NY Assembly passes farm labor bill, allowing OT after 60 hours

Staff Reports Posted 19 June 2019 at 9:36 pm

Hawley, Norris fear legislation will hurt struggling ag industry

ALBANY – The State Assembly today passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act allowing overtime after 60 hours worked in a week.

The legislation also grants collective bargaining rights, a day of rest and expansion of workers’ compensation benefits, as well as other worker rights and protections to all farmworkers.

“Here in the Assembly Majority we pride ourselves on standing up for the rights of the hard working men and women across New York,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “Farmworkers deserve proper protections for the physically taxing, sometimes dangerous work they do that fuels our agricultural sector and puts food on our tables. They are vital to keeping New York’s farms working and play a pivotal role in the health and well-being of our residents.”

Two Assembly members whose districts include parts of Orleans County opposed the legislation, calling it well-meaning but ultimately weakening the agricultural sector, which could result in fewer hours and less weekly pay for farmworkers.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, is a former farmer and president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau. He now runs an insurance business.

“I know these new mandates will devastate New York’s family farms and disrupt the industry beyond repair – an industry that generates $4.8 billion in annual revenue,” he said in a statement. “Agriculture is a unique industry where production and success are contingent upon steady and reliable labor, and implementing more handcuffs on our farm owners and restricting the availability of that labor while increasing its costs will be devastating.”

Hawley said mandating time and a half overtime pay for any hours over 60 in a week “is just not practical.”

“Our farmers are constantly fighting flooding, drought and unpredictable weather patterns that often require unpredictable work hours, which is ultimately necessary to achieve success in the business,” Hawley said.

He called the legislation “authoritarian overreach” by New York City lawmakers, whose districts represents “virtually no family farms,” Hawley said.

“What’s more troubling is the establishment of a new board, headed by big-labor special interests, to further examine farm labor,” Hawley said. “The board wrongly excludes the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets and will undoubtedly heap mandate upon mandate and cost upon cost upon our family farms.”

State Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, issued this statement: “This legislation is another example of downstate’s progressive agenda being out of touch with the realities of upstate, particularly our agriculture industry. Farmworkers know that this work is seasonal and dependent on the weather. New York state farms are already struggling to make ends meet. The mandates that will be imposed by this bill will make matters even worse for farmers, cripple the agriculture industry and drive up the cost of food and products for everyone. I am outraged and voted no.”

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