Bad for Farmers, Bad for Workers, Bad for California, & Bad for America

California Assembly Bill 1066 sponsored by Gonzales is scheduled for the Assembly Floor today. This is a solution to a problem that DOES NOT EXIST and needs to be opposed. This bill will result in massive farmworker un-employment, less wages for farmworkers and an increase in your food prices.

Below is an excerpt of the bill followed by what already exists in federal law. Currently, at the end of any growing season, farmworkers will average much more than a minimum wage. IF this law goes into effect their wages WILL DECREASE and YOU WILL PAY MORE FOR GROCERIES.

Text excerpt from California Assembly Bill 1066

“Existing law sets wage, hour, meal break requirements, and other working conditions for employees and requires an employer to pay overtime wages as specified to an employee who works in excess of a workday or workweek, as defined, and imposes criminal penalties for the violation of these requirements. Existing law exempts agricultural employees from these requirements. Under existing law, the function of the Department of Industrial Relations is to, among other things, foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of California, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment. 

This bill would remove the exemption for agricultural employees regarding hours, meal breaks, and other working conditions, including specified wage requirements, and would create a schedule that would phase in overtime requirements for agricultural workers…..”

The following (and current) overtime exemptions was taken from the U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division webpage.

The following are examples of employees exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements:

  • Executive, administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside sales employees, and certain skilled computer professionals (as defined in the Department of Labor’s regulations)
  • Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments
  • Employees of certain small newspapers and switchboard operators of small telephone companies
  • Seamen employed on foreign vessels
  • Employees engaged in fishing operations
  • Employees engaged in newspaper delivery
  • Farm workers employed on small farms (i.e., those that used less than 500 “man‑days” of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year)
  • Casual babysitters and persons employed as companions to the elderly or infirm

The following are examples of employees exempt from the overtime pay requirements only:

  • Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments
  • Auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft salespersons employed by non‑manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers
  • Auto, truck, or farm implement parts‑clerks and mechanics employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers
  • Railroad and air carrier employees, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans
  • Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non‑metropolitan broadcasting stations
  • Domestic service workers who reside in their employers’ residences
  • Employees of motion picture theaters
  • Farmworkers

Certain employees may be partially exempt from the overtime pay requirements. These include:

  • Employees engaged in certain operations on agricultural commodities and employees of certain bulk petroleum distributors
  • Employees of hospitals and residential care establishments that have agreements with the employees that they will work 14‑day periods in lieu of 7‑day workweeks (if the employees are paid overtime premium pay within the requirements of the Act for all hours worked over eight in a day or 80 in the 14‑day work period, whichever is the greater number of overtime hours)
  • Employees who lack a high school diploma, or who have not completed the eighth grade, who spend part of their workweeks in remedial reading or training in other basic skills that are not job specific. Employers may require such employees to engage in these activities up to 10 hours in a workweek. Employers must pay normal wages for the hours spent in such training but need not pay overtime premium pay for training hours

Out of nineteen bullets above, five instances are covered where certain farmworkers are exempt from overtime pay. Do you qualify under one of the other 14 instances?

Typically, farmworkers start with pre-planting and growing season. This usually results in most of them making minimum wage as set forth by local, state, and federal law. Once the harvest season begins these workers move to a piece rate which results in much more than the minimum wage. Then, as the season winds down, they may go back to receiving minimum wage.

When the growing season is all said and done, usually a farmworker’s pay is far more than a minimum wage for the hours worked.

If California forces farmers to start paying overtime, you can count on one (or all) the following:

  • Workers will make less money during the season
  • Farmers will employ less workers during the season
  • Consumers will pay more for their food

California, call you legislator TODAY, demand they oppose Assembly Bill 1066.

Danny Kushmer

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