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Overtime threshold reduction moves ahead for farmworkers in New York

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  • Staff Report 

The Farm Laborers Wage Board submitted its final report Tuesday to Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, recommending reducing the state overtime threshold for farm workers to 40 hours.

It was a 2-1 vote, which sent a report recommending a gradual phase-in of the 40-hour threshold down from 60 over the next 10 years.

“What’s become clear throughout these proceedings is that action is needed,” Board Chair Brenda McDuffie said. “It is our duty to protect tens of thousands of farm workers and align their rights with those in other industries. We also have a duty to protect the farmers and farmers who are a significant part of our state’s economy and responsible for feeding New Yorkers and beyond.”

Here’s how it will work:

In 2024 the overtime threshold will be reduced to 56 hours, then 52 hours in 2026, 48 hours in 2028, 44 hours in 2030, and 40 hours in 2032.

“We believe that this decision protects the right of farm laborers while taking into account the needs of farmers,” Duffie added.

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher, who was the vote against the change, said his views were not considered. He was critical of the data, research, and full testimony that was provided.

Senator Pam Helming (R-54) said lowering the overtime threshold is another blow to the agriculture industry and threatens to drive small family farms out of business.

“The farmers and farmworkers I’ve spoken with across our district have shared how detrimental this decision would be. This was further reinforced by hours of testimony by farmers and employees at public hearings, and by a Cornell University study that showed the negative consequences this policy will have for farms and farmworkers. In short, we risk losing the farms that sustain our communities and the workers who help sustain our farms,” she said. “Albany continues to ignore the data, and the voices of our hardworking farmers and workers. I urge Labor Commissioner Reardon to reject the Board’s recommendation.”