A state bill to mandate overtime pay for farmworkers could benefit an estimated 18,000 employees in Santa Barbara County. Sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, the bill — if signed — would ultimately require employers to pay farmworkers time and a half for work beyond eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.
Unlike nearly all other hourly employees, farmworkers do not receive overtime pay unless they work more than 60 hours in a week. And most farmworkers are in the fields 10 hours per day, six days a week.
This disparity dates back to the Jim Crow era, when the eight-hour workday was established as a result of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. But domestic workers and farmworkers — largely black sharecroppers — were exempted to appease Southern lawmakers, said Lucas Zucker, a representative for CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), a proponent of the bill.
If signed, this bill — AB 1066 — would start rolling out in 2019. Employers on large farms (with more than 25 employees) would have to pay overtime for farmworkers working more than 9.5 hours in a day or 55 hours per week. The threshold would gradually decline to eight hours in 2022. For small farms, the phase-in would not conclude until 2025. The governor would, however, be authorized to delay implementation if he or she did so with the state’s planned minimum-wage rollout.
Zucker expressed cautious optimism Brown would sign the measure. “I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, but I think there has been a lot of pressure that this is a critical civil rights bill,” he said. (In 2012, Governor Brown vetoed a bill to mandate overtime pay for domestic workers, but a year later, he signed a narrower version of it. Brown initially questioned the effects on elderly people or if the law would reduce jobs for domestic workers.)
County Supervisor Peter Adam, who owns Adam Brothers Family Farms with his two younger brothers, lamented about increasingly strong regulations for employers. “We just get more and more stuff all the time,” he said. “At some point you are going to notice it at the store.”
The California Farm Bureau urged people to write letters to Brown asking him to veto the bill. Paul Van Leer of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau said the group is still in the process of formalizing an opposition. He was hopeful the state organization’s efforts would be successful. “The state farm bureau has a lot of power,” he said, adding about the bill, “It’s not going to benefit anyone in the long run.”
According to a recent survey by CAUSE, just 13 percent of farmworkers in the county — who are largely undocumented Latinos from Mexico — receive overtime pay. Adam said his giant produce company occasionally pays for overtime — on a holiday, for instance. “We try not to because it costs a fortune,” he said. “But if that’s what the rules are, we will comply with them.”
Both State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Das Williams voted for the bill, which was sponsored by San Diego Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.
A myriad of other bills are awaiting Brown’s signature, including one to prohibit state government contracts to companies that boycott Israel. Another bill — inspired by last year’s Planned Parenthood video controversy — would strengthen laws about recording and distributing videos if the subject were a health-care provider. Another would prohibit local jurisdictions from restricting the taxi industry, allowing cabs to be more competitive with Uber and Lyft. Another would “advance the development of” the first phase of the statewide high-speed rail project. A measure to implement minimum prison sentences for those convicted of sex crimes is also on the governor’s desk.
Among the bills that failed to pass out of the State Legislature are those to allow online gambling and to increase the number of members on the Southern California regional air district board.