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Letter: Farm Laborers Wage board made the correct decision

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The recent editorial, “Misguided overtime recommendation hurts farms and farmworkers,” states that farmworkers deserve respectful and humane working conditions but then does a complete 180 by stating farmworkers don’t deserve to be treated equally when it comes to pay.

You can’t have it both ways.

The Farm Laborers Wage Board made the right decision by voting to gradually lower the overtime threshold for farmworkers from 60 hours to 40 hours over a 10-year period. It simply means that by 2032, farmworkers will finally get time-and-a-half for every hour worked past 40, just like other workers. Nothing in the law requires farmworkers to work fewer hours as the editorial implies; fewer hours worked would purely be a decision of farm owners, which would be particularly punitive given the state will be picking up the tab for the new overtime premium.

And if farm owners think filling out paperwork to get 100 percent reimbursed for the overtime costs is too burdensome, they should remember it pales in comparison to toiling in 100-degree weather and driving rainstorms and the toll that takes on one’s physical and mental well-being.

Finally, the argument that this change would lure farmworkers away to farms in Pennsylvania or Ohio makes no sense. The minimum wage in Pennsylvania and Ohio is $7.25 and $9.30 respectively, which means farmworkers would have to work almost twice as many hours per week just to break even.

The decision by the Farm Laborers Wage board was the right one. It means that farmworkers will no longer be treated as second class. It is an embarrassment that it has taken this long to achieve that but it’s even more shameful that there is still an attempt to try to prevent that from happening.

Mario Cilento

President

New York State AFL-CIO

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