New York Farm Bureau Statement Calling for DOL Wage Board to Base Overtime Decision on Facts
The farming community presented a compelling case before the Department of Labor’s Farm Labor Wage Board. One growing season is not enough time to make a reasonable decision that will have far-reaching impacts on the state’s food system and job opportunities for thousands of employees. An economic analysis of the farm labor legislation that was enacted just this year and its 60-hour overtime threshold is needed to best inform the decision making on whether that threshold should be lowered.
Farmers, employees, labor groups and lawmakers all agreed last year that 60 hours was a reasonable threshold. It provides a balance for farms that can’t set prices in a highly competitive marketplace while also providing hours and pay that many employees are seeking during New York’s short growing season. But lowering it further will likely make things more difficult for workers and farmers. Employees testified they would leave the state to find more available hours elsewhere, often in states with fewer labor protections than here in New York. It would also raise labor costs that will be tough for farms to absorb, forcing difficult decisions to be made about their future and what they farm.
This has all played out in an extraordinary year where a NYFB survey found two-thirds of farms were negatively impacted by the pandemic. Food insecurity and the reliance on local food drives have climbed. All of this while the farm community has been proactive in protecting farmworkers and mitigating the spread of the virus. These events reinforce why the wage board decision is so profound this year. It must be based on data, not emotion. New York Farm Bureau is simply asking for time. We need to understand the long-term economic fallout and how labor is fairing under the new law for the betterment of all New Yorkers who depend on local agriculture. Let’s once again work together to make that happen.