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Governor signs farm worker overtime bill

Santa Maria Farm Workers

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed AB 1066 which changes the way farm workers are paid overtime.

The new law will begin phasing in at the beginning of 2017. It will end the 10-hour work day, 60- hour work week threshold workers had to meet to be eligible for overtime pay at agricultural operations.

Under the new law, farm workers will get overtime after working eight hours a day or 40 hours in a single week.

“The whole world eats the food provided by California farm workers, yet we don’t guarantee fair overtime pay for the backbreaking manual labor they put in to keep us fed,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego when the Assembly passed the bill. “We know this is the right thing to do, and thanks to the hard work of an incredible coalition throughout the state and across the country, we’re now one step closer to finally providing our hard-working farm workers the dignity they deserve.”

The United Farm Workers called the law a victory.

“For 78 years, a Jim Crow-era law discriminated against farm workers by denying us the same overtime rights that other workers benefit from,” said United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez. “Here in the U.S. Today, Governor Brown corrected a historic wrong and set an example for other states to follow.”

However, many in the agricultural community are disappointed with the new law.

“We are extremely disappointed that this legislation was signed into law, as it will be harmful to farm employees, farmers, consumers and the environment,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger. “Those who work on California farms will see reduced paychecks and have their lives disrupted as these new worker overtime rules come into play. California consumers will have fewer opportunities to buy California-grown farm products that are produced under the most stringent food safety, employment and environmental rules in the world.”

The Western United Dairymen lobbied against the bill and told its membership it is disappointed the governor signed it.

“Compounding the impact the $15 minimum wage will have on the entire agricultural industry in the state, the industry lobbied heavily against the legislation because of the eventual effect it will have on the employees,” the organization wrote to its members.

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