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County legislators to oppose OT for farmworkers, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2019 at 10:08 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday is expected to oppose legislation in the State Legislature that would provide overtime wages for farmworkers and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The proposed Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act would allow undocumented persons who are present in the United States illegally under federal law to obtain a driver’s license.

A resolution on the agenda for the County Legislature said the state legislation would “create unacceptable security risks” because the state can’t verify the identity of the individuals when the federal government hasn’t issued a green card or visa. The resolution also says the state legislation includes privacy protections that may frustrate federal immigration enforcement efforts.

The resolution also states local DMV offices “do not have the considerable expertise needed to determine the authenticity of foreign birth certificates, foreign passports, or consular cards, nor to verify evidence of undocumented individual’s residency in the state.”

The resolution states “driving is a privilege, not a right.”

County legislators also have a resolution on the agenda opposing the “Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act” which calls for collective bargaining rights for farmworkers and would require farms to pay overtime wages.

The county resolution states agriculture is the county’s leading industry, providing direct and indirect jobs and supporting other local businesses.

“Farms must compete for workers in a tight labor market,” the resolution states. “They value and respect their employees and pay over minimum wage to retain their skilled workforce, and H2A employees have a choice to work in less restrictive states, increasing stress on a shrinking labor pool.”

The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act has been introduced in the State Legislature by Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. The state legislation would put New York farmers at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace with agricultural products from other states and Canada, the county resolution states.

Dairy farming is often a 24-hour-a-day demand to milk cows and care for animals, and fruit, vegetable and crop farming “requires seasonal, climate sensitive and time sensitive planting and harvesting where the effects of a labor strike on a farm could destroy an entire year’s worth of crops, render perishable food not edible and adversely affect the health and care of animals,” the resolution states.

The county also says New York’s minimum wage ranks among the top five in the country, with the minimum wage in upstate currently $3.85 higher than federal minimum wage.

Farm Credit East did a study of the impact of the legislation on the farms in NY and estimated farms’ costs would rise by $300 million annually, and reduce net farm income by 23 percent.

The county resolution states that family farming is on the decline and overtime wages will further strain farms struggling to make ends meet.

The county resolution also says the state law will have a negative impact on farmworkers who likely will be given less hours to work. The prices for milk and many crops are set by market conditions outside of farmers’ control. Farmers will have no way to recoup the extra costs, and likely will be forced to cut back on employee hours, the resolution states.

Both resolutions from County Legislature, if approved, will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders.

The Legislature meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. at the County Clerks’ Building, 3 South Main St. Albion.

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