Schwarzenegger vetoed farmworker overtime bill
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have changed over time wages for California farmworkers.
The legislation written by Valley State Senator Dean Florez would require overtime pay for Ag workers after eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. Current laws require overtime after 10 hours per day.
In a statement, the governor said the bill would hurt California businesses, increase unemployment, and lower wages.
Statement by Schwarzenegger
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 1121 without my signature.
In 1999, California enacted sweeping legislation concerning overtime wages and adopted the requirements that overtime be generally paid after eight hours of work. However, in enacting the "Eight-Hour-Day Restoration and Workplace Flexibility Act of 1999" the Legislature specifically exempted agricultural workers from such overtime requirements, 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. Indeed, while California is the most progressive state in the nation by allowing overtime pay for agricultural employees after 10 hours of work, federal law exempts workers employed in agriculture from overtime pay altogether. Senate Bill 1121 would cast aside these longstanding rules and would require overtime pay for agricultural workers after eight hours per day and 40 hours per week.
My administration has made great strides to improve the lives of agricultural workers. I have signed legislation to increase the minimum wage, fought hard to improve our state's infrastructure to ensure adequate water supplies for our agricultural regions, and enacted the first-in-the-nation outdoor heat stress regulations to help keep agricultural workers safe. Unfortunately, this measure, while wellintended, 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. In order to remain competitive against other states that do not have such wage requirements, businesses will simply avoid paying overtime. Instead of working 10-hour days, multiple crews will be hired to work shorter shifts, resulting in lower take home pay for all workers. Businesses trying to compete under the new wage rules may become unprofitable and go out of business, resulting in further damage to our already fragile economy.
Finally, it should be noted that Senate Bill 1121 would not just change the rules governing overtime pay for agricultural workers, but would also apply California's confusing and burdensome rest and meal requirements. Unfortunately, while there have been several attempts to clean up this section of law, efforts at comprehensive reform continue to fail. There is no reason to exacerbate this continuing problem by adding agricultural workers to it. For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill.
arnold schwarzenegger, ag watch
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