California Farmworker Overtime Changes Cheered By Union

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Statewide rules regarding farmworkers’ overtime pay passed in the legislature on Monday.

Assembly Bill 1066 reshapes the pay structure for farm laborers. While many farmworkers are celebrating a victory, others, including politicians, farmers, and farmworkers aren’t so sure.

“I was so happy,” said Carmen Ramos, “I was in tears.”

She and several hundred other farmworkers and supporters of the United Farm Workers Union cheered on the Capitol steps.

“Overjoyed. Overjoyed,” said Ramos, “finally the farm workers will have justice.”

RELATED: Farmworker Overtime Bill Passes California Legislature

“We’re asking for equality eventually. It starts today,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). She presented AB1066.

A similar version of the bill was defeated by two votes in June. This time, the bill passed 44-37 and includes a phasing in of the payment for smaller farms over several years.

The bill creates an overtime pay structure for farmworkers similar to employees in other industries, which is overtime pay after 8 hours of work instead of 10.

“I am so happy because now we will have equality,” said Oscar Gonzalez, through the use of a translator.

He picks strawberries and says a shorter workday means more time with his kids.

The bill’s passing is seen as a victory by some. To others, it’s a devastating piece of bad policy

“It’s unrealistic to think that farmers are going to be able to somehow find the money to pay 20 hours of overtime a week,” said Jeff Merwin.

Merwin is a farmer and the president of the Yolo County Farm Bureau. He says farmers will adapt, but his workers may suffer.

“We’ll figure out how to do more with less labor or we’ll have to hire more people,” said Merwin.

Merwin says he provides housing for his employees, but may have to reconsider or restructure that benefit moving forward. He says workers may not be able to support their families with few hours working mainly during the harvest months.

“You can make crazy money, but at the end of the day you’ve spent crazy money to grow the crop,” said Merwin.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) echoes Merwin’s statements. She says there are harmful consequences under the surface of the legislation.

“This bill will hurt far more workers than it will actually help,” said Olsen.

Olsen says the majority of farmworkers were against the bill. She says the United Farm Workers Union represented a vocal minority.

“They represent somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 farmworkers when we have over 600,000 farmworkers in our state,” said Olsen.

The bill has been sent to Governor Brown’s desk.

More from Drew Bollea
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