A bill that could give farm workers across California the same overtime pay as the rest of the workers in the state passed the Assembly and moved to the governor’s desk for approval.
If AB 1066 is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown then farm workers will be entitled to receive time and a half pay if they work more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week, and double pay if they work more than 12 hours in a day. Currently, farm workers get overtime pay after working 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week.
The Assembly passed the bill on a 44-32 vote on Monday. The State Senate previously approved the bill in a 21-14 vote. Brown spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said he has not yet taken a position on it.
The legislation was introduced by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and calls for the regulation to be implemented in phases. Beginning in 2019, the phase-in would be by annual half-hour-per-day increments until reaching eight hours, and annual five-hour-per-week increments until reaching 40 hours. Smaller farms having 25 or fewer employees would have until 2022 to start implementing the overtime rate. AB 1066 additionally authorizes the Governor to temporarily suspend a scheduled phase-in of overtime at any time until full implementation of phase-in overtime requirements or January 1, 2022, whichever comes first, if the Governor suspends minimum wage increases based on economic conditions.
"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 Gonzalez. "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 progression of the bill was celebrated by the United Farm Workers, which sent more than 250 individuals to the capital Monday to support the passage, and the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
“As workers who also are part of an industry that helps to put food on tables, we applaud the Legislature for fixing a historic wrong and giving farm laborers the same protections that all working people deserve,” said UFCW Western States Council Executive Director Jim Araby. “Farm laborers working for hourly wages are a foundation of California's agriculture industry and our state’s entire economy, and today California has finally shown them some recognition for this.”
Those opposed to the bill argued that the seasonal nature of farm work makes it difficult to apply to standard overtime regulations and that the added costs could result in lost jobs, wages, and higher food costs.
“Though well-intentioned, this bill hurts farmers and farm workers,” said Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley). “It will open the door for more automation, eliminate jobs, cut pay and increase the cost of food. I urge the Governor to veto this bill.”
Assembly members Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank) and Adam Gray (D-Merced) both voted against the bill.
AB 1066 was officially introduced by Assembly members Gonzalez and joint authors Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Cristina Garcia (D-Downey), Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), and Tony Thurmond (D-Oakland) with Senator Isadore Hall (D-San Pedro) serving as principal co-author. Additional coauthors are Assembly members David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Mike Gatto (D-Burbank), Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Shirley Weber (D-San Diego); and Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Marty Block (D-San Diego), Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), and Bill Monning (D-Monterey).
The Associated Press contributed to this article.