Farmers alarmed as NY appears at expanded OT for his or her staff

SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — The 1000’s of individuals paid to plant corn, decide apples and milk cows in New York usually work lengthy days, six days every week — and earn extra time solely after 60 hours of labor.

The state is now decreasing that extra time threshold. New York may probably be part of California and Washington state in phasing in a 40-hour extra time rule for farm fingers, a threshold frequent in different industries.

“We’d like a greater high quality of life,” mentioned veteran dairy employee Lazaro Alvarez. He’s amongst those that say the change is lengthy overdue for an estimated 55,000 agricultural staff in New York, many from Mexico, Guatemala and different international locations outdoors america.

However the prospect is alarming farmers. They warn the additional prices would wipe out marginal farms, hobble others and really scale back staff’ earnings if farmers cap hours to handle bills.

“Whereas the trade total might survive, many particular person farms won’t,” Chris Laughton of Farm Credit score East, a lender for the agriculture trade within the Northeast, testified this month.

At Welcome Inventory Farm close to Saratoga Springs, Invoice Peck mentioned extra time after 40 hours for the farm’s 18 full-time staff would price him as much as an additional $12,000 a month. Dairy farmers like Peck say they can not merely elevate costs to replicate added bills, since wholesale milk costs are regulated.

“We aren’t going to have the ability to put money into a brand new tractor. We aren’t going to have the ability to put money into including one other barn,” mentioned Peck. “That cash goes to go simply into payroll, so which is sweet for them within the quick time period, however long run the enterprise can’t survive.”

Crop farmers who develop greens and apples say they might be significantly exhausting hit when additional seasonal labor is required. They are saying greater extra time prices will make them much less aggressive with farms in different states.

Farm staff in New York didn’t qualify for extra time pay in any respect till 2020, when the state modified the legislation to mandate additional pay for staff who exceeded 60 hours every week. The brand new legislation additionally instructed a three-person “wage board” to contemplate whether or not to advocate a decrease threshold.

The board Friday is holding its fourth of 4 hearings this month. It should make suggestions to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s labor commissioner, who can settle for, reject or modify them.

Common hourly wages for agricultural staff within the area final 12 months have been $16.16, in line with federal figures, although some earn the minimal wage of $13.20.

Alvarez, a 63-year-old from Mexico Metropolis, mentioned extra time after 40 hours would scale back stress for staff like himself and provides them a greater high quality of life.

“I will have checkups on the physician, I will purchase private gadgets. I’ll have time for me,” Alvarez mentioned in Spanish.

The wage board may advocate briefly retaining the 60-hour establishment, which they did as soon as earlier than.

Additionally they may observe the lead of California and decrease farm extra time ranges in phases over a number of years. Bigger farms in California needed to start offering extra time after 40 hours beginning this 12 months. Farms with 25 or fewer staff will hit the 40-hour mark in 2025.

Washington state approved a law final 12 months phasing in extra time pay for agricultural staff.

A number of different states supply some farm staff extra time, with limitations and exceptions. Trent Taylor, an lawyer with the advocacy group Farmworker Justice, mentioned extra states are contemplating the proposals because the nation grapples extra with labor and racial points.

“We’re gaining momentum,” Taylor mentioned.

Nationally, farm staff have been excluded from the extra time provisions of the landmark 1938 Truthful Labor Requirements Act. On the time, the U.S. was solely 73 years faraway from outlawing slavery. Advocates say persevering with to depart them out perpetuates an injustice towards a career lengthy dominated by individuals of coloration.

“This exclusion of farm staff is the very definition of what we name structural racism. It was a coverage rooted in racism 85 years in the past and has develop into so baked into the system that individuals don’t even notice it anymore,” mentioned Lisa Zucker, an lawyer on the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Farmers argue that the well-meaning coverage wouldn’t be in the most effective pursuits of the numerous migrant staff who come north throughout harvest seasons to make as a lot cash as potential, usually to ship again dwelling. That’s as a result of they could possibly be compelled to restrict hours to mitigate extra time bills.

“Hours will go down and there can be much less internet pay for individuals,” mentioned Mark Russell of Two of Golf equipment Orchard in western New York. He mentioned farmers are fearful about dropping staff to different states.

A number of farm staff made comparable arguments in testimony this month.

Although hiring extra staff is a typical technique for lowering extra time prices, farmers say the labor market is tight and hiring staff would require farmers to put money into extra housing. Farms routinely present free housing to staff.

Employee advocates dismiss farmers’ dire predictions, noting that different industries have tailored to extra time and that New York farms have already tailored to greater minimal wages and 60-hour extra time.

“If there’s one lesson to glean from this pandemic, it’s that those that compromise their well being, security and well-being to maintain our important industries going deserve dignity and respect,” Emma Kreyche of the Employee Justice Middle testified not too long ago.


Related Press author Claudia Torrens contributed from New York Metropolis.


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