Farmers furious as N.Y. looks to lower overtime limit

New York state is looking at lowering the farm worker overtime threshold from 60 hours a week.
New York state is looking at lowering the farm worker overtime threshold from 60 hours a week.(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 29, 2022 at 11:14 PM EST
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SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York’s farming families say they’re furious as the state looks to lower the cap on allowed overtime.

The Farm Laborer Wage Board voted Friday to gradually decrease the threshold over the next decade from 60 hours a week to 40 hours a week.

The decision was made despite 70% of the testimony from farmers asking for the rule to stay as it is.

If the recommendation is approved by the state labor commissioner, New York would join California and Washington state in phasing in an overtime threshold common in other industries.

But the prospect is alarming to farmers who warn the extra costs could cripple the state’s agricultural industry.

The North Country’s leaders are bashing the move, urging the board to reconsider.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, writes in a statement: ““This decision by the Farm Laborers Wage Board proves once again how out-of-touch Albany Democrats are with our agricultural community. By lowering the overtime threshold, they are jeopardizing the future of New York’s agriculture industry and putting thousands of farm laborers out of work, increasing the unemployment rate in New York and across the nation. The North Country is home to thousands of dairy farmers, apple growers, and maple producers, who work tirelessly to provide for our communities but will sadly will be forced to bear the burdens of another poor decision made in Albany.”

Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, writes in a statement: ““The Farm Laborers Wage Board decision to lower the overtime threshold sets our local agriculture industry and family farmers up for failure. Despite widespread opposition from farmers across the state, the unelected bureaucrats on the board have moved forward with a new mandate that could jeopardize the future of agriculture in our communities and state.

“At a time when residents are leaving our state in droves and opportunities are dwindling, now is certainly not the time to move forward with an unpopular mandate that makes it harder for farmers to hire workers.

“Agriculture is the economic backbone of this state and everyone agrees that both farmers and farmworkers deserve a fair deal. The Farm Laborer Wage Board’s move harms both. I urge the board to reconsider this decision, before it leads to further exodus from New York State.”

Assemblyman Billy Jones writes in a statement: “Coming from a farming community, and growing up as a farmer, I am disappointed in the Farm Laborers Wage Board decision to lower the overtime threshold for farmworkers from 60 hours a week to 40 hours a week. This decision contradicts the testimony we heard at the previous hearings, where 70% of the testimony by farmers and farmworkers asked for the threshold to stay at 60 hours. As we heard in the testimony this decision will hurt both our farmworkers in making the income they desire, and our agricultural industry throughout New York State. Farmworkers made it clear in their testimony they will look to other states where they will have the ability to work more hours, only increasing the difficulty our agricultural businesses have in finding employees. At a time when we should be looking to support our farmers, the Farm Laborers Wage Board decision makes it harder for them to do business in New York State. New York State has often promoted buying local and sourcing local New York grown food to our residents but lowering the threshold only makes reaching these goals harder. As I work through the budget process, I will continue to work to help support agriculture in our state.”

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