California Governor Expands Overtime Pay To Cover Farmworkers

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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California agricultural workers will now receive overtime wages thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, will grant farmworkers the right to overtime pay after eight hours of work, or after 40 hours of work in a week.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, and a federal minimum wage, exempted farm workers. Current state law does not provide overtime pay to workers until after 10 hours of work.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill in 2010, asserting that “agricultural work is different from other industries” and noted that farm work is “seasonal, subject to unpredictability and requires the harvesting of perishable goods.”

The passage of the historic measure Monday was vehemently opposed by the farming industry. It contends the move would hurt an industry that is under immense stress and faces stiff competition from other states and abroad. The new rules will be phased in, with the 10-hour standard being reduced by a half hour every year, starting in 2019, until the 8-hour standard is set in 2022.

The United Farm Workers (UFW) hailed the new bill and praised Brown and the signatories for “making a tough decision like this and changing the course of history.” ‎UFW president Arturo S. Rodriguez released a statement following the signing that read, in part, “For 78 years, a Jim Crow-era law discriminated against farm workers by denying us the same overtime rights that other workers benefit from. Here in the U.S. Today, Governor Brown corrected a historic wrong and set an example for other states to follow.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) said that the legislation means reduced hours for farm workers, and higher food prices for consumers. “Legislation such as AB 1066 only works if California consumers buy California farm products and opt not to buy cheaper food products from sources outside of California that do not meet the same labor and environmental stewardship standards that our farm products do.” Paul Wenger, president of the CFBF, said in a statement.

Brown did not comment following his signature of the bill. The governor has remained mum on his reasons for signing the measure, and according to the Sacramento Bee, he refused to discuss the legislation with the newspaper’s editorial board during a meeting.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a statement that, “we all depend on their [Calif. farm workers] work to feed and care for our families, but far too often they can’t afford to put food on their own dinner tables.” Perez went on to praise Brown, stating that the new law would, “ensure critical overtime protections for these workers.”

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