Gov. Rejects Farmworker Overtime Bill

Veto keeps decades-old labor law in place

Thursday, Jul 29, 2010  |  Updated 7:45 AM PDT
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A Day in the Life of a Farmworker

Damian Trujillo

Farmworkers are a group who are key to the California and the American economy.

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A Day in the Life of a Farmworker

They do the jobs noone else wants.
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Think your day is long after working more than eight hours? Try hard labor on the farm -- with no overtime until 10 hours on the job.

That's the position farmworkers in California are in after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected a law that would have given them the same pay rights as the rest of the state's residents.

Schwarzenegger on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have given California farmworkers overtime pay after working 40 hours in a week, the same as other non-management employees who earn time-and-a-half after an eight-hour day or 40-hour week.

Farm laborers will continue to be paid overtime after working 10 hours in a day or a 60-hour week under an exemption that dates to 1941.

California already is "the most progressive state in the nation" because it provides limited overtime for agriculture workers, Schwarzenegger said in his veto message. He noted federal law exempts farmworkers from any overtime pay. The California Farm Bureau Federation says only Maryland and Minnesota require farmers to pay workers overtime if they exceed a weekly limit.

The Legislature, Schwarzenegger said, has long held that "agricultural work is different from other industries: It is seasonal, subject to the unpredictability of Mother Nature, and requires the harvesting of perishable goods."

He said increasing overtime would harm agribusinesses and make California's largest industry less competitive with other states. The industry employs as many as 450,000 workers in the peak harvest months of August and September.

State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, who authored SB1121, said the Republican governor missed a chance to reverse a practice that treats farmworkers as a lower class.

"They want to be treated with dignity the same as other workers around the state. He decided to keep the caste system in place," said Florez, whose father and grandparents worked the fields.

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