Farmerworker Labor Act could finally pass state legislature

Several times a bill has been proposed in the state Legislature to provide farmworkers with overtime if they work more than eight hours a day.

Because this would create problems for farmers who operate unique schedules — usually based on the weather and the time of the year — when it comes to planting and harvesting crops, the bill never passed the Republican-controlled state Senate.

However, with the state Senate now being controlled by Democrats, the legislation has once again been proposed in both houses of the state Legislature with the real possibility it could pass this time.

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said if the bill was to finally pass, it would impose overtime on farm operators that would create problems across the state.

“The restrictions fail to take into account operating a farm. When it’s harvest time, you have to bring it in as quickly as possible or you could lose the harvest. People who work in the agriculture field understand that work requirements vary throughout the season,” he said. “At times you’re very busy when it comes to planting crops or harvesting crops, and other times you’re not as busy.”

Goodell said those who are sponsoring the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, Sen. Jessica Ramos D-Elmhurst and Catherine Nolan, D-Long Island City, are both from the New York City area and have most likely never been on a farm. He said when Nolan was asked in the state Assembly if she had ever been on a farm, she said no, but she had been to a petting zoo.

“They don’t understand when it’s harvest time you must bring in the hay or the crop when the weather is right. If you don’t bring it in on time, you risk losing the entire crop,” he said. “The individual New York City legislators sponsoring this legislation think they are helping farm workers, but if this bill came into effect farm workers could see a substantial reduction in income.”

“They make a substantial amount in income during those harvest times,” Goodell noted. “When there is an eight-hour restriction on labor, it cuts both ways. It makes it more difficult for farmers to get the crop in and it makes it harder for the laborer to earn income.”

Goodell said the farmworkers practices act has been proposed before, but never had a chance to be approved because of the Republican controlled state Senate. He said the reason the bill has been reintroduced is because the Democratic Party now controls both sides of the state Legislature.

“New York City legislators don’t understand cows don’t take Sundays off. They have to be feed on Sundays and holidays. They have to be milked every single day. Farmers cannot shut down the farm for a day,” he said.

Goodell said New York City-based legislators have pushed this legislation for years to cater toward immigrants, legal and illegal, that live in urban areas.

“It’s not about agriculture. It’s about catering to a political base,” Goodell said. “Because Democrats typically represent the urban areas and not the farm and agricultural areas, (Democratic legislators) are more inclined to pass legislation that is more attractive to urban bases even though it hurts the rest of the state.”

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