State Commission OKs Motions to Support Migrant Workers

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission recently unanimously passed five motions that aim to improve support for and protection of migrant and seasonal farmworkers employed in Michigan.

The panel heard updates on 15 recommendations made in 2010 by the Interagency Migrant Services Committee, approving a motion recognizing there has been “significant progress” on the suggestions, but also acknowledging barriers remain for seasonal farmworkers in Michigan.

Other issues addressed by the commission are:

  • Reaffirmed the panel’s commitment to fair housing opportunities for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the state with a focus on preventing restrictive zoning ordinances and laws that could violate the state’s Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act.
  • Updated Michigan’s 2013 enumeration study of seasonal workers and committed $75,000 to the study, requesting other state agencies contribute a similar amount for the update. The study helps state officials understand trends in the agriculture industry and migrant and seasonal workers and their needs within the state, helping to direct resources to support the agriculture sector.
  • The commission also approved a request to Attorney General Dana Nessel to reconsider an opinion issued by former Attorney General Bill Schuette ruling that certain seasonal farm workers are not entitled to minimum wage under Michigan law.
  • Approved a motion asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to move the state monitor advocate from the Talent and Investment Agency to the Civil Rights Commission to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in monitoring concerns and complaints raised by migrant and seasonal farm workers.

“All five of these actions today send an important and significant message to migrant and seasonal farmworkers that they are valued and welcomed in Michigan,” said Dr. Agustin V. Arbulu, commission director. “The actions by the commission will help us continue to focus our work on protecting some of the most vulnerable people providing incredibly important work for our agricultural economy.”

According to the 2013 Enumeration Study, 49,135 migrant and seasonal farmworkers are employed in Michigan, working in field agriculture, nursery/greenhouse work, reforestation and food processing. Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for migrant and seasonal farmworkers registered with the state for employment purposes.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to Michigan.gov/mdcr.

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