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New York passes farm labor law

New York passes farm labor law

The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act includes overtime pay and days off

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

New York lawmakers recently passed a piece of legislation that could have significant effects on the state’s ag industry.

On June 19, the New York State Assembly passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which includes one day off per week for farm workers and overtime pay after 60 hours of work per week. The law would also give employees the right to join a union and collectively bargain.

Governor Cuomo intends to sign the bill and the law would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, reports indicate.

Ensuring ag employees have better working conditions is important, said Carl Heastie, speaker of the New York State Assembly.

“Farmworkers deserve proper protections for the physically taxing, sometimes dangerous work they do that fuels our agricultural sector and puts food on our tables,” he said in a June 19 statement. “They are vital to keeping New York’s farms working and play a pivotal role in the health and well-being of our residents.”

Many producers, however, oppose the bill.

James Entwistle, a dairy farmer from Frankfort, N.Y., worries how he’ll pay his 20 full-time employees for overtime.

“We’ve got some workers here putting in 70, 75 plus hours per week,” he told News Channel 2 on Wednesday. “I’m kind of concerned where (legislators) think this money is going to come from.”

And not all state politicians are in favor of the bill.

Limiting the number of days employees can work could have them looking elsewhere for employment, said State Senator Chris Jacobs.

“Farm owners have argued that if employees are denied the opportunity to work the maximum numbers of hours they would like to, and that are required due to the timing and conditions of the products that need to be harvested, they will simply go elsewhere for work,” he said in a June 20 statement. “Their most likely destinations will be states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, or to Canada, all of whom compete directly with New York farms.”

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