OTHERS SAY: Farm workers should make real overtime, too

OTHERS SAY: Farm workers should make real overtime, too

Whether you had Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends or enjoyed turkey or a vegan turkey substitute alone, you and everyone else does eat, and that food got to your plate and bowl from the labor of farmworkers. Yet the labor of farmworkers is not treated equally to the labor of other human beings.

The law of New York and every other state discriminates against field hands. That is fundamentally unfair and unjust, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year.

We could actually write this editorial every day, or even three times a day, as food, along with clean water, is the most elemental of human needs. Yet this most essential of occupations, the noble work of pulling sustenance from the Earth and livestock, is put below everyone else on the totem pole.

We’re making progress in this state. Most of the exclusions of farmworkers in New York were abolished with the 2019 passage of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act. Finally, they get days off and other protections and the right to organize and bargain collectively. But agricultural employees are still deprived of fair overtime wages, the time-and-a-half premium pay after 40 hours a week. The law, which took effect on the first day of 2020, sets a 60 hour OT standard for farmworkers, and just for them.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Department of Labor will be appointing a Wage Board by Dec. 15 to consider reducing the 60-hour threshold. The voice that matters here is hers; the governor must push to get it as close to 40 as fast as possible. The growers don’t value them enough to pay them fairly. Set OT at 40 hours, governor.

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