Support, criticism pours in about farm worker overtime plan

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:01 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A day after the New York Farm Laborers Wage Board recommended that farm workers get overtime after a 40-hour work week, the reaction continues to pour in.

Some are critical of the plan to lower the overtime threshold in New York from 60 hours a week to 40. Others are supportive.

Ed Zuroweste, chief medical officer with the Migrant Clinicians Network, says the change is long overdue because of health concerns.

“We cannot single out one labor group whose work is particularly grueling on the body and for which overtime can mean a much greater risk of injury and say that overtime cannot apply to them,” he said.

The proposal has received its fair share of criticism with north country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik calling it “reckless” and claiming that it will jeopardize the state’s agriculture industry.

Her opponent, Democrat Matt Castelli, shared similar criticism and said the move will ultimately hurt New York farmers.

Mike Kiechle, a farmer in the town of Philadelphia, says the increased wages may keep him from putting money back into his farm.

“I’m not sure how exactly how you do prepare for it because money is money. I see it as putting New York farmers at a severe disadvantage to our neighbors,” he said.

A possible solution? The state has proposed tax credits that will reimburse farm owners for overtime pay at a rate of 118 percent.

“With this tax credit, employers are able to employ workers up to 60 hours and any additional costs will be absorbed by taxpayers,” said Emma Kreyche, Worker Justice Center of New York.

State officials now have 44 days to review the proposal and make a decision.