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Farm Laborers Wage Board approves recommendation to reduce overtime threshold

The three-member board was convened by the state legislature to determine the impact of reducing the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 hours to 40 hours.

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Farm Laborers Wage Board met on Tuesday to consider recommendations to reduce the overtime threshold for farm workers.  

In 2020, the NYS Dept. of Labor proposed reducing the threshold over a 10-year period from 60 hours per week to 40. 

During Tuesday's meeting, the board approved the recommendations 2-1. 

Initially, the Dept. of Labor tried to adopt the change but considerable opposition. The legislature convened the 3-member board back in January 2022 to consider the recommendations. 

The board consisted of David Fisher, president of the NYS Farm Bureau, Denis Hughes, former president of the NY AFL-CIO, and Brenda McDuffie, past president of the Buffalo Urban League. 

Fisher was the sole no vote on the board. 

NYS Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt issued a statement after the vote saying in part: 

"Today’s decision by the Farm Laborers Wage Board is a monumental disaster that will sadly be the final straw for many of our struggling family farms. The current labor mandates were already a tremendous burden on our farmers, particularly at a time when many of them are still reeling from the pandemic, supply chain issues, and soaring prices."

Governor Hochul announced a new tax credit for farms of any size at the State of the State address in January. That measure passed the legislature and is part of the 2023 budget. 

Borrello released a statement after the vote saying "it was unfair and unethical of the Legislature’s majorities and New York’s former governor to require this decision of three unelected individuals, two-thirds of whom lack any agriculture background. While well-meaning individuals, these board members are ill-equipped to render sound, informed decisions concerning this critically important industry."

Several agriculture groups have come out against the board vote, including Grow New York, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, and NYS Vegetable Growers Association. 

Jim Britton from the Niagara Farm Bureau also reached out to 2 On Your Side to express disappointment in the vote. 

The New York Civil Liberties Union applauded the vote, stating "Farmworkers have waited over 80 years for an end to the racist exclusion that has stolen countless hours of overtime pay. Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon must prevent another generation of workers from suffering by unequivocally accepting the Wage Board’s recommendation."

The first overtime threshold reduction will occur on January 1, 2024, when the threshold will reduce from 60 hours to 56. In 2026 the threshold will reduce to 52 hours, and another four hours every other year until January 1, 2032. 

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