New York’s labor commissioner accepts recommendation to lower farmworker overtime threshold

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Holstein milking cows at Clark Farms in Delaware County. (Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo/WSKG)

(WAMC) – New York state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon has accepted a recommendation by the Farm Laborers Wage Board to lower the farmworker overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours per week.

It follows years of debate and a 2-to-1 vote by the body in September.

The change will be phased-in over a decade. Advocates say the changes are overdue and will bring New York in line with states like California and Washington. Some elected officials from both parties and agricultural groups oppose the move, saying it will decimate small farms.

Reardon says the order follows a two-year process and 14 public meetings and hearings and adds the recommendations “are the best path forward to ensure equity for farmworkers and success” for farms by bringing the rule in line with other industries. The overtime limit will drop by four hours every other year until 2032 as agricultural businesses receive a series of tax credits and reimbursements from the state to offset the added labor costs.

A rule-making process by the Department of Labor will include a new 60-day public comment period.

In a statement, New York State Farm Bureau President David Fisher said Reardon’s decision will make it “even tougher” to farm in the state.

“Moving forward, farms will be forced to make difficult decisions on what they grow, the available hours they can provide to their employees, and their ability to compete in the marketplace. All of this was highlighted in the testimony and data that the wage board report and the commissioner simply ignored,” said Fisher.

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