Lawmakers send governor bill authorizing farmworker overtime

The median annual income of California farmworkers is $14,000. "Excluding farm workers from overtime after eight hours was wrong in 1938".

When the federal law that mandates employers pay their workers at least the minimum wage and overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week was first passed in the 1930s, it incorporated huge carveouts for black workers to help secure support from Democrats in the Jim Crow South.

"The whole world eats the food provided by California farmworkers, yet we don't guarantee fair overtime pay for the backbreaking manual labor they put in to keep us fed", said Gonzalez.

Opponents said that requiring farmers to pay overtime could damage the state's agricultural economy, where workers toil up to 60 hours a week during the harvest season but can go for months without pay other times of the year.

"It's unrealistic to think that farmers are going to be able somehow find the money to pay 20 hours of overtime a week", said Jeff Merwin. What's ironic is that California is the only state that now provides daily overtime compensation for agricultural employees.

In the end, we believe it is time that as a state - and we hope eventually as a nation - we stop treating farmworkers as a different class of employee. Jerry Brown signs a bill that is now on his desk.

Farmers vehemently oppose it, and third-generation almond and olive farmer Pat Ricchiuti said approval by Brown could prompt him to cut his workers' take-home pay by as much as 33 percent. "I urge the Governor to veto this bill".

Gonzalo Najera, who drives a tractor on Salinas Valley's lettuce, carrots and broccoli fields, said some farmers are saying the extra overtime payments could drive them out of the state, but he doesn't buy the argument.

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". Nationally, farm workers earn an average of less than $18,000 a year, according to Farm Worker Justice. Additional coauthors are Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Mike Gatto (D-Burbank), Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Shirley Weber (D-San Diego); and Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Marty Block (D-San Diego), Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), and Bill Monning (D-Monterey).

Hundreds of people who championed the bill say it is a step toward worker equality and human rights. Farmworkers are treated differently from other workers, they said, because the nature of their work is different. In what Gonzalez has described as an unprecedented move to revive the bill, she worked around the Legislature's rules and reinserted the proposal in another bill, angering Republicans who objected to the breach in procedure.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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