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Business leaders urge Hochul to scrap farm overtime change

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  • Staff Report 

Three business groups have sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul calling on her to support a State Senate bill that would overturn a plan to reduce the threshold for paying overtime to farm workers from 60 to 40 hours.

Senate bill calls for disbanding Farm Laborers Wage Board

The bill, sponsored by 57th District Republican Senator George M. Borrello, would not only keep the overtime threshold at 60 hours but would disband the state’s Farm Laborers Wage Board. That board is expected to meet this week and call for lowering the standard to 40 hours. The three-member board, NY Farm Bureau President David Fisher, former NY AFL-CIO President Dennis Hughes, and former Buffalo Urban League President Brenda McDuffie, was created by the passage of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act in 2019.

The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday and make its recommendation to state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, who will then have 45 days to reach a final decision.

A number of Republican lawmakers have come out in opposition to the change, despite tax breaks placed in this year’s state budget by Governor Kathy Hochul, who says they will help offset the increase in labor costs to farmers.

Bcnys Nfib Uu Augustfarmletter by Ted Baker on Scribd

Related: The New York State Department of Labor announces Farm Laborers Wage Board virtual meeting on September 6

Grow NY Farms: wage board is “stacked against agriculture”

Statement from the Grow NY Farms Coalition: “New York State depends on the viability of our agriculture sector. Everyone needs to eat, and farms employ tens of thousands of well-trained people who help get food on our tables. Farmers and farmworkers work with and support so many local businesses, many raise their families here, and they invest back into their communities. All the research, surveys, and data have shown us that if an overtime threshold is lowered below 60 hours in New York State, our farmworkers will leave, our family-owned businesses will suffer, and our communities will end up trucking in food from even farther distances to stock grocery store shelves. Yet a Wage Board, that’s stacked against agriculture, continues to ignore logic, and defy reason. 

We fully support Senate Bill S.9509, and farmers and farmworkers across New York appreciate the support of the state’s business community. We also urge the Department of Labor and Governor to hold off on any decisions relating to overtime until after the United States Department of Agriculture releases its 2022 Census of Agriculture in 2024, which will provide additional data that will inform decisions around this important issue.”

Related: INSIDE THE FLX: Cornell study of ag overtime shows effects of 40 hour threshold (podcast)