California Moves to Change Overtime for Farm Workers

After pouring onto the sidewalks around the State Capitol in Sacramento and filling the Assembly chamber as debate continued on an overtime bill said to “be a game changer” for California agriculture, farm groups on Monday reacted quickly and in unison to the bill’s passage.

Assembly Bill 1066, if signed by Gov. Brown, will phase in requirements to pay farm workers overtime after eight hours of work in a day or 40 hours in a week – the same requirements as mandated in other types of work.

Existing law exempts agriculture from such requirements.

Phased in over four years, the law – if signed – starts the overtime requirements at nine-and-a-half hours per day or 55 hours per week on Jan. 1, 2019. That requirement is scaled back each year until 2022 when it becomes eight hours per day and 40 hours per week.

Farm groups opposed the measure, saying the requirements will put more farm workers out of work and cut their hours significantly as farmers work under increasingly tighter margins.

Some have even said this will force farmers to leave California for states with more favorable business policies.

The scene around Sacramento over the past several days as the measure was expected to be taken up included many farm workers holding signs asking the Legislature to vote down the measure.


Lodi-area wine grape grower Brad Goehring: “The passage of AB 1066 today was incredibly disappointing. Today’s vote overturns long-established law that provided overtime wages for farm workers, which combined with escalating minimum wage rates, means farm workers will take home smaller paychecks than under current law. This is a classic case of good intentions gone awry.”

California Association of Winegrape Growers Director of Government Relations Tyler Blackney: “We hope Gov. Brown will reject AB 1066 and preserve the state’s current progressive policy on overtime wages for farmworkers.”

Western Growers Chief Executive Officer Tom Nassif: “We are extremely disappointed in the decision of the California State Assembly to pass AB 1066 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. If signed by Gov. Brown, the increased overtime costs imposed on California family farmers will compound newly-enacted minimum wage increases set to reach $15 per hour by 2022.

“The members who voted for this bill have placed California farms at an even further competitive disadvantage internationally and with other states.

“Agriculture is a seasonal industry with limited opportunities for farm workers to earn full paychecks during peak harvest. While AB 1066 claims to protect agricultural employees, this short-sighted policy will have the opposite effect, reducing the number of hours available to (and earning potential of) farm workers.”

California Fresh Fruit Association President George Radanovich: “For those members who voted in favor of this bill to not acknowledge the devastating impacts that it will have on both farm employees and employers is inexcusable.

“A.B. 1066 puts California agriculture at a competitive disadvantage both domestically and internationally. The bill’s author and its supporters claimed to have the worker’s best interest at heart, but their views are short-sighted. A.B. 1066 will only reduce the number of hours available for farm employees and thus decrease their earnings.

The California Fresh Fruit Association, along with a coalition of allied agricultural interests, now directs full attention onto the Governor’s office to urge his veto. The association will urge him to recognize the well documented economic impacts anticipated from the passage of A.B. 1066, combined with the added negative impacts tied to the recently passed increases to California’s Minimum Wage.”

Tulare dairyman and board president for Western United Dairymen, Frank Mendonsa:
 “This bill will result in the continued loss of dairies throughout the state. Dairy families know one more component that will limit their margins by 2022 and will choose not to risk continuing to be so uncompetitive in California. This is going to hurt employees and their families the most.”

Source: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

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