The Oregon Legislature approves pay for overtime workers

SALEM, Rud. – Farmers in Oregon will receive overtime under a bill passed by the legislature on Thursday after more than 1,000 people testified, including agricultural workers who felt they had been used for too long for their important work.

If the lips.

“Oregon farmers should not be excluded from the same remedies as other Oregon workers,” said Sen. Kathleen Taylor, a Democrat from Portland who was one of the main sponsors of the bill. “We depend on farm workers to keep food on our tables and feed our families.”

Oregon Senate passed the bill on a vote of 17 to 10 on Thursday, two days after it passed in the House of Representatives by 37 votes to 23. Brown voted in favor of the bill, which then goes through the standard process of consideration of her office.

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The effects of climate change were cited by some people who testified on the bill, showing that agricultural workers are in the fields despite rising temperatures – Oregon endured record heat last summer, sending thermometers to 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48 Celsius) – and in the forest fire smoke.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen how much these workers are really needed as they continue to emerge despite a respiratory pandemic, forest fires, winter storms and deadly heat,” said Connie Yost, president of the Northwest Ministry. rural workers. who advocates for the fairness and empowerment of farm workers.

Farmer workers, who in Oregon are mostly Latin American immigrants, also spoke for themselves in written testimonies in Spanish with an English translation.

“Last year we worked hard during the heat, and there was no shade during the break and lunch,” wrote Josephine Torres, a kindergarten worker in Salem, Oregon.

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“We, agricultural workers, do not have access to overtime pay, although we do one of the hardest jobs,” wrote Miguel Nieves, who has worked in the field for 33 years. “It is important to support overtime work for agricultural workers because we are the foundation of this country.”

The Oregon Farmers’ Bureau predicted that the bill “would be a death knell for the Oregon State’s fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy industry” and that many farmers would reduce their working hours and mechanize to avoid overtime pay or leave Oregon altogether.

Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, agricultural workers were excluded from overtime work.

Sandy Chang, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said the exception was racist because agricultural field jobs at the time were predominantly occupied by black workers, and now in Oregon it is mostly Latinos.

Pat Dudley, owner of the Bethel Heights vineyard and distillery near Salem, told lawmakers that “we have taken this discriminatory practice for granted for too long.”

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“It is long overdue to rectify this unfair exclusion of agricultural workers from the significant benefits enjoyed by workers in all other sectors of our economy,” Dudley said.

Washington Gov. Jay Insley last year signed a bill that provides a phased path to full pay for overtime for agricultural workers by 2024. In 2022, they pay for overtime for any time worked over 55 hours per week; 48 hours per week in 2023; and 40 hours per week until 2024.

In California, the then governor. In 2016, Jerry Brown signed a law under which agricultural workers in the country’s largest agricultural state are entitled to the same overtime pay as most other hourly workers. California regulations come into effect this year for most businesses and in 2025 for farms with 25 or fewer employees.

In New York State, agricultural workers earn overtime only after 60 hours of work. But in January, he took a big step toward lowering that threshold when the state council voted to recommend introducing a 40-hour overtime rule for agricultural workers over the next 10 years. The recommendation is subject to approval by the state labor commissioner.

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Brown, a Democrat, believes the Oregon bill, which was passed Thursday, is trying to find a balance between supporting farmers and the Oregon state’s agricultural sector, said her spokeswoman Liz Merah. The governor appreciated the contribution that many Oregon residents have made to the bill, and will consider the bill when it comes to her desk, Merah said.

The legislation sets overtime pay requirements for agricultural workers in Oregon after 40 hours per week, with the requirements coming in over a five-year period, starting at 55 hours per week in 2023-24, 48 hours per week in 2025-26, and then 40 hours per week starting in 2027.

The bill also creates a refundable tax credit to provide economic support to employers when they provide overtime agricultural workers.

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