23 September 2016

About F%$#ing Time

After more than 75 years. California Farm Workers have finally got the right to overtime pay:
California just approved the strongest overtime pay legislation in the nation for farmworkers, long exempt from overtime standards mandated for most other occupations.

The legislation, known as AB 1066, was signed into law this week by Gov. Jerry Brown and will eventually result in time-and-a-half pay for farmworkers who work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

“This bill corrects 78 years of discrimination, not just in the state but in the country,” says Juan Garcia, an internal coordinator with the United Farm Workers (UFW). “Most of the people that I’ve talked to here in Sonoma that have worked 30, sometimes 40 years—they’ve been waiting for something like this.”

Nationwide, almost all farmworkers are exempt from overtime thresholds thanks to agricultural worker exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law excluded farmworkers in order to appease Dixiecrat leaders who objected to minimum wage and overtime federal standards for the mostly black farmworkers of the time.


Under AB 1066, the state will reduce the overtime threshold by half an hour every year, starting in 2019, until it reaches the 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week standard in 2022. AB 1066 affects the roughly 800,000 farmworkers in California, one-third of all agricultural laborers in the country according to 2014 estimates by Philip Martin, professor of agricultural economics at the University of California, Davis. These workers earn, on average, between $16,500 and $19,000 a year, according to Martin and other researchers at UC Davis. When employed by farm labor contractors, instead of growers directly, farmworkers, on average, earn even less—an estimated $12,719 per year. The California Research Bureau reports that approximately 30 percent of California households with farm laborer incomes are below the poverty line.
The horrible conditions that farm workers labor under are a searing indictment of the US agricultural industry.


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