WUD leads fight against overtime bill
Aug 3, 2012 - - Western United Dairymen has voiced its opposition to proposed legislation that would repeal the longstanding 10-hour daily overtime requirement for agricultural employees. WUD joined with a broad coalition of state agricultural groups in sending a letter to the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee voicing its opposition to AB 1313 by Assemblymember Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa). The bill is set to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, August 6.
“There remains widespread agreement that wage laws in other industries and businesses cannot be equated with those in farming due to farming’s unpredictability, seasonality of work, and the dynamics of the weather and harvest season,” said the coalition in its letter to Sen. Christine Kehoe. Federal law exempts persons employed in agriculture from overtime pay, and the California Industrial Welfare Commission understood and accepted the need to allow for a 10-hour workday in California’s farm fields. In fact, the Commission expressly rejected proposals for an 8-hour day due to “substantial evidence to warrant a 10-hour day instead. The Commission received no compelling evidence to change it.”
“Because farmers, their employees and their operations are critically affected by the uncontrollable whims of nature and the seasonality of agricultural production, agriculture needs considerably greater flexibility in scheduling work than do other industries. State and federal laws recognize this reality,” said the coalition.
The coalition cautioned that “AB 1313 will backfire, hurting family farmers and cutting agricultural workers’ paychecks. California’s family farmers cannot successfully compete with other states and nations if they are forced to increase their production costs. Profit margins in agriculture are razor thin–farmers cannot remain successful if they must absorb a 10-percent increase in labor costs. Consequently, farmers will likely avoid paying overtime pay by limiting worker hours and hiring more workers to make up the difference. These changes will result in at least a 20-percent reduction in the income of most agricultural workers during peak harvest season.”