Thursday, July 29, 2010

Governor Vetoes Farm Worker Overtime Bill

Sen. Florez is right, the differential labor laws for agriculture are discrimination, and it is a shame that the Governor turned down this opportunity to right a historic injustice. 

Echoing the farm bureau's position, the Governor says the veto is justified because agriculture is "different."  However, the biggest difference in agriculture labor from other industries is its history of poverty and exploitation, not the characteristics cited here as excuses not to modernize the industry.  Seasonality, weather, thin profit margins describe many industries, some more than farming which has faired relatively well in the recession.

The Governor touts the importance of leadership when he wants California to go beyond other states in cutting greenhouse gases, but when it comes to farm worker rights, he hides behind the fact that other states exempt agriculture from labor rules.  He should adopt his global warming attitude on this issue, position California as a leader, and as the state with the most labor-intensive agriculture industry we can clearly lead the way in securing equal rights for farm workers in the entire United States.

Yes, I am a mainstream economist, and I agree that this bill will do more than just take money from the pockets of farm owners and put it in the pockets of farm workers.  There will be side-effects such as adjustments to work schedules, incentives for mechanization and other efforts to reduce the increased labor costs created by the bill.  However, some of these side-effects are actually good for the Valley Economy in the long-run and do not overly concern me. 

If this is too costly and burdensome for agricultural businesses, then California labor laws are too costly and burdensome for all businesses.  Once standards are aligned, farmers are free to work with other businesses for relief from the rules.

See a post from a few weeks ago for more comments.

1 comment:

  1. There was some justification for making an exemption for irrigators (other workers do get overtime, although on a 50 hour/10 hour day basis), because there used to be fairly long "siesta" periods between sets of water. Nowadays, that is far less common. This whole thing has jogged my conscience, and I am going to pay ot to everyone from here on out. Anyone who has worked for an hourly paycheck understands this.