dairy workers
August 23, 2016

California Farmworkers to Get Equal Overtime Benefits

 |  By: Mike Opperman

California's state Senate revived a bill on Monday that would make it the first state to give farmworkers the same overtime pay as people who work in other industries. An estimated 829,000 people work on California fruit, vegetable and dairy farms.

Hourly workers in California are generally entitled to pay at one-and-a-half times the hourly rate after they have worked eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. But for agricultural workers, the threshold required to get overtime pay is 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. The bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would gradually eliminate the disparity over a three-year period beginning in 2019. Farms with fewer than 25 employees would get an extra three years to meet the standard.

The bill now heads to the Assembly, which narrowly rejected a nearly identical bill in May. Since then, Gonzalez agreed to give more time for smaller farms to comply and stepped up an online campaign to build support.

"Eventually humanity wins out," Gonzalez said. "I think people realize just how tough of a job it is and how this inequality is really affecting people's lives."

Republicans contend farm work is inherently seasonal and shouldn't be subject to the same rules as traditional labor. They said the bill would raise costs for farmers and make it more difficult for them to compete with rivals in other states and countries.

It also would lead farmers to hire more workers, critics said, leaving their existing employees with fewer hours and smaller paychecks - or prompt farm owners to replace labor-intensive crops with products more conducive to automation.

"This bill, instead of trying to help the farmworkers, is hosing the farmworkers," said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte.