“It’s a very historic and momentous occasion for farmworkers that they now, for the first time in the history of agricultural labor, have the same rights as all other Californians do,” UFW Foundation government affairs deputy director Eriberto Fernandez told Fresno Bee. He noted how farmworkers (as well as domestic workers) were intentionally excluded from workplace protections nearly a century ago. “For the first time since the 1930s, equal overtime pay now also applies to farmworkers,” he said.
The state bill was authored and championed by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who resigned earlier this month to head the California Labor Federation. “None of my bills stole my heart more,” she wrote in a tweet on Jan. 5 . “Today is my last official day as an Assemblywoman. It’s fitting that I will spend this morning with the UFW celebrating the implementation of Farmworker Overtime—the 8 hour day for agricultural workers.”
In another recent labor win, thousands of seasonal farmworkers will get their much-deserved raises, thanks to litigation launched by farmworker advocacy groups that challenged a despicable plan by the previous administration to freeze wages for two years. “Thousands of farmworkers will get raises thanks to a lawsuit,” UFW tweeted last month. “Alongside allies @FarmwrkrJustice and @ufwfoundation, we blocked the Trump administration move that would have withheld $1.6 billion from farm workers over the next 10 years.”
But employers are apparently unhappy about having to pay workers more despite seeing record production thanks to their workers. “Fresno County broke its own record for agricultural and livestock production in 2020, peaking at more than $7.98 billion, according to the crop report from county Agricultural Commissioner Melissa Cregan,” Fresno Bee continued.
“These are the same arguments that we hear over and over again about how these laws are going to destroy agribusiness in California,” Fernandez continued in the report. “And if anything, we’ve seen the opposite—we’ve seen the California businesses thriving. For them, it’s a matter of economics and of profitability. They’re choosing to shorten worker hours to save money that they would otherwise have paid for overtime pay.”
For years, hundreds of thousands of farmworkers toiling in CA’s agricultural heartland weren’t entitled to overtime pay unless they worked 10+ hours a day. But as of Jan. 1, employers must provide overtime pay past the 8-hour mark. https://t.co/42avG51nvQ
— Nadia Lopez (@n_llopez) January 10, 2022
It’s shameful, greedy behavior considering these workers feed America. They’ve done it throughout this pandemic, deemed “essential workers” yet still not protected from deportation if they lack legal status. Now as the fast-spreading omicron variant hits the U.S., their labor is still expected. Their labor is still expected as permanent relief gets blocked by one unelected Senate staffer. These workers, like Lourdes Cárdenas, show up for us without fail. When are we going to show up for them?