published on September 12, 2016 - 8:32 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Governor Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill 1066, landmark legislation that ensures ag workers are paid overtime for working more than eight hours a day.

Governor Brown signed AB 1066 into law Monday along with 24 other bills passed by state lawmakers during the 2016 legislative session.

Authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), AB 1066 mandates new overtime rules for agricultural employees that will be phased-in over four years.

The United Farm Workers of America, who argued that the nearly 80-year-old practice of applying separate labor rules to farmhands was both unfair and racist, sponsored the measure, which generated heated debate among lawmakers.

The bill was aggressively opposed by a host of agricultural groups that warned the change will severely harm one of California’s largest industries.

“Sometimes, the best intentions can have the worst consequences,” said Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) after the bill was signed into law.

“AB 1066 intends to help our farm workers by paying them for overtime, but what it will actually do is cause their hours to be cut and as a result their income,” Mathis said. “As a slap in the face to our farm workers, this bill was pushed by the United Farm Workers union, which represents only around two percent of farm workers and was able to exempt their members from the law.”

“The signing of AB-1066 is as misguided as the bill,” Mathis added. “As the vice chair of the Assembly Agriculture committee and representing Tulare County, which is the largest ag county in California, many farm workers are my constituents and it is my duty to work for their interests, and this bill is solidly against their interests and will deprive them of badly needed income.”

But Jim Araby, executive director of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council, praised the governor’s actions.

“California took a monumental and meaningful step today in affording human dignity and equal rights for all,” Araby said. “Farm laborers are instrumental to California’s economy, and are invaluable members of our communities. As workers who also are part of an industry that helps to put food on tables, we applaud the Legislature and Governor Brown for giving farm laborers the same protections that all working people deserve.”

Brown signed AB 1066 without making any additional comments himself.

Beginning in 2019, the new legislation will lower the 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour workday by 2022.

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