Farmworkers react to passage of overtime pay bill

Farm workers scored a victory they had been fighting for for years. Sept. 12, 2016

Farmworkers in the nation's largest agricultural state will be entitled to the same overtime pay as most other hourly workers under a new law.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday he had signed legislation that chips away at a nearly 80-year-old practice of applying separate labor rules to farmhands.

Brown signed the bill, AB 1066, following a push by the United Farm Workers union and its allies, who say exempting farmworkers from labor laws is racist and unfair.

“I’m happy and excited,” Emiliano Hernandez said in Spanish after learning AB 1066 was now a reality.

This means farm workers like him can expect to be treated equal to most other California workers, when it comes to overtime pay, by the year 2022.

“To me it's fair,” Hernandez said. “It's equality.”

He's a father of four and says during grape harvest he works from sun down to sun rise, and expects to be compensated fairly.

“The money is not enough,” Israel Melo, also farm worker in the Stockton area, said. “In ten years I’ve worked in the field, I’ve never been paid overtime after eight hours.”

Agricultural groups warn the change will severely harm one of California's largest industries.

Growers opposed the bill arguing they cannot afford it and saying they will be forced to cut workers' hours. Changes in the law don't start kicking in until 2019 and small farms have an extra 3 years to comply.

California employers currently must pay time-and-a half to farmworkers after 10 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.

Gov. Brown has the ability to suspend the effects of the law for a year if the economy is not doing well.

After Brown's signing, his Executive Secretary Nancy McFadden tweeted the labor improvements contained in AB 1066 and another bill were "overdue."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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