Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed a bill that would have extended the 8-hour workday and overtime pay to workers on farms. Schwarzenegger said that he vetoed the bill because it was impractical to impose the 8-hour workday in the agriculture business because “it is seasonal, subject to unpredictability of Mother Nature and requires the harvesting of perishable goods.”
The sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) said that the governor’s veto amounts to special treatment for giant agribusiness and “second-class treatment” of workers on farms. Florez aims to reverse the 1941 California law that exempts farm employees from being paid overtime, or 1 1/2 times the normal rate, for any hours worked beyond an 8-hour day.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, California is the only state that offers any overtime pay for agricultural employees. In 1976, the 1941 statute was modified to provide overtime for time worked beyond 10 hours. In addition, state regulators said that overtime would be provided for all work on the seventh day of a week after putting in six days in a row of 10 hours or more.
Both small organic growers and large agribusinesses spoke out against the passage of the bill, saying that it would be burdensome to their businesses and could actually hurt both consumers and agricultural employees. Those working for farmworkers’ rights say that they will continue to fight for an 8-hour day in order to make the job safer and because they say it is only right to provide the same compensation for those harvesting crops as those selling or shipping the crops.
Schwarzenegger vetoes overtime for farmworkers (Los Angeles Times)