Washington Farmworkers Win Overtime Pay
Everyone knows that you are supposed to be paid time and a half if you work more than 40 hours a week. That’s been part of American labor law since the US Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 – at least for MOST workers. In a sad exception, the authors of FLSA excluded a few groups of workers from its protections – and farmworkers were one of them.
That’s right, some of the hardest working men and women in America, the ones who pick our fruits and vegetables, are not entitled to overtime pay under federal law. That leaves states to pick up the slack and ensure that farmworkers get a fair shake.
Responding to calls from labor and faith activists – and a state Supreme Court ruling that targeted the unfair exemption – Washington state legislators have taken action to extend overtime wage protections to farmworkers. Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill at a United Food and Commercial Workers’ union hall in Yakima in mid-May.
This makes Washington the third American state to pass a law granting overtime for farmworkers; New York and California already had such a law. That leaves Oregon the only state on the West Coast that has not taken action. Oregon legislators currently are considering a bill that would do the same.
It’s about time that the workers who feed us received what most other workers receive–overtime pay. For years I represented workers in the private and public sectors and they all received overtime pay. And if they worked on Sundays or holidays they received time and a half pay. If farm workers work on Sundays during harvest time or any time they should be paid time and a half. Unions fought for overtime pay for all agricultural workers and it is unions who can and will improve conditions for farm workers and all workers.