Gonzalez Bill to Provide Farmworkers Overtime After an 8-Hour Day Gets Committee Approval

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April 8, 2016 (SACRAMENTO) Legislation by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to establish equitable overtime standards for farmworkers in line with other Californians passed the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee today on a 5-2 vote.

Over four years, the “Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016” – known as Assembly Bill 2757 – would gradually phase in standards for farmworker overtime lowering the current 10-hour day level to the standard 8-hour day, and establishing for the first time a 40-hour standard workweek. The phase-in would be by annual half-hour-per-day increments until reaching eight hours, and annual five-hour-per-week increments until reaching 40 hours. Both final standards would be achieved in 2020.

Assembly Labor Committee Chairman Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) and Assemblymembers Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) and Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) voted for AB 2757 in committee. Assemblymembers Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) and Eric Linder (R-Corona) voted against the bill.

“At every step before our food arrives on our plate, workers earn overtime after eight hours of work a day and forty hours a week – except the farmworkers who pick that food from a tree or a vine or milk it from a cow,” Gonzalez said. “It’s long past time to address our history of discrimination against farmworkers and at least provide the same overtime standards to this backbreaking work as any of the rest of us receive.”

In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which established the minimum wage, recordkeeping, child labor standards and overtime pay eligibility. However, the FLSA failed to include agricultural workers throughout the United States, and in 1941, the Legislature officially exempted all agricultural workers from statutory requirements of overtime. In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation establishing a modified standard for these workers still in effect today, with a 10-hour day and 60-hour week.

In March, the legislation received strong backing in a letter from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said “[i]t reflects our shared commitment to fair and humane working conditions for those whose labor feed our nation and much of the world.”

In 2014, California’s farms and ranches brought in $54 billion and farmworker pay in the state surpasses $5 billion a year. More than 90 percent of California farmworkers are Latino and more than 80 percent are immigrants. Recent data also found the median personal income of California farmworkers to be just $14,000.

AB 2757 is officially introduced by Assemblymembers Gonzalez and joint authors Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Cristina Garcia (D-Downey) and Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), with Senator Hall (D-San Pedro) serving as principal co-author. Additional coauthors are Assemblymembers Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), Nora Campos (D-San Jose), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Mike Gipson (D-Gardena), Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz), Tony Thurmond (D-Oakland), and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Senators Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Marty Block (D-San Diego), Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Carol Liu (D-Glendale), and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).

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