“After more than a decade of contentious debate, New York has passed a law that entitles farmworkers to basic rights that most workers take for granted — the right to earn overtime, have a day off, collect unemployment insurance and join a union. The law corrects injustices that date back to the exclusion of farmworkers and domestics from the National Labor Relations Act, in an effort to win Southern votes by exempting the largely black work forces.

Yet this victory may prove to be largely symbolic. That is the sad lesson from California, which has had on the books for more than 40 years a farmworker statute hailed as the most pro-labor law in the country. The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 grants farmworkers the right to unionize, sets up procedures for speedy elections, allows union organizers access to growers’ fields and provides remedies for workers who are unjustly fired or penalized, including back pay…”