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Borrello proposes farm labor wage board expansion

With little movement on his proposal to abolish the state’s Farm Laborer’s Wage Board, state Sen. George Borrello is now proposing expanding its membership.

Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, recently introduced S.8562 in the state Senate to increase membership on the Farm Laborer’s Wage Board from three members to five members, with the new members to include the state Agriculture and Markets commissioner and a member appointed by the dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The wage board already includes a representative of the New York Farm Bureau, a representative of the New York State AFL-CIO labor union and a member of the public appointed by the state labor commissioner who also serves as chair of the board.

“The review, consideration, study, and eventual decisions of the new Farm Laborer’s Wage Board will have a profound influence on the future viability of agriculture in New York and on the lives of farm workers across the state. The input and knowledge of both the commissioner of agriculture and markets and his department and a member appointed by the Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) will be an invaluable asset to the board as it moves forward with its assigned tasks.”

Borrello, ranking minority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has long been critical of overtime on farms in New York. In 2020 Borrello introduced legislation (S.8944) to keep the overtime rule the same until 2024. Then, in 2022 Borrello proposed to eliminate the three-member Farm Laborers Wage Board, established as part of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act passed in 2019. The Wage Board then recommended in 2022 to decrease the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 hours a week to 40 hours a week.

Borrello was critical at the time of the board’s membership in making such decisions.

“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,” he said in the fall of 2022. “While well-meaning individuals, these board members are ill equipped to render sound, informed decisions concerning this critically important industry.”

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