A new bill affecting farm workers means these workers will now receive the same pay as workers in other industries. Many farmers are looking forward to overtime after 40 hours per week or eight hours a day due to the passing of the bill AB 1066. Previously, farm workers were paid after ten hours of overtime. The United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez issued a statement advocating the bill being passed into law. The law known as AB 1066 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. Rodriguez stated that he felt that Governor Brown righted a historic wrong by signing this bill into law.
In 1938 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed The Fair Labor Standards Act preventing workers in the agricultural industry from benefiting from overtime pay. That has been the status regarding employment in the agricultural sector in California since then. Some farmers argue that they will not be able to afford paying overtime to their employees. It is argued by some farm workers that the requirement of overtime wages will lead to reduced hours and less pay.
How will the wages of California farm workers be affected?
Ryan Jacobsen of the Fresno County Farm Bureau feels that the legislation will only help California agriculture die, referring to the increase in minimum wage months prior. Jacobsen has referred to the passing of these laws as “death by a thousand cuts”. However, the author of AB 1066 Lorena Gonzalez, has stated that there is a shortage of farm workers. Many farm workers on average earn between $16,500 and $19,000 annually. With many farm workers operating at the poverty line at $12,719 per year, reduced hours could mean difficult times. Other farm workers feel that they have been discriminated against for decades and that the passing of this bill is long overdue.
The result of the passing of AB 1066
The passing of this bill into law means that all farm workers are to receive time and a half pay. According to the bill, the threshold for overtime will be reduced by half an hour each year beginning in 2019. Approximately 800,000 farm workers will be affected by the changes that will occur because of the bill.
The California Farm Bureau Federation stated on record that this new legislation would lead to reduced hours for farm employees and increased food prices for consumers. The President of the CFBF, Paul Wenger believes that AB 1066 and other legislations like it will only be successful if Californians purchase products from California. The consumers of California will basically have to opt for higher priced food in order for AB 1066 to be effective.
One farm worker, Lourdes Cardenas who has worked on a farm for more than 11 years cutting vines, picking strawberries, peaches, and grapes still struggles to provide for her family. Many workers like Cardenas are having difficulty making ends meet and cannot tolerate reduced hours. But since she is working 10 hours every day, the bill may positively affect her by allowing her to be paid time and a half for her excess hours. For Cardenas, she feels that the voice of the farmworkers are finally being heard on the Senate floor.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez has stated that many people depend on the workers of California to feed their families but far too often the farm workers don’t have enough food for their own dinner tables. The overtime protection that the legislation is intended to provide still remains a heated debate.