New York

Ho-Chol Administration Approves Plan for Farm Labor Overtime Standards | News

Albany — New York’s farm lobby lost a major lobbying battle on Friday when the Hochul administration approved plans to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers to 40 hours a week in a series of stages.

The decision, announced by former labor union leader Roberta Reardon, head of the state labor department, drew ire from Northern Republican lawmakers.

“In a state where agriculture is the largest economic force, this decision will have devastating consequences, not just for farmers, but for everyone who needs food on the table to feed their families,” said Niagara County’s State Senate Republican leader Rob Ort was outraged.

Republican Ossego County Sen. Pete Overacker, who represents a district with numerous farms, was similarly vocal, calling the decision “a new impetus for the men and women who work the land and put food on our tables.” was denounced.

But Reardon said he believed recommendations from the Democratic-dominated Farm Workers Wages Commission “are the best way to ensure fairness for farm workers and the success of farm businesses.” .

The Department of Labor is a state executive branch under the control of Governor Kathy Hochul.

Proponents of lowering the overtime threshold from 60 hours a week to 40 hours a week say the potential earnings gains for farm workers will be subsidized by state tax credits. The threshold will be lowered in a series of stages, and in 2032 he will implement the 40-hour standard.

A dispute over overtime standards on farms has become an issue in the gubernatorial race. Long Island legislator and Republican nominee Lee Zeldin held several campaign events with farmers, arguing that the move to 40-hour workweeks would hurt farm businesses statewide. .

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher, the sole farm community member of the three-member wage committee, condemned the decision.

He said many workers would not understand that overtime pay would be higher.

He said such concerns were raised at hearings held by the Wages Commission, but Reardon, who was first appointed to the post by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was provided by an agricultural economics expert. “Simply ignored” the testimony.

“Farms will have to make tough decisions about what to grow, how much time they can offer their employees, and how competitive they are in the market,” Fisher said.

In recent weeks, Gov. Kathy Hochul has come under pressure from the New York Civil Liberties Union and other progressive groups to rush to lower the bar for overtime pay to 40 hours.

The NYCLU claims farm work is twice as dangerous as law enforcement and five times as dangerous as firefighting.

“These harms only increase with hours worked, but farm owners have no incentive to cut brutal schedules beyond 40 hours a week,” the NYCLU said.

Opponents of the 40 hour standard say seasonal farm workers (mostly immigrants) will go to other states because they fear it will limit the number of hours they can work in New York. claim.

“If Gov. Ho-Chol has the ability to step in and stop this harmful decision, she must do so immediately,” said Grow, who represents a coalition of farming groups including the New York Apple Association and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. NY Farms said in a statement.

Current plans call for the overtime threshold to be lowered to 52 hours per week in early 2026.

Agriculture was exempt from federal labor standards adopted in 1938. The Depression-era law, adopted before mechanized farming became widespread, exempts farms from overtime rules, and proponents have cited the seasonal nature of farming.

D-Broom County Rep. Donna Rupardo, a leading Democrat, urged the federal government to address issues “very important” for farmers, including “immigrant reform and updating 1930s farm wage rules.” I am asking for Ho-Chol Administration Approves Plan for Farm Labor Overtime Standards | News

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