Monday, August 29, 2016

Historic bill giving farmworkers overtime equity goes to governor

LARRY ITLIIONG and Cesar Chavez, the late founders of the United Farm Workers, would have been pleased. 

The California Assembly passed AB1066 - the bill that gives farmworkers the same overtime rights as other workers. If signed, it would be the first in the nation. All that it needs to make it a law is Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.

"Proud that the Assembly helped promote more justice, equity, fairness and dignity today by passing overtime for our hard-working and invaluable farmworkers," said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, chair of the API Legislative Caucus. 

Brown hasn't indicated where he stands on the issue. Despite signing the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and the former seminarian has frequently mentioned his close friendship with Cesar Chavez, during his current stint as governor, he has sided with agribusiness and vetoed legislation that the UFW supported.

An earlier version of the bill failed to garner enough votes in the Assembly but with a few tweaks that gave small farmers more time to phase in the overtime rules, Ab1066 was able to garner enough votes to pass, 44-32.

“Right now, under current law, we’re telling our farmworkers, ‘You are different than other workers. You are less than other workers. You are less valued and less valuable,’” said Bonta, whose parents organized Central Valley farmworkers for the UFW.

The bill proposes that the state phase in time-and-a-half pay for farm laborers who exceed eight hours in one day by 2022 on large farms and by 2025 for farms with 25 or fewer employees
. Like other workers, farmworkers would be paid overtime if they work more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week. It would affect about 400,000 agricultural workers. 

"We're asking for equality, eventually. It starts today however,” said Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales, one of the co-authors of AB1066.

To help persuade lawmakers sitting on the fence, the UFW brought hundreds of farmworkers today (Aug, 29) to the Capitol to help lobby for the measure.

Today's agricultural labor force is shifted dramatically since the days of the UFW's birth. It is more overwhelmingly Latino now compared to the 1960s when Filipinos instigated the 1965 Grape Strike. Most of the aged Filipino workers have retired. The Asian farmworkers have had their numbers n bolstered recently by new Hmong and Sikh immigrants in the Central Valley.