Farm workers concerned about overtime bill

By law, workers get paid time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours a week in California. That law doesn't apply to farm workers, and some are concerned about a bill that would change the law.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A new assembly bill aims to put more money in farm workers pockets, but some farm workers fear it may actually reduce their earnings.

Assembly Bill 2757 is up for a vote this week. If passed it would require farmers to pay their workers overtime if they work 40 hours a week.

Under current law, farmers do not have to pay their workers overtime until they work over 60 hours a week or work over 10 hours a day.

"Our job is hard. It's not fair that I don't get overtime like everyone else," said Jose Sanchez,  a farm worker and a member of labor rights group United Farm Workers.

Sanchez said he works more than 60 hours a week and has a tough time paying his bills. If passed, Assembly Bill 2757 would reduce overtime wage limits slowly. Starting in 2017 limits would be 55 hours a weeks and 9.5 hours per day. By 2020 overtime limits decrease to 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.

"Farmers like the machines. They are looking at the easiest way to pick the fruit," said farm worker Ralph Ochoa. He believes the Assembly bill will actually reduce his hours.

Right now, he gets paid for 60 hours a week with no overtime. Ochoa's boss told him he can't pay overtime. He fears his hours will drop from 60 hours a week to 40 hours.

"If you go out to the field and ask the people if they want to work 40 hours or 60 hours ... most people will say 60 hours," said Ochoa.

Many farmers are already using automated harvesters that do the work of 30 to 40 people. Sanchez said he knows some people may lose their job to machines but a majority of farm work must be done by humans. He believes if farm workers put in the overtime hours ... they should be paid for them.

"We need money for our families," said Sanchez.

Assembly Bill 2757 goes before the Appropriations Committee on Friday.

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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