Overtime eligibility for agricultural workers to expand in New York state as part of phased plan

New York state farm workers will be able to collect overtime after working 40 hours a week starting in 2032, under a 10-year phased plan agreed to by state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon.

The current threshold for state farmworkers to collect overtime is 60 hours per week. This will decrease by two hours every two years, starting in 2024, until it reaches 40 hours in 2032.

Reardon announced on Friday that she had accepted a plan recommended by the Farmworkers’ Wage Commission in a 2-1 vote in early September.

“I come from a farming community myself, so I know how important the agriculture sector is to the economy of New York State,” Reardon said. “Based on the findings, I believe the recommendations of the Farm Laborers Wage Board are the best way forward to ensure fairness for farm workers and success for farm businesses.

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Business groups and some lawmakers had called for maintaining the current 60-hour threshold, saying lowering it to 40 hours would put some farms at risk of closure. They argued that the change would create another burden for farmer owners, in addition to inflation, rising fuel costs and labor shortages.

Farmers in New York state must pay their workers overtime after working 40 hours a week – instead of the current 60-hour threshold – under a plan recommended on Tuesday that would be staggered over a decade.

“Reardon’s disastrous decision will lead to fewer family farms, lower wages for farm workers and higher costs for consumers,” said Justin Wilcox, executive director of Upstate United, an advocacy group. companies.

David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau, said, “In the future, farms will be forced to make tough decisions about what they grow, the available hours they can provide their employees, and their ability to be competitive in the market. this was evidenced in testimony and data that the wage commission report and the commissioner simply ignored.

But supporters have argued that the change corrects a historic wrong, allowing farm workers to earn overtime in line with workers in other industries and pay them properly for their work.

The New York Civil Liberties Union called the overtime exception for farmworkers a “racist holdover from the Jim Crow era.”

“Farmworkers have waited over 80 years for an end to the racist exclusion that has stolen countless overtime hours,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. “Today the Department of Labor has taken a historic step to bring that wait to an end.”

The state this year approved tax credits designed to help farm owners offset the additional costs associated with the new overtime standards.

Wilcox disputed the effect these measures will have: “Overtime tax credits and other measures are simply not enough to help New York family farms survive.

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