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Farm Workers Look for Support in California Overtime Vote

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Sacramento, CAA sector of workers in the Golden State who were previously denied California overtime for hours worked under 10 per day may get their due with a vote scheduled for July 1 in the California legislature. Currently, certain sectors of workers—including salaried workers and those whose incomes are higher than a mandated threshold (such as in the computer IT industry)—are legally exempt from claiming California overtime pay under California overtime laws.

However, before today farm workers have also been exempt from earning California labor overtime when working fewer than ten hours in a given day.

A measure by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) would extend overtime pay provisions to farm workers for hours worked above eight per day. Unlike their counterparts in higher-paying jobs such as those found in the computer IT industry, farm workers earn relatively low wages for what is often back-breaking work in all kinds of weather.

Florez indicated in comments published on 6/30/10 in the Central Valley Business Times that he expects Senate Bill 1121 to pass the Assembly and move on to the desk of the Governor.

"I am hopeful that the governor's experience as an immigrant who initially supported himself through manual labor will give him empathy to grasp the importance of this bill to some of California's hardest workers," said Mr. Florez in a written statement.

It comes as no surprise that the agriculture industry is not happy about the prospect of paying additional California employee overtime, given the expectation of rising costs or a greater emphasis on management to mitigate overtime costs.

California Farm Bureau Federation Director of Labor Affairs Bryan Little said in a statement that agricultural workers are already entitled to California overtime for any work above 10 hours in any given day, together with all hours worked during a seventh consecutive day in any given workweek.

"SB 1121 will make California's overtime requirement the most onerous and expensive in the nation. Only three other states require overtime pay for agricultural workers, and none has such low thresholds as proposed in this bill," Little says.

It is not known if the state's current fiscal woes will have any bearing on the vote, or the governor's position on legislation that will require farm operations to increase spending on California labor overtime.

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