit and privilege the agricultural industry while depriving the agricultural worker of minimal guarantees available to employees in almost all other sectors, has created a highly vulnerable, deprived, and powerless group of workers.”[1]

Here is abstract from another paper about these issues:

During the New Deal era, the exclusion of agricultural and domestic employees was well-understood as a race-neutral proxy for excluding blacks from statutory benefits and protections made available to most whites. Remarkably, one of these New Deal era exclusions remains on the books. Despite its racist origins, Section 152(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) still excludes agricultural and domestic workers, completely unaltered after 75 years.

This article demonstrates why the NLRA’s agricultural and domestic worker exclusion should be considered a racially discriminatory statute motivated by racial animus. Although most historians have concluded correctly that the exclusion was a concession to southern racism, legal scholars have thus far not reached this conclusion. It is crucial that this law be identified correctly as racist and unjust to provide a rationale for its abolition and to remedy, finally, the ongoing injury it continues to cause to millions of agricultural and domestic workers. A review of the social and political context of the New Deal and the deployment of the same exclusion in related statutes, such as the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, shows how and why the NLRA’s exclusion should be deemed racially discriminatory.

Having established that the statute is racially discriminatory, this article makes the case for why Section 152(3) should be considered unconstitutional or repealed. While historical evidence permits us to strip away the law’s race-neutral aura, this article demonstrates how current constitutional standards make the invalidation of such a law difficult. The requirement of proof of discriminatory intent makes it difficult to prove that a racially discriminatory law violates the Equal Protection Clause. While this difficulty is not insurmountable, it raises the troubling possibility that a manifestly racist law might not be found unconstitutional. To ensure that such racism is not perpetuated, the article also explores a strategy favoring legislative repeal of the law.

While a different forum, I think Stephen Colbert highlights some of the key issues here

[1] Juan F. Perea, A Brief History of Race and the U.S.-Mexican Border: Tracing the Trajectories of Conquest, 51 UCLA L. Rev. 283 (2003) [hereinafter Perea, A Brief History of Race and the U.S.-Mexican Border].


From → Participation

  1. Reed Clarridge permalink

    I liked the second video. I thought the response and questioning from Representative Lamar was a good example of tactics on how to smokescreen the issues and divert attention by attacking credibility (all the while suggesting and leading an character endorsement). Do you think the political diversity in the US helps or hinders progress in farm labor movements?

  2. Kyla Chappell permalink

    I believe the NLRA’s agricultural and domestic section should, and definitely needs to be reevaluated. It is obviously a racism statement to keep these excluding, considering it is mostly minorities who work in these places. It is unbelievable that after 75 years, these sections continue to be excluded, allowing farmers to treat their workers as they please, and denying these workers necessary rights.

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