California moves to add methane limits to climate agenda


Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored the bill to phase in overtime pay for farm workers. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says it's remarkable that it took until 2016 to guarantee farmworkers the same rights most other Californians enjoy. Opponents to the bill say the bill will have devastating impacts on small, independent farmers and the workers they employ. On Monday, state lawmakers passed a law that would give the state's 825,000-plus farmworkers overtime protection, requiring them to be paid more for extra hours like all other workers.

"The end result, if this is signed into law, is that farm operations will be driven toward more mechanization and fewer farmworkers, possibly changing the mix of crops that are produced here in the Salinas Valley".

The bill is now sent to Governor Jerry Brown. He hasn't publicly indicated his decision yet, but if he signs it, California - the country's largest agricultural producer - would become the first state to enact such a requirement. "But consider that California is one of only 5 states that even pays overtime, and none of them pay it after only 10 hours".

His employees said they feel the same way.

They pointed to an increasingly onerous level of regulation of agriculture that takes time and dilutes profits. It was the second time this summer that lawmakers considered whether to expand overtime wages to the Golden State's estimated 800,000 farmworkers. This is not only untrue, but in fact California is one of the only states in the nation that provides overtime pay for agricultural workers-and our overtime laws are already the most expansive.

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Brown announced the $900 million deal in the final hours of the legislative session Wednesday.

"Definitely a historic moment for farm workers", says Veronica Wilson from UCLA Labor Center, which is focused on organized labor and labor rights.

"This is a huge step forward for justice and equality for the most overworked, underpaid people in our community who put food on all our tables", CAUSE Executive Director Maricela Morales said in the release.

Ricchuiti argued that farming shouldn't be compared to other industries, because it is seasonal, susceptible to unpredictable weather and the availability of water, a scarce resource in drought-stricken California, he said. Those 40-year-old overtime thresholds for agricultural workers haven't been updated since.

Farm worker Juan Valencia, 39, who raises calves on a Fresno County dairy, said he often works more than 60 hours weekly and gets overtime but fears his boss might cut him to 40 hours - making it hard for him to support his wife and two young children. They make sense and show the pressure that continues to squeeze farmers. "I'm going to have to look for another job". "Farm laborers working for hourly wages are a foundation of California's agriculture industry and our state's entire economy, and today California has finally shown them some recognition for this". "We were outraged", Isom said.