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NYS delays decision on farm worker overtime, public hearings planned

Farm worker
Farm worker(WWNY)
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 2:52 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A decision on overtime wages on New York farms didn’t happen Wednesday as expected. In fact, it won’t come until after new virtual meetings scheduled for January.

At stake is at what point do farm workers get paid overtime. Right now, it’s after 60 hours, but there’s a push by some state lawmakers to change the threshold to 40 hours.

Farmers worry some of them will go out of business if the OT is changed.

Instead of a decision, state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon announced Wednesday that she will hold virtual public hearings next month to let farm workers, farmers and academic experts to testify.

To register to speak, click here.

Grow NY Farms, an advocacy group supported by the New York Farm Bureau, said, “Over the past few months, it’s become clear that New York’s agriculture community — both farmworkers and farmers — support keeping the farm labor overtime threshold at 60 hours. As we’ve said, workers want more hours so they can earn more, farmers cannot shoulder the burden of increased labor costs and lowering the overtime threshold would irreparably harm our state’s food supply and agricultural diversity. Those facts are indisputable, and we’ll continue to make our voices heard at the public hearings scheduled in January.”

Lisa Zucker, senior attorney for legislative affairs at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “The workers on whom we depend for the food on our tables must be treated with dignity and afforded the same basic workplace protections as other New Yorkers. We urge Commissioner Reardon and Governor Hochul to bring an end to the Jim Crow-era injustice and discrimination against farmworkers that the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act was intended to reverse. New York’s agriculture industry must no longer depend on the continued exploitation of farmworkers; if our state wants to claim its place as a leader on economic justice, racial justice, and basic fairness, it will ensure that the overtime threshold for farmworkers is on a pathway towards 40 hours. The NYCLU will continue to stand with farmworkers in the fight for equal workplace protections, fair compensation, and basic rights across New York State.”

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