New York farmers fear panel will change overtime rules for farm workers
Farmers across New York are worried about paying their workers overtime after a 40-hour work week.
When overtime laws were established in the United States, farm workers were excluded. This was because the work was considered seasonal where some times of the year would be busier than others.
Two years ago, New York passed a law making farm workers eligible for overtime after working 60 hours a week.
A provision was also put in the bill that allows a three-member panel to decide whether the system is fair, and it gives them the option of lowering the threshold to 40 hours.
The panel meets soon, and farmers say it will destroy their industry if they vote to make overtime mandatory after 40 hours.
Jeff Rottkamp's family has been farming on Long Island for 150 years and says the challenges are growing each year.
"We're getting to a point in agriculture that we're getting regulated out of business," Rottkamp says.
Leaders in the Long Island farming industry agree that the potential new law would cause big damage to farmers.
"Our farmers are the ones that feed us every day--three meals a day, 365 days a year," says Rob Carpenter of the Long Island Farm Bureau. "And if we don't take care of our farmers, we're in a lot of trouble in this country."
Proponents of adding overtime pay to farm workers say they deserve the same rights as other employees.
"For far too long, farm workers have been treated as less than other workers when it comes to being paid overtime. They deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to other workers," the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations said in a statement.