SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that would require farmers to pay overtime after eight hours per day or 40 hours per week, ending an exemption meant to benefit farmers during the Depression.
The United Farm Workers of America (UFW), founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, applauded the move.
”For 78 years, a Jim Crow-era law discriminated against farm workers by denying us the same overtime rights that other workers benefit from,” UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said in a statement. “Here in the US today, Gov. Brown corrected a historic wrong and set an example for other states to follow.”
Opponents of the bill argued that farmers and ranchers would be hurt. California Sen. Jim Nielsen, vice chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said farmers continue to suffer from the historic drought and ongoing regulatory burdens.
“It is inarguable that this new mandate will have significant negative impacts on farmers and farm workers,” he said in a statement. “Farmers, ranchers and growers cannot afford this mandate. To keep their family farms in operation, they will hire one crew for eight hours or less; and a second crew for another.
“Farm workers will end up working for one farm in the morning, getting back in their cars to drive to another farm to work the afternoon shift,” Nielsen added.
The National Center for Farmworker Health reports an estimated 2 to 3 million migratory and seasonal agriculture workers in the United States. An estimated 800,000 seasonal farmworkers are employed in California. According to state data, California employed an estimated 365,500 agriculture workers across all ag-related industries in March 2016. Of that number, an estimated 4,300 worked in the beef cattle industry (excluding feedlots), and an estimated 18,000 workers were employed at dairy farms.
Ranchers and farmers in the state generated $47 billion in revenue in 2015, making California the leading agricultural economy in the United States, according to data from the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture.