Equal Pay For Farmworkers

Equal Pay For Farmworkers

Equal Pay For Farmworkers

Equal Pay For Farmworkers

I’m Ed Smith, a Stockton Farming Accident Attorney. The California Assembly voted in favor of a bill on Monday, August 29, 2016, that would make California the first state in the country to provide farmworkers the same rate of overtime pay given to workers in other industries. This effectively reverses an unfair practice of exempting farmworkers from wage rules.

AB 1066 Clears Senate

The bill has cleared the state Senate. It’s now off to Governor Jerry Brown, who hasn’t indicated whether he will sign it.

Some Think Outcome of Bill Hurts Rather Than Helps

The Assembly Agriculture Committee vice chairman, Republican Devon Mathis of Visalia, believes the outcome will actually hurt, rather than help farmworkers.

Mathis indicated to the Fresno Bee that over the weekend he met with farmworkers throughout his district. He visited them in the fields in which they work. He said he was touched by the stories they told him about how important these jobs are to their future and their families. Mathis said everyone he spoke to asked him to vote against the bill. They believe that if AB 1066 is passed, it would equal lost wages and hours for them.

Others Applaud The Bill

Others are applauding the vote. Marc Grossman, United Farm Workers union spokesman, told the Fresno Bee that approximately 250 farmworkers watched the historic vote that took place in the Assembly. Grossman explained that the vote was historic because it fixes an injustice that has been going on for 78 years. That injustice made farmworkers excluded from getting paid overtime after working eight hours. Yes, he said, it is about the money, but the deeper principle is that a step is being made toward being treated as equal. Grossman went on to tell the Fresno Bee that they want Gov. Jerry Brown to hear the same case that caused the Senate and Assembly to be moved. It’s time, he said, to right an old wrong.

Farmers Can’t Pass Their Costs Onto Consumers

George Radanovich, California Fresh Fruit Association president, indicated the vote shines the light on an over influence of United Farm Workers on the State Legislature. Radanovich told the Fresno Bee that farmers can’t pass their costs onto the consumer because they have zero control over the market. He believes the overtime decision on the Valley’s top industry will be oppressive. He said that most individuals who voted for it have grown up on cement and asphalt.

California Already Requires Overtime Pay for Agriculture Workers

California remains one of four states currently requiring overtime pay for their agriculture workers. In 1976, the state Industrial Welfare Commission mandated extra wages for farm laborers working more than 10 hours per day or in excess of 60 hours per week.

AB 1066 Would Expand Farmworkers Pay to be Uniform With Other Industries

AB 1066 would effectively expand the current pay by making it uniform with other industries, providing time-and-a-half pay for laborers working more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week and double pay when working more than 12 hours per day. The pay increases would start out incrementally over the next four years, and the governor could suspend increases for a year if the economy slips.

Smaller Farms Will Have More Time to Implement Changes

The bill voted through on Monday differed a bit from the original version, as it was amended to permit smaller farms more time to begin implementing the change. As an olive branch to opponents of the bill, this amended version would give farms with 25 or less employees until  the year 2022 to begin complying, while bigger farms would need to start paying the increase in the year 2019.

The Vote Was Split Right Along Party Lines

The vote basically split along the party lines. Central San Joaquin Valley Republicans Frank Bigelow of O’Neals, Jim Patterson of Fresno, Adam Gray from Merced and Mathis of Visalia voted against the bill; freshman Joaquin Arambula from Kingsburg voted in favor of it.

All 38 Democrats who voted for AB 1066 previously were joined by only one Republican, Eric Linder from Corona, and five Democrats who originally had either opposed the measure in June or did not cast a vote.

Reliable Data Unavailable on Average Working Hours for Farmworkers

Philip Martin, an expert in farm labor at UC Davis, told the Fresno Bee that there wasn’t reliable data available on average working hours for farmworkers. He stated it’s known that dairy workers and irrigators and equipment operators have long hours, because farmers are more apt to pay overtime than purchase more equipment. He indicated many harvest workers put in less than eight hours per day but work on the weekend.

May Have to Reduce Farmworkers Hours

HMC Farms owner, Harold McClarty, grows stone fruit and table grapes. He has about 1,500 workers during the peak production period. McClarty said overtime, together with increases in minimum wage and piece-rate legislation, will mean he will have to lower the workers’ number of hours and look for other solutions like growing different commodities which can be harvested mechanically. He told the Fresno Bee that when they’re doing grapes and it is hot out, they work six hours per day. When it cools down they increase to 10. He said they won’t be doing that anymore.

How Will Governer Jerry Brown Act on This Measure?

It’s difficult to say how Gov. Brown will act on this measure. His track record on farmworker and labor issues has been mixed. He put is signature on the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act while serving as governor (1975 to 1983) and has often commented on his personal relationship with the late labor leader, Cesar Chavez.

But since returning to office, Gov. Brown has often sided with industry interests, which has sometimes infuriated advocates for farmworkers. The UFW protested Gov. Brown back in 2011 after he vetoed a bill that could have made it much easier to unionize farmworkers. Gov. Brown eventually signed his name to a compromise bill.

Stockton Farming Accident Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Stockton Farming Accident Attorney. If you or someone you love has been injured in a farming accident, please contact me at (209) 227-1931 for free and friendly advice. When calling from outside the (209) region, please call me free of toll at (800) 404-5400.

I’ve been helping people recover compensation for their personal injuries for more than 34 years.

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Our Stockton law office is located at:

Edward A Smith Law Offices
235 N. San Joaquin St
Stockton, CA 95202

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