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Assembly Bill Quickens Overtime Pay For Farm Workers

Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Strawberry pickers in Watsonville, Calif. Many farmworkers in the state are out of work because of the severe drought. Those who do have a job are often working harder for less money.

Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

A bill moving through the California Legislature would require farm laborers to receive overtime pay when they work more than eight hours in a day. Current law allows them to work up to ten hours a day, six days a week, before companies must pay overtime.

The agriculture industry opposes the bill, which passed an Assembly committee Wedneday.

Brian White of Western United Dairymen says workers will receive fewer hours instead of overtime pay.

"We think this bill will hurt our workers, 50 percent which have already left the state due to excessive labor and economic challenges, including the price of milk, which we don't control," White said. "So, if this bill were to pass, we cannot pass that on to our consumers."

Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored the bill.

"When my father came to this country, would he have worked 20 hours a day if you let him? Yes. Would he have worked for less than the minimum wage? Yes, he would," Gonzalez said. "But we are a state that's decided there are regulations to keep workers safe."

The bill next moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.