Recommendation furthers progress from 2019 legislation, overturns legacy of racial exclusion
NEW YORK – Today, the Farm Laborer Wage Board voted to recommend that Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon decrease the state’s farmworker overtime threshold to 40 hours over the course of the next ten years, beginning January 1, 2024.
In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from executive director Donna Lieberman:
“The workers on whom we depend for the food on our tables have waited over 80 years for dignity and to be afforded the same basic workplace protections as all other New Yorkers. We urge Commissioner Reardon and Governor Hochul to accept the Wage Board’s recommendations and bring an end to the Jim Crow-era injustice and discrimination against farmworkers that the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act was intended to reverse.
“New York’s agriculture industry must no longer depend on the continued exploitation of farmworkers. The NYCLU will continue to stand with farmworkers in the fight for equal workplace protections, fair compensation, and basic rights across New York State.”
The recommendation comes two years after farmworkers won the right to organize and bargain collectively, with one crucial loophole: the overtime threshold was set at 60 hours, instead of the 40-hour protection afforded to other hourly workers. The law created a farm laborer wage board to further consider whether the overtime threshold could be lowered and make its recommendation.
The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act came after decades of organizing and lobbying by farmworkers and allies from across the state, as well as an appellate court ruling that farmworkers have a state constitutional right to organize. The case was brought by Crispin Hernandez, Workers’ Center of Central New York, and the Worker Justice Center of New York, with representation by the NYCLU.