The state Wage Board has recommended lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers to 40 hours per week.
The Citizen reports the three-member panel made three recommendations concerning farm overtime Friday. The reduction from 60 to 40 hours would take place gradually over a ten-year period. The threshold would go to 56 hours in 2024, 52 hours in 2026, 48 in 2028, 44 in 2030 and finally, 40 hours per week in 2032.
Supporters of the 40 hour threshold say it will match how overtime is paid in most other lines of work. Farmers and many Republican lawmakers oppose the change, saying it will be too costly for farmers and would force some farms out of business.
Grow NY Farms issued a statement against the ruling:
“The Farm Laborers Wage Board voted two-to-one to recommend lowering the overtime threshold to 40 hours a week over the next decade, despite 70% of the testimony made by farmers and farmworkers who asked for overtime to stay at 60. It is disingenuous and irresponsible that the data, research, and comments made from those who know agriculture best were cast aside by the majority of the Wage Board. Changing the overtime threshold to 40 hours a week for farmworkers in New York means that these workers will be limited to 40 hours, due to simple farm economics. This is not a win for farmworkers that self-proclaimed worker advocates will claim.
Agricultural production, diversification, and job availability will suffer. That is no scare tactic. We have already seen farmworkers leave the state for more hours of work and production shift to less labor-intensive crops since the farm labor legislation was enacted in January 2020. Further collapse of New York agriculture is on the hands of those who spread falsehoods and look to destroy the livelihoods of farmworkers they say they represent. This is also a loss for New Yorkers who enjoy and depend on access to local food, something that was highlighted during the pandemic.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher voted against lowering the threshold, simply asking for more time to study the economic impacts of a lower threshold. Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon must now do what is right and let the facts be their guide. If this administration cares about the future of upstate New York, Long Island, and urban access to locally produced food, they must put a stop to the constant regulatory assault on agriculture.
Grow NY Farms would like to thank everyone who testified this year. The care and respect they have for their employees were clear from the beginning. No wage board decision can take that away. We all value essential farm work and want the very best for farm employees, that includes the ability to earn a livelihood in the profession they have chosen.”
The proposal will be forwarded state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, who will make the final decision.