SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Governor Brown signed legislation that will give California farm workers something they've wanted for a long time on Monday. In less than three years, California farmworkers will be entitled to the same overtime pay as most other hourly workers under the new law.
The governor signed the bill following a push by the United Farm Workers Union and other supporters, who say exempting farm workers from labor laws is racist and unfair. California employers currently must pay time-and-a half to farmworkers after ten hours in a day or 60 hours in a week. That's longer than the overtime pay for other workers, who get it after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. While representatives for farm workers are excited, others think that this will hurt both sides.
"I think the growers are going to have to look at the amount of costs that are involved, and also the other multiplier effects like worker's compensation insurance and unemployment, that also are based on total income so it's going to be very expensive in the long run for growers to pay the overtime," said Norm Groot, Executive Director for the Monterey County Farm Bureau.
"This is more than the dollars the workers are going to have in their pockets, it's an issue of equality, dignity, respect, and for me that's the most, the most important," said Lauro Barajas, National Vice-President of United Farm Workers.
The Western Growers' Association believes that farm workers will lose wages when this law goes into effect. They say growers will implement eight-hour work days to avoid paying for overtime, meaning less pay for workers and less production overall. They believe retailers will then begin buying from other states that have the means to produce larger quantities at better prices.
Both sides will have some time to plan for the changes as the new law will not fully go into effect until January of 2019.