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Should New York lower overtime threshold for farmworkers?

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 4:59 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - The New York State Farm Wage Board is holding virtual hearings all throughout January to talk about changing the overtime threshold in the state.

Farming is a major industry in the North Country. Our Kelly O’Brien checked in to see what farms in the area are saying.

The New York State Farm Wage Board is tasked with deciding whether the state should lower the 60-hour threshold for overtime.

“I am confident that you will arrive at a recommendation that both protects the rights of workers while still allowing New York state farms to compete and thrive in the state and global economy,” NYSDOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon said.

The board has done the research, looking at farms’ incomes, employee retention rates, worker protections under the Fair Labor Practices Act, and compared New York state practices to other states-- particularly California-- with worker and overtime protections for farmworkers.

Those in favor of lowering the threshold say it comes down to being fair to these workers and they call the current laws that stem from the Jim Crow Laws-era outdated.

“There is simply no more economic justification to continue to deny our farmworkers a standard overtime trigger after 40 hours a week or any other basic labor rights,” said Frankie Miranda of the Hispanic Federation.

But those against lowering the threshold say farms won’t be able to afford to pay the overtime costs and would have to let go of farmworkers.

“Make no mistake, farms are already struggling terribly. Many animal, fruit and vegetable farms are going out of business, including ones in my own Clinton County,” said Jesse Mulberry of Northern Orchards.

Farmworkers are speaking out, too, saying the 60 hours allow them to make the money they need to support their families.

“In other industries, people have to work multiple jobs to achieve the hours needed to make a living. Here, we can work alongside the owners and supervisors in one place and achieve a good living,” said Domain Valasquez, a farmworker.

So many people signed up for the hearing they have added another hearing this Friday. Click here for all the details.

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