California Union Fights To Ends Overtime Restrictions For Farmers

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A prominent farmers union is petitioning California lawmakers to vote Wednesday for a bill that could end overtime restrictions for farm workers.

The state overtime bill must first pass a committee vote June 29. The United Farm Workers (UFW) launched a petition June 24 to urge state lawmakers to support the bill.

“It is outrageous that CA’s farm workers perform some of the most physically-demanding jobs with pay and working conditions at levels that most Americans would not tolerate,” UFW declared on its petition. “And yet still continue to be excluded from overtime laws relied on by most American workers.”

The union hopes to use the petition to put pressure on a handful of state Democrats who voted June 2 against a similar bill. The Agricultural Council of California warns expanding overtime to farm workers is actually harmful for farmers and their workers. Council President Emily Rooney told industry leaders to speak with lawmakers about the proposal.

“We do need six democrats to vote with us to oppose the bill, which will be a challenge,” Rooney told California Agriculture News. “The Senate is left of center, at least compared to the Assembly, but we are working very hard to secure those votes and just hope that the bill doesn’t get back to the Assembly.”

The UFW notes 14 Democrats were responsible for the last bill being defeated 38 to 35. Democratic  Assemblymen Bill Quirk, Evan Low, Marc Levine, Adam Gray, Jim Frazier, Bill Dodd, Jim Cooper and Ken Cooley voted no to the proposal. The union is also targeting six Democrats who decided not to vote.

“Despite the California State Assembly’s failure to pass legislation in June, we hope to give the Assembly another chance to right this wrong in August,” the union continued. “Fourteen Democrats sided with the Republicans, including six who chose not to vote at all — when they knew their vote was needed and farm workers were literally knocking on their office doors late into the night.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has remained the main federal law dictating wages and overtime rules since being signed in 1938. The law exempts farm workers and other types of occupations from receiving overtime. State lawmakers are allowed a high level of flexibility as long as they don’t fall below the minimum standards dictated in the law.

FLSA was one of the biggest elements of the New Deal and thus had several reasons to exclude farm workers from overtime. Lawmakers at the time took into account that many farms were family operated and needed to draft a bill that could overcome powerful special interests like agricultural lobbyist.

A Quirk representative told The Daily Caller News Foundation the assemblyman still needs to look at the new proposal. A Cooper representative notes his vote will not change. The UFW, Rooney and the rest of the assemblymen did not respond to a request for comment when asked by TheDCNF.

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