The California Assembly was flooded with farm workers demanding over time pay on Monday, Aug. 29.
The Assembly sent Gov. Jerry Brown a hard-fought and historic expansion of overtime rules for farmworkers, but it remains uncertain whether the Democratic governor will sign off on the measure.
“A nearly identical bill fell three votes short of passage on the Assembly floor in May, with 15 Democrats voting against the measure or declining to vote. But on Monday, an amended version of the measure, now contained in Assembly Bill 1066, passed on a 44-32 vote.” Local Assembly members Ken Cooley (Rancho Cordova) and Jim Cooper (District 9- Elk Grove) voted against the bill.
“Agricultural workers already receive some overtime pay under California law thanks to a 2002 state directive that entitles them to extra wages if they work more than 10 hours in a day or more than 60 hours in a week. AB 1066 would expand that to bring it more in line with other industries, offering time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours in a day or 40 in a week and double pay for working more than 12 hours a day. The pay boosts would kick in incrementally over four years, and the governor could suspend them for a year if the economy falters.”
Business groups quickly condemned the vote. “We are deeply concerned with the passage of AB 1066 today and the devastating impacts this bill will have on our small, independent farmers and the workers they employ,” said Tom Scott, state executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Ahead of Monday’s vote, Assembly members heard from both farmworkers who forfeited a day’s pay to visit offices and press for the bill and from farm industry representatives, including minority farm owners, who warned lawmakers the measure would devastate small-scale growers and diminish work for laborers.
Supporters invoked fairness, justice and the need to rectify a history rife with labor exploitation.
“Right now, under current law, we’re telling our farmworkers, ‘you are different than other workers. You are less than other workers. You are less valued and less valuable,’” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, whose parents organized Central Valley farmworkers in the movement championed by Cesar Chavez.
Advocates from the United Farm Workers Union organized repeated demonstrations at the capitol. Several Democrats did not support the bill.
Farm workers were excluded from the 1936 National Labor Relations Act. California has incrementally increased worker protection providing supervised elections, safety in the fields, unemployment insurance and other protections that do not exist in other states.
This passage of overtime pay is a significant gain. In part it is a result of the significant growth of Latino power in the legislature where the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate are both leaders of their respective Latino caucuses.