SACRAMENTO–Legislation by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to establish equitable overtime standards for farmworkers in line with other Californians was approved on a 21-14 vote by the State Senate Monday. Assembly Bill 1066 continues the effort begun earlier in 2016 by Gonzalez via AB 2757, and will next be considered by the Assembly.
Beginning in 2019, Assembly Bill 1066 would gradually phase in standards for farmworker overtime lowering the current 10-hour day level to the standard 8-hour day, and establishing for the first time a 40-hour standard workweek, over a four-year period. 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. Both final standards would be achieved in 2022, with small farms employing 25 or fewer people receiving an additional three years to comply. 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.
“California’s farmworkers perform backbreaking labor to put food on our tables and feed the entire world, yet we maintain outdated and unfair rules to pay them less for their grueling work than we tolerate in any other job,” said Gonzalez. “AB 1066 is our opportunity to establish basic fairness that, for the first time in our history, treats farmworkers with the same respect as everyone else.”
In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which established the minimum wage, recordkeeping, child labor standards and overtime pay eligibility. However, the FLSA failed to include agricultural workers throughout the United States, and in 1941, the state Legislature officially exempted all agricultural workers from statutory requirements of overtime. In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation establishing a modified standard for these workers still in effect today, with a 10-hour day and 60-hour week. Those 40-year-old overtime thresholds for agricultural workers haven’t been updated since.
In March, the importance of legislation to normalize overtime rules for California farmworkers received strong backing in a letter from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said, “it reflects our shared commitment to fair and humane working conditions for those whose labor feed our nation and much of the world.”
In 2014, California’s farms and ranches brought in $54 billion in revenue. More than 90 percent of California farmworkers are Latino and more than 80 percent are immigrants. Recent data also found the median personal income of California farmworkers to be just $14,000.
AB 1066 is officially introduced by Assemblymembers 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 Assemblymembers 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).