May 19, 2016 (SACRAMENTO) California’s U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein this week announced her official support for Assembly Bill 2757 by State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to establish equitable overtime standards for farmworkers in line with other Californians.
Over four years, AB 2757 – known as the “Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016” – would gradually phase in standards for farmworker overtime by 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, with smaller farms receiving two extra years to meet the requirement. Both final standards would be achieved by 2020 for large farms and 2022 for small farms.
Senator Feinstein joins other official supporters including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, andformer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Senator’s support letter said in part:
“Our nation’s food supply depends upon the work of California’s farm workers who keep Californian and U.S. farms in business and provide fresh agricultural products to Americans every day, valued at an estimated $54 billion in 2014. California also leads the nation in providing food to the world, representing 14.3 percent of total U.S. global agricultural exports in 2014.
“Throughout my time in the U.S. Senate I have pushed to provide vital worker protections to farm workers, including wage protections. I support Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s legislation because it will allow for the fair treatment of those who make up the backbone of our U.S. agricultural industry.”
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.
“Farmworkers are the one group that have always been neglected by our labor laws throughout American history, and it’s time to catch up with some basic fairness,” Gonzalez said. “Those who pick our food in the fields deserve no less than other private sector workers, and I’m heartened to have so much enthusiastic support for California to lead the way once again.”
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.
The legislation is currently being considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It is also supported by a broad coalition including the California State Conference of the NAACP, MALDEF, the ACLU of California, California Labor Federation, the California Catholic Conference, The Western Center on Law & Poverty.
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 Isadore 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).