Friday, August 19, 2016

California legislators fast for farmworkers' overtime

Assemblyman Rob Bonta
EIGHT HOURS a day is a typical workday for most of us. Forty hours a week is the standard for most workweeks. Anything more than that constitutes overtime with pay commensurate with the extra work.

But ... not for farmworkers!

Amazing, right? It's 2016!

Harvesting your produce, picking your artichokes, tomatoes, fruit, lettuce is hard, backbreaking work. Yet working in the field in California is the only job where overtime is defined as 10 hours a day.

State Assemblyman Rob Bonta joined others in a fasting for farm workers movement — calling for the passage of AB1066, a bill that would expand overtime benefits for farm workers. The proposed legislation would bring farmworkers in line with other workers. It would  define overtime for farmworkers is anything over eight hours a day or more than a 40 hour week.
"It's a long struggle," he told a reporter. Mexican and Filipino farmworkers have worked for justice for all workers he pointed out. "It's going to be a close vote."
If passed, AB 1066 would gradually phase in new standards for farm workers, to lower the current 10-hour work day to eight, and ensure overtime pay when those hours are exceeded. The goal is to put workers in this industry in line with every other hourly job in the state.
An earlier version of the bill failed on the Assembly floor. For smaller family run farms, the new pay structure would be phased in over several years was an added to 1066 to make it more palatable to lawmakers from rural districts.
As legislation seeking fair pay and conditions for farm workers awaits approval on the senate floor, lawmakers across the state took part in a 24-hour fast to rally in support of AB 1066. 

Bonta's parents were union organizers for farmworkers and he was successful in passing legislation in 2014 to include the crucial role played by Filipino farmworkers in the farmworker strikes of the 1960s that led to the creation of the UFW and better working conditions for farmworkers. Last year, he passed a bill for a Larry Itliong Day to honor the Filipino/American union activist.

"It's a way to really bring attention to the fact of, and to the plight of the farm workers, not just on this overtime issue, but obviously on the conditions they are working under and to bring about this need for equality," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, one of the bill's key authors.

The fast harkens back to the fast by Cesar Chavez which successfully brought attention to the working conditions of the Mexican and Filipino farmworkers. 
Wednesday morning the fast was broken with a service at the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament in Downtown Sacramento. Gonzalez says it was a showcasing to bring awareness to the hardships that farm workers endure on a daily basis.
"It's a small sacrifice to symbolize the huge sacrifice that these workers make every day, to make sure that we have fresh fruits and vegetables on our table," Gonzalez said.