Historic Farmworker Overtime Law Approved

Farmworkers in the state that produces more than half the nation’s fruit and vegetables will be entitled to the same overtime pay as most other hourly workers under a law signed today by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The new law, which will be phased in beginning in 2019, is the first of its kind in the nation to end the 80-year-old practice of applying separate labor rules to agricultural laborers. Currently, after 10 hours in a day, or 60 hours in a week, California employers must pay time-and-a-half to farmworkers. Other workers get overtime after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

The law was immediately condemned by grower associations, who said the legislation would not help farmworkers at all. Western Growers President & CEO Tom Nassif said in a statement:

“The governor has set in motion a chain of events that will cause workers in our fields to lose wages. It is one thing to dismiss the rationale for a seasonal industry to have a 10-hour overtime threshold rather than an eight-hour threshold. It is something entirely worse to dismiss economic reality. Our farmers compete with farmers in other states and countries with no overtime costs, far lower minimum wages, reliable water supplies and far less regulatory burden.”

The law will be implemented gradually. It will take full effect in 2022 for most businesses and in 2025 for farms with 25 or fewer employees.

Brown, a Democrat, signed the bill following a push by the United Farm Workers union and its allies, who say exempting farmworkers from labor laws is racist and unfair. The governor had declined to comment on the bill throughout the legislative process, and did so again Monday.

The legislation signed Monday, Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, passed both the state Senate and Assembly late last month. Gonzalez said Monday in a statement:

“This is a truly historic day in California. Thanks to an incredible coalition of workers, lawmakers, labor, environmentalists and individually committed Californians, we have finally righted a 78-year wrong for farmworkers. The hundreds of thousands of men and women who work in California’s fields, dairies and ranches feed the world and anchor our economy. They will finally be treated equally under the law. It is a good day.”

Opponents, who had plans to meet with Brown this week and were caught off-guard by the announcement, have argued the seasonal nature of farm work does not lend itself to overtime. They said the legislation would raise costs for farmers and make it more difficult for them to compete with rivals in other states and countries, and that added costs would force employers to cut workers’ hours, ultimately hurting hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in California.

“California farmers will have no choice but to avoid even higher costs of production and they will utilize a number of strategies, including reducing work shifts and production of crops that require large numbers of employees,” Nassif added in his statement. “The box stores, grocery chains and restaurant companies that buy fresh produce can and will purchase from growers in other states and countries to keep prices down. They don’t care about the high costs of operating in California. Neither, apparently, do a majority of the California Legislature or the Governor.”

In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which established the minimum wage, recordkeeping, child labor standards and overtime pay eligibility. However, the FLSA exempted agricultural workers, and in 1941, the California Legislature officially exempted all agricultural workers from statutory requirements of overtime.

Interestingly enough, in 1976, Gov. Brown — in his first term he was the state’s youngest governor, now he is the oldest — signed legislation establishing a modified standard for these workers still in effect today, with a 10-hour day and 60-hour week.

However, some growers pointed out Monday that far from bringing agriculture up to date, the governor is losing sight of the real-world ramifications for farmworkers.

“The passage this year of AB 1066 and a minimum wage hike make clear that the union agenda in Sacramento is incompatible with the goal of sustaining a thriving agricultural economy in our state,” states California Association of Winegrape Growers Chairman Aaron Lange, a Lodi grower. “The implications of this bill are far reaching and the message from Sacramento is clear — mechanize or leave the state. AB 1066 will hurt farmworkers and farmers, and make poorer rural communities across the state.”

 

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Historic Farmworker Overtime Law Approved

  1. I don’t think the overtime would work in farm workers’ favor…if you prorate the hours they work during the season onto 12 month period overtime would not be even considered…on the other hand, the farm workers’ get bonuses at the end of a season ( at least that is a practice in Michigan with most of the fruit farmers) that are more than enough to compensate the workers’ for their efforts.

  2. I think the issue is more about fairness. If the nature of the work you do is physically difficult, it should merit 8/40 overtime, as it applies across all other industries. Why dismiss farm workers from deserving equal 8/40 OT? Are they less of a person? Whether this new policy will in fact benefit farm workers is to be seen. The right thing to do now is acknowledge Gov. Jerry Brown got it right this time. Also, to argue that annual bonuses paid to farm workers are a means of compensating for lost overtime is absurd. Most full-time employees in CA get paid some form of a bonus anyway and have the good fortune of 8/40 OT. We cannot dismiss certain people simply by the nature of their work from receiving equal 8/40 OT in California.

  3. There are plenty of opinions and I will not offer another, but I do know that some operations are now cancelling leases or shutting down some operations in California and move operations to another state or Mexico. Leaving California is going to hurt the most people and more economic shorts all around. Looks like another poor planning project by Sacramento.

Citrus Stories
Hurricane Matthew satellite image as it brushed past Florida
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a Notch
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Sunset on Florida potato field day
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Places for Growing Produce
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This Week
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
farm hacks collage
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your Farm Hacks
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Rain drops on leaf
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Winning at Water Quality
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opinion]
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
2015 FFVA Annual Convention crowd
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Convention Agenda
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Shaky Florida Citrus Season Skids to a Stop
Final USDA tally confirms continuing downward trend of production in the HLB era. Read More
Smaller John Deere tractor for use in citrus screenhouse
Citrus Achievement Award
July 12, 2017
Encourage New Citrus Growth by Getting Back to Basics
2017 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines says producing crops under protective screen is a way to farm more and stress less. Read More
Beet-armyworms-on-a-tomato-plant
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibalism, New Study Shows
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Drone-aided photo of Ed Pines' CUPS
Varieties & Rootstocks
July 11, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers Going Inside to Think Outside the Box
Producing fruit under protective screen is developing into a viable option for sustaining the Sunshine State’s signature crop. Read More
Carl and Dustin Grooms of Fancy Farms
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the Reins
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
Dr. Martha Roberts
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Florida Reveals Its Latest Woman of the Year in Agriculture
2017 award recipient a true trailblazer and champion for the advancement of the state’s farming industry. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 10, 2017
Value of Bactericides Under Florida Citrus Sector’s Microscope
Preliminary results of the unique HLB management method indicate many factors left to consider. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes …
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a N…
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Pl…
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This …
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your …
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Win…
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opin…
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Ve…
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Shaky Florida Citrus Season Skids to a S…
Final USDA tally confirms continuing downward trend of production in the HLB era. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Orga…
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the …
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Florida Reveals Its Latest Woman of the …
2017 award recipient a true trailblazer and champion for the advancement of the state’s farming industry. Read More
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Practical Solutions Are Bringing Precisi…
Growing the budding ag-tech sector to maturity likely will require a deeper meeting of the minds between technologists and agriculturists. Read More
Business Planning
July 10, 2017
Farming for Online Sales Will Require Gr…
Modern agriculture might not be for everyone, but it’s here to stay. Embrace it. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Florida Struggling to Stay Afloat in Wak…
In one month’s time, parts of the Sunshine State have gone from water shortage warnings to a high-water emergencies. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Give Tech Companies the Expertise They L…
One problem with many agricultural technology start up companies is that no one on staff has a farming background. That's easy enough to fix. Volunteer your expertise. Read More