California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday vetoed a bill that would have given farmworkers overtime pay after eight hours of work in a day and 40 hours in a week.
In returning Senate Bill 1121 without his signature, Schwarzenegger said the measure, "while well-intended, will not improve the lives of California’s agricultural workers and instead will result in additional burdens on California businesses, increased unemployment and lower wages."
Businesses trying to compete under the proposed rules might have become unprofitable and gone out of business, resulting in further damage to California’s "already fragile economy," Schwarzenegger added in a statement released to members of the California State Senate.
"We’re grateful the governor vetoed the bill," California Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Dave Kranz said today. "It would have reduced wages for individual farmworkers while adding complications for family farmers and ranchers."
Kranz said farmers would have been forced to bring in additional workers rather than pay overtime for those who had already worked eight hours.
While federal law exempts workers employed in agriculture from overtime pay altogether, current California law already makes farmworkers eligible for overtime after working 10 hours in a day, or a 60-hour week. It’s the only state with a provision for daily overtime pay for farmworkers, Kranz said.
When California passed its "Eight-Hour-Day Restoration and Workplace Flexibility Act of 1999," the Legislature specifically exempted agricultural workers from such overtime requirements. The state’s legislators did so "recognizing that agricultural work is different from other industries: it is seasonal, subject to the unpredictability of Mother Nature, and requires the harvesting of perishable goods," Schwarzenegger noted in yesterday’s statement.
SB 1121 was first introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, D-Shafter, in February. The State Senate and Assembly each passed the bill earlier this month.
Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.