California’s agricultural workers are now covered by critical labor laws previously reserved for nonagricultural workers.
A 2015 survey of agricultural workers in Ventura County conducted by the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), found that some farmworkers did not receive overtime pay, were provided with inadequate breaks, and were working despite being injured. Moreover, the report showed that farmworkers experienced wage theft and paycheck discrepancies. The story of “Juan” highlights the magnitude and prevalence of wage theft:
“There are days when we get off work at 1 pm and we have to stay and wait for our check until 3 pm and although we are off work we are put to clean … They don’t pay us for those two extra hours. If we don’t stay then we can’t pick up our check until next Monday.”
Agricultural workers were excluded from wage protections and overtime compensation requirements that were in place for workers in other industries under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938. This meant that farms were not required to pay overtime to workers until they worked over 10 hours in a workday or 60 hours a week, unlike other industries where overtime is paid after 8 hours or 40 hours a week. In 2016, advocates like CAUSE supported the passage and signing of AB-1066, a bill changing California law to include these workers in existing law that implements protections for working hours, standard meal periods, and a timetable to phase agricultural workers into overtime pay similar to workers in other industries. As a result of AB-1066, California became the first state to require overtime be paid to farmworkers who work beyond an 8-hour day. To learn more about the issues farmworkers face in the workplace read CAUSE’s full report here. To learn more about AB-1066 read an article from Capital Public Radio here and read the bill here.
Photo credit: Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio