OpEd: Farmworkers Need Fair Overtime Pay
Rodolfo Mendez, Martir Zambrano and Jorge Ramirez penned an OpEd in the NY Daily News this week calling for New York to close a loophole in the NY Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act which allows farmworkers to only receive overtime after working 60 hours in a week, instead of 40 like almost all of the rest of NY's workers. Mendez, Zambrano and Ramirez are among the first unionized farmworkers in the state as members of Agricultural Workers United-NY, which is a project of the RWDSU and the UFCW.
The law, which was enacted in 2019, does provide an opportunity to review the overtime disparity. It called for the Department of Labor to hold a wage board hearing 18 months after the 2019 passage to reconsider the issue. But since those 18 months fell in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board at the time put the issue off while farmworkers continued to toil away.
"Our local’s first union contract will yield us needed protections and a fair pay structure," the workers write. "One change in particular could be overtime pay after 40 hours. However, there is absolutely no reason we shouldn’t already be seen as equal under the law. There is no reason that farmworkers seeking union protections shouldn’t already have this as a baseline for our pay, just like everybody else. [...] Our wages are extremely low as it is. Our work is work not many want to do. We do it to provide for our families. It’s long past time that the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act live up to its name and guarantee fair pay for fair work." Read the full OpEd here!