A bill that would give California farm workers overtime pay for working fewer hours per week was recently approved in the state Senate. The bill, S.B. 1211, would allow farm workers to receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a week, down from the current 60-hour threshold.
The bill now goes to the California Assembly for consideration.
State Sen. Dean Florez introduced the bill in February to repeal the 10-hour daily overtime requirement for agricultural employees, which had been in effect since 1941.
Agricultural industry interests strongly opposed the bill, arguing that farmers require flexibility in scheduling work.
Noting that federal law exempts agricultural workers from overtime pay, a coalition of agricultural groups—including the Agricultural Council of California, the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce—pointed out that the California Welfare Commission has accepted the need to allow for a 10-hour day in the fields.
According to the coalition, the bill would force farmers to hire more workers instead of reducing hours for those currently employed.
“California’s family farmers cannot successfully compete with other states and nations if they are forced to increase their production costs,” a coalition statement said. “Profit margins in agriculture are razor thin—farmers cannot remain successful if they must absorb a 10% increase in labor costs.”