Historic Bill on Farmworkers Overtime Signed

     SACRAMENTO (CN) —Acting against California’s prominent agricultural industry and in favor of thousands of farmworkers, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Monday that grants agricultural workers long-awaited overtime pay.
     Brown, a fourth-term governor and longtime champion of union rights, signed the contentious bill less than two weeks after the Legislature sent it to his desk.
     Under Assembly Bill 1066, California will become the first state to mandate overtime pay to farmworkers who work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours per week. The new overtime laws will be phased in incrementally until 2022 and the governor has the ability to stall the law depending on the state’s budget outlook.
     California is one of few states to require overtime pay to farmworkers as currently they receive premium pay for working more than 10 hours in a day or 60 hours a week.
     A similar bill was defeated by the Legislature in June, but it was revived by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. Gonzalez included amendments allowing the overtime laws to be phased in and the bill cleared the Legislature by a 44-32 vote in August.
     “Si se pudo! Farmworker overtime!” Gonzalez tweeted Monday. “Thank you to the leadership in both houses and this government!”
     Gonzalez worked with the United Farm Workers, the agricultural labor union founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962, to push the bill through the Legislature. The union coordinated support rallies and sent hundreds of farmworkers to pack the statehouse during the critical August Assembly hearings.
     Supporters touted AB 1066 as a human rights issue while the state’s agricultural interests painted the proposal as a job killer. The overtime bill narrowly passed the Legislature along mostly party-lines in the Democratic-controlled house Assembly.
     California grower associations and several state Republicans warned that the new overtime laws would likely cause a surge in produce prices and cost some farmworkers their jobs. The opponents predicted that farmers would cut back workers’ hours rather than pay them costly overtime wages.
     Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, reacted to the signing by blasting the Democrats for pushing AB 1066 through. Gallagher represents one of Northern California’s most productive farming regions.
     “The ruling party placated to one union group and the chronic and ignorant misconceptions of a few legislators who have no understanding of the industry and its people. If you understand agriculture, you know that this new law will result in lost wages for farm workers,” Gallagher said in a statement.
     Brown, who previously marched with Chavez and signed the historic Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975 that guaranteed bargaining rights and overtime laws for farmworkers, did not issue a signing message Monday.

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